Why Copying Your Competitors Is Asking For Trouble

Every business owner knows their product or service doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

Each and every day they’re assaulted by potential clients or customers comparing features, service, and of course… price.

Not that you can blame them, of course. We’re all looking to get the most bang for our hard-earned buck, after all.

Business owners, of course, are well aware this pheneomenon exists… and often do their best to get in a “pre-emptive strike”, copying the features, pricing, or even marketing angle their competitors are taking.

Ironically, Microsoft built their whole business copying other people. Of course, they made sure they put the people they copied out of business first.

On the surface, this sort of thinking makes perfect sense.

After all… if it’s already working, why re-invent the wheel? Doesn’t it make sense to “borrow” from a campaign you already know is working?

The short answer is… yes and no.

Copying your biggest and best competitors is NOT instant assurance your business will thrive (or even survive).

In fact, more often than not it’s a shortcut to a limp and fading enterprise… especially if you’re an up-and-coming startup.

See, these giants have lots of stuff the average operation doesn’t… advantages that allow them to make poor decisions and still continue to be profitable based solely on momentum.

For example…

*A huge revenue flow, allowing them to advertise on a scale smaller businesses simply can’t hope to afford…

*Huge statewide, nationwide, or even international advertising reach…

*An established customer base – often which is too firmly entrenched in “what they know” to make a shift to a new product or service (banks and telecommunications providers thrive on this customer inertia)…

*Buying power allowing them to purchase materials, labor or product at vastly reduced price… sometimes even having their own in-house manufacturing processes…

*Brand recognition and word-of-mouth advertising… effectively cementing them as a “good choice” in the minds of the public…

*And many other “aces in the hole” the average competitor can’t hope to match…

With these kinds of resources, a huge company often gains so much momentum it continues to be profitable for years after a smaller operation would have collapsed… and while I won’t name names, I’m sure you can think of examples.

“We plan to lose money on purchases for the next few years so we can put you all out of business, thereby ensuring the continued survival of our evil empire. Questions?”

So how can you compete against the titans in your industry who hold such a huge portion of the market share?

You can’t… at least not directly.

You see, by copying what they do you’re simply positioning yourself as a lesser version of them and reinforcing their dominance. In effect, you’re driving people away from your business.

Instead, you need to carve out a niche in your marketplace by doing something no one else (or very few people) are doing…

And by offering a superior experience and capitalizing on your competitor’s weak points.

Now, it’s true this stuff isn’t always easy to come up with… especially when you’re emotionally invested in your business.

Hell, helping existing businesses come up with this sort of thing is one of the ways marketing consultants like myself earn our stripes (and our paychecks).

Truthfully, there’s literally thousands of small tweaks and changes you can make to your business to differentiate yourself in the “right way”…

But it’s all got to start from the “big idea”.

And while explaining the genesis of the big idea and how to implement it broadly is beyond the scope of this article… there is a simple way you can “test” yourself and your big idea.

It’s called the “elevator pitch”.

Because let’s be honest, when’s the last time you even SAW one of these?

Basically, you imagine you’re on an elevator with someone and have got 10 – 20 seconds to explain the core of your business, what you do, and how you’re different from everyone else.

If you can’t sum up the main points of your business in a couple of sentences – or if it sounds bland and “samey” – then you know you’ve got work to do on your big idea.

So take a moment to go back over yours, and ask yourself if your elevator pitch is the same-old, same-old…

Or is it new, exciting, and going to have customers flocking to you from all directions?

One of these will make you successful… and one will sink your business before day one.

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