“Please may I steal your idea?”
…said no one, ever.
When people figure out a way to undercut, replicate or even blatantly rip-off a business idea, they don’t ask permission.
They just do it.
If this ever happens to you, you might see it as a compliment.
Or a threat…
Or just the cost of doing business out in the open.
Maybe all three – it depends on the circumstances, like how much damage is done. But copycat businesses spring up all the time, at all levels of the biz game, and it’s likely no niche is immune…
Remember the big hoo-ha about Instagram’s ‘Stories’ feature, after Snapchat had already launched pretty much the same thing?
Given the fast-paced world of tech-biz hoo-ha’s, that was a fair few hoo-ha’s ago now – but at the time it was one hell of a hoo-ha.
Of course, everyone’s favourite ethically-questionable mega-corp Facebook was involved…
And that’s a big ol’ bear to have to wrestle if you feel your creative licence has been trampled on.
In the tech startup-o-sphere in particular, finding something that works and replicating it for different markets or different ends of the market (usually the cheap end) is common, with some even turning it into an art form of sorts.
But the fact that success inevitably attracts ‘biters’ who spot an opportunity to ride on someone else’s coattails is actually a handy reminder:
Being THE FIRST isn’t important.
Being THE ONLY is what you should aim for.
Case in point:
The other day there was a discussion in a marketing forum started by an entrepreneur who wanted to run bike tours of his city. He was looking for feedback about his sales message.
To begin with he’d done a decent job of outlining the reasons why people might want to tour his city:
The history, the culture, the landmarks and the stories behind them.
But he’d left out something important:
Any clear, distinctive reasons why someone should want to take HIS bike tour specifically.
Now, city bike tours are a crowded market…
In theory, any hustler with a minimum of two wheels, one mouth and (if they’re really serious) a license to do so can set up one of these businesses.
But the lower the barrier to entry, the easier it is to undercut or ‘closely model’ (see: ‘replicate’) a biz idea.
In the bike tour niche, someone could very easily set themselves up as a competitor by using pretty much the same message about the location itself…
…and then charge $5 less per tour. Wham, bam, business plan!
They call it ‘Predatory Pricing’…
Not the strongest long-term strategy, sure – but it could be enough to gain a foothold in the market and take a tasty slice out of our budding entrepreneur’s unprotected pie.
Copycat companies and clones exist in business because people are lazy and want things FASTER + EASIER.
That’s just human nature, and it won’t change any time soon.
If your product or service can be duplicated, then someone just lazy enough to piggyback on your idea rather than use their own – but just smart enough to put that process into action – can swoop in at any time.
That’s why every sales message needs to ensure it’s focused on what’s UNIQUE about your biz.
Running a bike tour of your city? Then your messaging needs to do much more than just sell a location everyone else can access.
It needs to sell YOU:
Your equipment, your specific route, your unique personality and perspective – the stuff that can’t be as easily replicated.
Does your tour go to parts of the city that are off-limits to others?
Are your bikes more comfortable? Are they faster? Safer? Sexier?
(Let’s be honest tho – has anyone ever looked sexy on a bicycle?)
What’s your personal history with this place – have you lived here longer than most? Did you arrive here in unusual circumstances? Why are you HERE and not in, I dunno, Timbuktu?
This is the kind of thinking you should apply to your biz’s messaging whatever your niche…
Because by focusing on your unique value and clearly communicating WHY you’re a business with a difference, you can limit the impact of copycats and predatory pricing.
You will always be the one thing that can’t be replicated in your biz.
Nobody can steal, swipe or undercut what’s unique to you – as long as you make that the core of your sales messaging.