You know you’ve made it big when people begin to copy you. While this is a grand compliment to your business model, it’s also a threat to your livelihood.
According to Jonathan Rowley, managing director of Order-In, which operates in the highly competitive food delivery sector, staying ahead of copycats is a strategy in its own right, and one that needs to be constantly infused with dynamism.
He provided My Business with a list of eight key strategies for coping with copycats to ensure your business ideas generate returns for you instead of the competition.
1. Clients over competitors
“It is essential in any industry to stay ahead of the competition, but it should never be at the expense of your clientele’s expectations,” Mr Rowley said.
“No matter what changes you implement into the business, always ensure the your customers are front and centre of everything you do, as opposed to making decisions based on what your competitors are doing.”
2. Be memorable
“Your business can have the largest range in the niche, but variety is moot without a positive and memorable customer experience. Being memorable is crucial as it’s all about trust.
“When someone uses your service or expertise, they want to walk away feeling as though it was a positive experience, otherwise they’ll look elsewhere to avoid repeating a bad transaction.”
3. Foster a culture of change
“Fostering a culture of change in your business will keep you and your employees on top of the latest trends in your industry,” he said.
“There’s no better way to keep your product fresh and exciting. Getting on board with industry fads is a great way to ensure you don’t miss out on potential new business opportunities, however implementing something new doesn’t have to be at the expense of your existing services and products. The breadth of your scope is entirely in your hands.”
4. Be flexible
The flipside, Mr Rowley said, is not being afraid to go against the grain as well.
“[Don’t] be afraid to break rules … particularly if you believe there’s room for innovation within your niche. Don’t wait for change, make it happen,” he said.
“When I started the business in 2000, we were the first online catering platform for a corporate market. Since then, we have been committed to agility, using the improvements in digital technology to consistently upgrade and shape our catering platform.
“It’s imperative that you’re not afraid to pioneer, to invent, and to disrupt a market. If you don’t, your competitors will, and the results may surprise you.”
5. Be inspired
“It’s easy to become engrossed in the bubble of our own niche, but this limited view can pose a significant obstacle to competitive capability,” said Mr Rowley.
“Research the leaders in related markets and categories. Observe their strategies and points of difference. How are they reaching above industry standards?
“There is much inspiration to be gained by looking over the fence, and if your neighbour’s grass is greener, watch their gardening technique, then apply the strategy to your own activities.”
6. Network with experts outside your niche
It may seem inappropriate at first glance to seek out the input of experts outside of your field, however Mr Rowley said doing so will provide valuable insights that you probably haven’t considered.
“You’ll often find they’re leaping over the same roadblocks,” he said.
“Networking is a great way to learn how a situation or challenge can be approached differently. Professionals in adjacent or other industries will see issues like efficiency of delivery, response rate and reliability assurance through an alternate lens, and act according to their experience and education.
“Ask questions, learn their approach, and implement within your own field. Your approach will be fresh, and your customers will appreciate the change.”
“Ships can’t sail without a destination upon which the captain can focus the compass. Goal-setting is absolutely necessary to keep your business activities focused, and staff rallied behind a common purpose,” he said.
“Goals can take many forms. I personally live by sales targets, customer satisfaction rates and ratios of positive testimonials to negative reviews, however there are numerous others that also ensure you are leading your business in the right direction.”
8. Ultimately, stay ahead of copycats rather than compete with them
“In the world of business, we have to be realistic, and as we draw inspiration from others, there will always be some who are looking to capitalise on our successes by copying our techniques. This isn’t, however, a reason to fear,” concluded Mr Rowley.
“Set goals, innovate, embrace change and network to get your business ahead of the copycats, who will always be that one step behind.”