If your business, idea or product is a target of constant copycat behaviour, then you are certainly not alone. However, your thoughts and feelings about how to deal with the issue can take you on drastically different paths that could have real implications for your business.
Some industries are just easier for copycats to not only appear in but even survive in. Real estate is one of those sectors since most deals are between two parties and fact-checking what someone says they have done or been involved with is difficult.
Within an industry, competition is usually positive in the broad sense of a marketplace, as it leads to companies innovating and improving the product for the end-user. However, what about in the situation when companies downright copy your actions and claim they do what you do? Well, I say, embrace it. But, that does not mean you should forget about it or pay no attention to it.
At the end of the day, if someone takes the time to copy your work or business model, or even something more specific, it means that they have spent time looking at what you are doing and it has inspired them. You must have been successful for them to notice you and want to do the same thing or claim that they are in the same realm as you. The world is full of copying in terms of content. Every idea is borrowed, all or in part, by someone else, with or without them realizing it. There are very few totally unique ideas.
I feel fortunate to be copied in my business, and I know that it has cost me sales over the years, but I stand true to what I believe and the value that I bring my clients. Here are three ideas on how to embrace the situation if your product or business is the target of copycats.
Do not let the copycat bother you and get inside your head. You will be expending energy that you could otherwise spend improving your business and/or talking to clients and adding tangible value to their portfolios.
For the majority of these people or firms that feel the need to copy your concepts, they are on the path to ordinary, not extraordinary. It’s doubtful they’ll see long-term success in your industry. Try not to let them destroy what you are building and the vibe that you are putting into the industry.
If you offer superior service and do what others in the industry truly cannot do, then focus on that. If I am offering my clients what no other investment company or brokerage in Canada can, then I am going to talk about that and put my energy into that, and our clients will notice and support us going forward. This leads to trust from your clients and the building of brand loyalty for you and your firm.
The copycats will not affect your business if you don’t let them; instead, focus on what you do well and keep delivering for your clients. And remember, if they are focused on what you are doing, they are not focused on what they are doing, and their offering will suffer accordingly.
As I said earlier, embracing the situation of a copycat does not simply mean turning your back and pretending it’s not happening. You should speak up and talk to these people, ask them questions about their business and challenge what they are claiming in a professional manner. You might learn where they are coming from and why they are copying you.
I believe that going the legal route should always be the last resort and only in severe cases where there is malice and direct issues. Instead, call them and talk to them about their marketing or claims. Ask to speak to the people making the decisions. You might just find that the behaviour stops, or they move in another direction after your confrontation. At the end of the day, this information might even help shape some of your brand strategies and planning moving forward.
Keep abreast of new technologies and ways to do things differently; if you keep moving your goalposts, the copycat will not be able to keep up with you. Being first in your industry to do something is not a sure-fire path to success. However, strong and innovative companies that have a leadership team that is passionate about their product or business means they will always want to continuously learn and adapt. Many leaders take inspiration across sectors and across the globe, but what copycats do is a completely different ball game.
Be flattered when a business or leader copies you, but be sure to keep reinventing your own model as you move forward. This business may be copying you today, but another company could come along that removes your competitive advantage — someone could do better. So, get used to the feeling, keep creating things that people want to copy and your business will remain intact and protected. Competition is all around us, so use it as a motivator to think creatively, be nimble and continuously improve yourself and your business model.