Posted by Neha De
August 11, 2020 | 5-minute read (813 words)
It’s been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But when you own a business and you realize that another company is blatantly copying your idea and every move you make, it can be difficult to feel flattered.
When a new idea has been executed successfully, it’s natural for other businesses to try to imitate it. And it doesn’t matter what type of business you’re in, dealing with copycat competitors is a common occurrence for most. There will be those who steal your plans, your strategies, your moves and sometimes even your name or logo.
You’ve worked hard to differentiate yourself from your competitors. So what should you do if someone copies your business idea? Here are seven strategies you can deploy to remain the market leader despite copycats.
Legally Protect Your Business
The first thing you should do is to legally protect your business so you can avoid such situations. The more legal protection you have for your company and your product/service, the better it will be for you in the long term. Trademarks, patents and copyrights protect different types of intellectual property (IP). A trademark typically protects logos and brand names used on goods and services; a patent protects an invention; and a copyright protects an original literary or artistic work. You can choose the type of protection you need based on your business type and the product or service you are offering.
Secondly, you also must protect your trade secrets or business assets, which are an important type of intellectual property (IP). Manufacturing processes, assets, customer lists or sales plans are all trade secrets, and to run a business, you might have to disclose a trade secret to your employees, suppliers, vendors or other entities at some point. One simple way to protect your trade secrets is by requiring people to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and/or a non-compete agreement.
Should a legal issue arise, these protections can serve as concrete proof, as they also provide time stamps for when your idea or business first emerged.
Confront the Copycat
If you come across a copycat company or business owner, contact them directly. Call them and speak calmly with those in charge. Let them know that you are aware that they are copying your product and that you don’t appreciate it. Also, make it clear to them that, if needed, you will not hesitate to pursue legal action against them.
If talking fails and things do get out of hand, consult your lawyer, who can then help you send a Cease and Desist letter to them, or file a lawsuit, if necessary.
Offer Superior Service to Build Brand Loyalty
Most products can be easily replicated, but what cannot be quickly copied is superior customer service. By offering quality service to your customers, you can keep them coming back to your business.
Invest in brand loyalty. When you have loyal customers, it won’t be easy for them jump ship just to save a few bucks. Customers are smart, and they like to consider all factors before deciding to go to your competitor.
Revamp Your Business
While you don’t want to throw out all the good will you have built with your customers, it may be time for a business facelift. Make simple changes but retain your business integrity to show your audience that you know how to adapt. This will also make the person or business who copied you look outdated. Consider this as more of an investment than an expense.
Get Your Customers to Speak for You
One of the best ways to get your message across is to ask your customers for testimonials and/or other interesting stories about you and your brand. These will be unique to your business and your customers, and no one will be able to copy them. Allow your customers to talk about their experiences and the impact you’ve had on them. This will also help reinforce your brand and build your reputation.
Study Your Copycats
In some cases, it may be helpful to study your copycats and learn from them, because they might just help you grow. They will either make the same mistakes you did, or will make new ones that you can learn from. These mistakes might give you new ideas, point to the shortcomings of your own product or service, and/or challenge your assumptions.
Focus on Your Own Company
Last but not least, remember that if someone’s copying you, it’s because you’re doing something worth copying. It could also mean that you’re leading the way successfully, which is a great thing. So try to block out all outside noise and don’t let your copycats get inside your head. Instead, focus on building your brand and making it the best it can be.