What Should You Do When Your Competitors Imitate You?
Don't Worry About Copycat Competitors. Imitation is the most sincere cringe. Focus on your advantages. If a competitor is just imitating you, you may need to accept it as part of life.
If you are an entrepreneur, even if you don't show it, you will have a strange fear that someday someone might copy your work and become your rival. This is exactly how I felt in the first years when I started my first venture (Franchise consultancy service) as an entrepreneur. Even with my founding partner, we sometimes remember the past, remember how paranoid we were in the early days of our company and laugh at our state. At that time, our paranoia had become such that before we talked about our product, we even asked to sign a confidentiality agreement with people who wanted to invest in our enterprise.
Fortunately, we managed to get back to ourselves before it was too late - after countless interviews with our partners about raising our minds.
As is known, the basis of competition lies in the fact that if you are good at what you do, you will drag others after you. Sometimes this means "borrowing" the attributes of a successful product, and every time you borrow without permission it is simply plagiarism. Regardless of its form or seriousness, intellectual property theft is a highly personal issue for entrepreneurs. However, this doesn't mean you have to be paranoid. Instead, you just need to be prepared for a potential bad scenario.
Imitation is the most sincere cringe.
My company has always been a company that does not deviate from its own knowledge. We chose to do the opposite, whatever the industry giants and the understanding of competition require. As a result, we managed to create a very large niche in an incredibly difficult market to hold on to. As our success grew, the number of companies trying to copy our approach increased.
In particular, these two experiences stuck in my mind seriously. The first experience was about a failed startup company using my presentation at an app center in 2011 without permission. My team and I started the review process of our product at this event, moreover, I made a presentation in front of a huge jury. My presentation went well and had posted a promotional video of the presentation on a famous website.
At the end of the two years after the presentation, a new company appeared before me, which seems to be a direct competitor of our platform. While watching the company's promotional video, I noticed that they were literally copying my presentation. You can't even imagine my surprise. Moreover, there was nothing to doubt about the situation. The company was simply using my presentation! My first reaction was to be angry. After all, theft is theft. You do not think so? However, after a little calmed down, my team and I decided to take the company in question.
We used social media for this and ran a comparison-based campaign that brought the two companies against each other. Our aim was to highlight how far the company in question was from originality. We ended this tough test by sending the company a fruit basket and a signed photo of me taken at the time of the presentation.
What happened next?
Company officials did not even dare to answer us. Because we had made clear our intention. Eventually, the video in question was removed from the site, and about six months later the company was completely destroyed.
Focus on your advantages.
The second of my imitation experiences that I have lived is from a recent period.
One of our closest competitors in the banking industry was a well-established firm trying to enter the financial management platform. This group chose to set their own paths when it comes to marketing and messaging and set up their own order. As a result, their first experimental attempt on this new segment of the market was quite different from ours. This didn't surprise us when my team checked the latest updates of the company's website and realized that the websites almost exactly reflect ours. We had already predicted that this would be the case.
Yes, what happened was no surprise, but it was still annoying. I was mad with rage for a day or two, then I had a moment of enlightenment. I realized that this was a reactive act, a necessary step arising from despair rather than a malicious situation. We were the side that already had the first mover advantage and the creative talent to support it.
Instead of struggling (or sending out a fruit basket as in the previous example), we decided to ignore this situation and look ahead as a team. After all, when an organization publicly steals ideas, wouldn't one of these two things happen?
The first scenario was that Kevin Systrom, who runs Instagram, would take the attitude of Instagram Stories and Snapchat in the face of allegations of similarities, to do the right thing and accept the situation. According to Systrom, being innovative was a great thing. Every attitude of innovative companies such as Instagram, which has managed to use the filter system in the best way, and will be considered pioneers in this field, deserved to be praised. The problem was not about who invented what. After all, it was a format and what matters was how you integrated it into your network or adapted it to your own story.
In the second scenario, companies that imitate others deny that they are influenced by others in their work, and even ignore this fact. When things got heated, they let the industry itself be the one that would balance the two sides. Of course, when this happened, things seldom worked in favor of the organization accused of imitation.
In both scenarios, it seems possible to get out of the imitation problem without causing devastating damage to your enterprise. What would you say?
Remember, when you create something truly unique or successful, your competitors will want to copy you. This is an undeniable fact. The important thing is how you will react to these scenarios. In our opinion, you can turn this into fun and invite your opponents who are imitating you to take action to end this situation. Apart from that, you also have the option of doing the right thing and perceiving the imitation situation as exaggerated admiration or even a kind of "sincere cringe". And if you can do that, it will be a matter of time before you consolidate your position in the industry.