Today we’re talking about how to protect your business from competitors and copycats. We have received web design inquiries from over 400 businesses since the start of the year, most of them trying to figure out how to make their business work and sell more products. Often, I look at what they’re selling and how they’re presenting it and have an, “oh, this is going to be SO hard” sympathy cringe.
Other times, I get a thrill of excitement about a business’s products, brand, story, and potential. Maybe the website is boring or sloppy, but the foundation of the brand shines through, like a rough gem ready to be chipped out of the rock surrounding it. It’s a thrill and an honor to polish and set these gems.
Aeolidia doesn’t make these businesses work. They’re going to work anyway. We help them reach their potential.
What is your business’s potential? Here are six ways you can build a solid business foundation that will keep you competitive through the years.
1) Understand your business’s “why”
Your business’s potential relies on the foundation of your brand. All efforts to improve your business will be easier or harder depending on how well the foundational work has been done.
Your brand isn’t your logo.
Your brand is made up of all the things that make your business different, that people can use to identify it. The voice, the values, the personality, the purpose.
Rather than asking, “what makes us different?” ask, “what difference can we make?”
Read more: Focusing on a Different Kind of Difference
Instead of asking, “what do my customers want?,” ask, “why have I started this business?”
Watch more: Start With Why TED talk
2) Create a unique business
You need to find something that your customers can see as a meaningful difference between you and your very closest competitor.
If people can buy what you sell from anyone, how are you going to convince them to buy from you? Without your own unique value, you’ll be in a race to the bottom on price.
There are so many people out there selling so many things that it can seem next to impossible to distinguish yourself. If you want your business to last (and keep growing and growing year after year), put in the work early in your timeline to build this foundation..
Remember there’s no “more unique” or “less unique” or “unique enough”—something is either unique (one of a kind) or it’s not. And it needs to be capable of continuing to be unique.
3) Design a business that’s hard to imitate
If your product is easy to design and manufacture, you’re going to spend all your time trying to stay ahead of copycats. What are some ways you could make it hard for others to copy you and take away your singularity?
A common business model is funny sayings printed on basic mugs using available fonts. This is common because it’s easy. Since it’s easy, guess how quickly someone can do exactly what you’re doing, reach more people than you can, improve on your product, and sell it more cheaply?
What if you created your own ceramics? Imagined your own sayings? Hand lettered them in your own style? Or came up with an entirely new idea that isn’t in such a saturated market?
If it feels easy to jump into a business venture, step back and see if it’s too easy. Could anyone do it? Is this an area that you’re going to have a hard time distinguishing yourself in?
What can you do in your own way that you don’t see in the market today? How can you be inimitable?
4) Make something people will miss
Finally, while it’s easy to create something unique (fire hydrant cozies? stilts for dogs?), it’s important that your unique product is something that people will want. Will people miss you when you’re gone? Or could you leave your market without creating a ripple?
This is about finding a hole in the market, that once you fill, people can’t imagine having to do without. You want to create something unique that people really want–either an improvement on an existing product, or something people have been doing without until you came along.
If you’re one of many selling the exact same thing, it won’t matter if your business exists or doesn’t. People will still be able to purchase. But if you sell something they can’t get anywhere else, you’ve set yourself up for success. What unique and valuable spin could you put on what you sell, who you sell to, the style of your product, or how you sell it?
5) Move quickly to market
If you come up with an amazing product or business idea but don’t move fast enough or can’t produce enough of it or reach a large enough audience, somebody can realize your business vision and leave you in the dust. Trust me, if you find a unique idea that people want, you will quickly be up against copycat businesses.
How will you compete against businesses with financial backing and cheap factories in China?
To be known as the first, you first have to be known. If you have something good, don’t sit on it. Put all of your resources into creating the product, marketing, and establishing your brand, so you can capture as much of the market as you can before competitors move in. At least when they do, you can legitimately call yourself, “The Original.”
6) Continue to innovate
Being the first, even at something that becomes trendy, is still valuable. It can boost your business into the spotlight, and give you a burst of popularity. But you can’t rest on your laurels, you need to keep creating. When your flagship product takes over the world and becomes old news, what will you make next? Trying to best competing businesses without innovating is hard.
Keep your business in the habit of creating and experimenting. Use your resources during good times to be preparing for your next big thing. You don’t want to be stuck trying to invent new products too late, when your business is suffering.
How to prepare your business
Here is what you need to have a hope of growing a thriving business:
- A solid understanding of who exactly your product is for. If it’s meant for everyone, it’s special to no one.
Read more: How to Identify and Attract Your Dream Customer
- A deep understanding of your brand’s distinguishing characteristics. If you can’t tell why people should choose you over another, your customers don’t know, either.
Read more: Make Marketing Easy With a Unique Selling Proposition
- An inimitable process, method, or style. So your success isn’t immediately usurped by others who can do it quicker, better, or louder.
Read more: How to Deal With Copyright Infringement
Pinpoint your three closest competitors and find (or create) differentiating factors between you and them. Next, take these unique selling point(s) and consider how easily they can be imitated, and what steps you could take to protect them. Now that you know what’s special about you, figure out how to show your customers, rather than telling them.
Easy to say, not so easy to do, I know. I’d love to chat with you about your business more, if you have any questions.
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This was originally sent (in a shorter form) to my newsletter subscribers. I talk about this kind of thing all the time! If you’d like to join our subscriber list and be invited to our Facebook community, please sign up here.