Imitation Is A Form of Flattery. Five Tips to Overcome Competitor Copycats

Every company, especially small businesses, experience it. You launch an incredible promotion, develop a new product, or optimize a service just to see your competition launch its mirror image 3 months later. While at the moment you may feel frustrated, bamboozled, or just flat out annoyed we want to assure you that yes you- the original- got it right. The competition copying your idea is your validation.

For every good idea, there are copycats. It’s actually a legal start-up business strategy, though unethical. Entrepreneur tycoons from Silicon Valley to our East Coast are looking for the next best big idea. Once they find a concept they can back, they copy that idea and develop new ways to make it better. Forbes columnist, Paul Brown eloquently calls it “eliminating a monopoly.” While your small business may not be a monopoly, this type of competition makes your company better off in the long-run, as you keep evolving and improving.

Here are five tips to keep your ace in the hole and overcome copycat syndrome:

Have a unique value proposition and share it.

If you’re competing on cost you’ve already lost. There are plenty of Walmarts, Amazons, and Dollar Generals. What makes your store or service different? Competing on cost has become irrelevant in an emotionally-driven economy. Consumers are looking to support a cause or invest in a quality product rather than finding the best discount deal. Have you given your consumers a good reason to support your company? What makes you stand out from the rest? Ensure you share the purpose behind your brand. Remember it is always best to give than receive.

Returning Customer Equals New Revenue

Who are your most loyal customers and what keeps them coming back for more? Your returning customers are most likely to refer new revenue. According to Bain & Company, a 5% increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75%. Your current customer base can become brand ambassadors as long as you are perfecting your product or service. Loyal customers will recommend a stellar product- creating new revenue for your company. According to Marketing Metrics, the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 – 70%. The probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20%. Use the customer base you’ve built to help your company expand.

Create Products or Services that Will Last

When your company tries new products or services make sure there is a demand before investing. Test your product with your loyal customer base, fine-tune any kinks. Don’t let the copycat competition pressure you into launching a product prior to appropriate testing. Like we said above, the quality of a product is more valuable than the quantity you provide. Perfecting your new product before launching will increase adoption and improve your chances of having current clientele become brand ambassadors.

Protect Your Intellectual Property

While it's exciting to share your latest idea or talk about how you’ve optimized your administrative processes to increase productivity, these ideas and strategies are unique to your company and your intellectual property. It’s best to be overcautious and proactive by registering copyrights for computer codes, written work, and artwork like your logo. Check in to see if you need to register for trademarks, copyrights, patents or trade secrets. Ashley Brewer, Business and Branding attorney, shared with Forbes how companies should identify intellectual property.

For copyrightable works, the owner can place the copyright designation – the “C in a circle” © - on her work from the moment the work is created, and include the year and her name. For example: © 2017 Jane Doe. A copyright notice can be used whether or not the work is registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. The notice is not required, but it puts the public on notice of her intent to claim and enforce her copyright.

A trademark owner can always use the “TM” mark on its goods and services, to put the public on notice of his intent to claim and enforce his trademark rights. The “R in a circle” – ® - is reserved only for federally registered trademarks. If you register your trademark with your state trademark registry, but not the USPTO, you may only use the “TM” mark.

Registration costs today are far less than legal fees tomorrow.

Focus on Your Future

While it’s tempting to see what new topics your competition has highlighted on their blog or what new clients they’ve booked, it’s detrimental to your creativity. Focus on your company’s future. When you have difficulty brainstorming new concepts or ideas, turn to your customer base. Your employees will be more than willing to share every-day pain points your company is experiencing and will most likely offer solutions to improve your business.

So, while your competition is researching your resources, social posts, or blogs, we’re confident you’re 10 steps ahead of them by crushing the latest industry problem. Stay confident in your mission and cause- there’s a reason your brand had endured the bitter business world thus far.