If you’re the philosophical type it’s easier to accept the proverb: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. As a small business owner, however, it is more difficult to accept this line of reasoning when this ‘flattery’ has the potential to disrupt your business.
There are many examples of business ideas or concepts being copied by newcomers that enter the market and have done so successfully.
This is especially true of businesses in the online sector where the cost of starting a rival business is comparatively low.
So what to do?
Do you run to the courts, which is expensive without any guarantee you’ll win?
Do you run for the hills and give up the fight?
Or do you use this as an opportunity to take your business to the next level?
Here are three ways in which you can retain your edge over the competition. After all, you developed the idea originally and have a wealth of market insights and experience you should use to your advantage:
Reinvigorate and refocus You can stay a step or two ahead of your imitators by innovating the products or services you already offer. Apart from demonstrating that your business is the go-to source for your particular product or service, your competitors’ attention will be on keeping up rather than building their market share.
Learn from your copycats As easily as your competitors have learnt lessons from your business success, you now have the opportunity to analyze their model and approach to see how you can improve your offering. Do so while innovating around those lessons and improvements you can make to your business.
Leverage the trust in your brand Probably the biggest advantage you have over copycat competitors is the position you’ve built up in the market and the trust showed in you and your brand. Don’t underestimate the value of the reputation and brand equity you have built up in the market - this is something your competitors cannot copy.
Key take-away: Rather than despairing if someone copies your products or business model, use this opportunity to reinvigorate and innovate.