How To Stay Ahead Of Competition and Copycats

How to stay ahead of competition and copycats as a business owner. #entrepreneur #womeninbiz #businessowner

Imagine this: you get an email from a friend with a screenshot and a link to a website that seems suspiciously familiar.

The blood drains from your face and it hits you in the gut: someone copied your stuff.

It happens more often than we think in this online world of ours because it’s so easy to get “inspired” by other people’s work and get away with it in the world wide web.

So what’s a smart business owner to do to stay ahead of the copycats and steer clear of the competition?

How To Stay Ahead Of Competition

How To Stay Ahead Of Competition & Deal with Copycats

The first thing is to recognize that people can only copy the outside of your business, because that’s all they can see. So while they’re copying what’s out there right now, you’re hard at work coming up with newer and more amazing things.

Take this quote from Kipling to heart, if you’ve ever been the victim of a copycat:

“They copied all they could follow but they couldn’t copy my mind, so I left them sweating and stealing a year and a half behind.”

I’ll also add that no one can copy you: your sincerity, your unique gifts, and your one of a kind story.

How To Deal With Copycats Online

Now it’s all well and good to recognize this but what do you actually do if you find out that someone stole your stuff?

I’ve seen a range of reactions from public humiliation of the copycat all the way to totally ignoring it ever happened.

I happen to think that there’s a nice in-between where you can reach out to the offender and ask them to remove the pieces of your brand, copy, or content that they stole.

This happened to me a few years ago when someone stole my website optimization quiz word for word, along with the graphics, colors – everything just short of my code. Instead of calling this person out publicly or taking it laying down, I emailed her with a firm but straightforward cease and desist letter.

I recommend working with an attorney to figure this piece out but usually just communicating that you don’t want your work to be used in this manner is enough to get someone to take it down.

It’s also important to note that sometimes people don’t realize that what they’re doing is wrong, or if they do know it they don’t understand how much it can hurt both of your businesses. That’s why communicating clearly with them with a combination of “sweet as pie and tough as nails” is your best bet for getting a good resolution.

So that’s what I recommend if you’re getting copied in your business.

But you can do even more to keep competitors at bay…

The next level of protection from copycats and competitors is to be a little more strategic about how you build your business.

Think about the resources, assets, and skills that only you have and that if you were to focus on them would leave your competitors in the dust.

I like to think of this as building a moat around your castle that others can’t cross over.

For example, in my business I realized that there were a lot of people who can teach you how to use technical tools to grow your business online but very few of these competing businesses were able to create the tools that grow your business.

In effect, our software products under the AmbitionAlly brand (such as PopupAlly) act as our moat to keep out competition and copycats. (Plus, it’s been really fun to work with my spouse!)

Other digital strategists and techies can copy my tutorials but they don’t have the same capabilities that we have to create and market new tools.

So now I want you to think about what things in your business would put you in a totally different zone than your copycats and competitors. Can you think of a moat that you can build around your business?

It could be top of the line customer service. A high touch experience. Customized delivery. Free shipping. Stellar design. Your no-non-sense attitude. Creative names.

Your business is yours to create, and protecting it with a “moat” can be fun and profitable!

What Are Your Tips For How To Stay Ahead of Competition?

Please take a few minutes to leave a comment below with your (hopefully resolved!) copycat stories and any advice you have for anyone who is in this situation right now.

Oh, and if you have any questions about building moats or being strategic about your business, ask away!

 

37 Responses to How To Stay Ahead Of Competition and Copycats

  1. Be VERY CAREFUL who you trust with your ideas. I’ve had more than a few trusted friends copy and outright steal my ideas. When confronted on this, they play stupid or flat out lie. As sad as it seems, you can’t always trust even your best friends, especially if they are in the same industry as you.

    If you see a close friend copying or mimicking your ideas or work, take it as a warning. Button your lips and make a commitment to yourself that you will not be sharing your ideas with that individual any longer. You may want to consider whether or not they deserve to still be in your life.

    • I hear you Nicole, and sometimes it’s not intentional either. I’ve seen it happen where all of a sudden everyone is talking about a specific idea or concept, and it’s not that they necessarily stole it. It was just floating around and they grabbed onto it at the same time. That being said, if it is a clear copy then you need to address that, for sure.

  2. Hey Nathalie! I always love your videos and this is no exception. It’s perfect timing. It’s been happening a lot lately in my business, with a twist… where a client or even a friend is doing similar work and asking me to then promote their work (writing groups or retreats) to my list and on my sites.

    It’s tricky because I WANT them to thrive and I believe it’s a big universe and there’s room for everyone. And, while some of them have taken my courses and are using a similar structure, very few of them have actually copied me (an actual word-for-word steal has only happened once to my knowledge). And yet, as you know, marketing is something we all want to do in balance. If I market another person’s retreat, that’s one less time I get to market my own.

    The cool thing is that when I’ve shared this dilemma with my clients who’ve asked, they often say something like this (which you alluded to): “OMG. I had no idea. Duh. I totally didn’t realize my request would water down your brand!” Most people, I’ve found, are good hearted and good natured. Phew.

    Good things to think about. Thanks for starting the conversation!
    xo

    • It’s so awesome to see you here Linda! I totally hear you about wanting to support your colleagues and friends who are in a similar field, without diluting your offerings, too. It’s a tricky balance, and like you mentioned, once you open up the conversation it’s much easier to get things out and get people to understand where you’re coming from. :)

  3. Your content and videos are always great and refreshing! I have lots of my clients worried about copycats… I love your strategies above, and coach on the importance of building your brand from the inside out. Lots of newbies in the business world copy what they find useful and helpful not knowing what they’re doing so it’s good to set up alerts, and reach out with friendly messages when you encounter copycats. Thanks for your inspiration!

    • Absolutely Cena – and you’re so right, that when we’re starting out as new entrepreneurs it’s almost the default to copy. I feel like it’s “monkey see, monkey do” like learning how to walk or talk. But obviously it doesn’t serve either party and it’s usually pretty clear that it’s a copy, anyway.

  4. Hi Nathalie.

    I wondered how you dealt with that. It’s not see that you have a sweet as pie and tough as nails approach. You impress me.

    Personally I look for examples of what works and what doesn’t. I don’t (that’s just stupid) copy the words, but sometimes try out the format and/or energy on my own stuff. It thought me some tools that I needed to learn. But it made it so that I lost my voice at the beginning, but now that I’m clearer on what I offer, it’s coming back. I’ve kept the tools, which is awesome.

    You are right — you are totally unique.

    The only other way to protect yourself is through copyright. Even then, do you really want to play in that energy? I see it a lot in the psychic world. The phrase intuitive coach is actually copyrighted. It’s nuts.

    A lot of people have the tools, but no one can do the spiritual & intuitive the way I do it. I am unique in that way.

    I also come with a very down to earth approach. It’s practical. I’m smart as whip and I work super hard so no one can take that away. I used to think of my first teacher as a GOD – thinking that he was so much better than I. In fact our paths are merely different. I bring everything I’ve ever done to my practice because I bring myself. So does he.

    I’m thankful for the uniqueness,

    Nathalie

  5. I think that sometimes, copying is subtle. It’s like when your friend likes your shoes and buys a pair too. I’ve noticed acquaintances doing similar with their websites and businesses. When I made my website white, an acquaintance did the same thing after me (of course, she even used the same pink accent color, ha ha!). I’ve noticed acquaintances copying some of my catch words or phrases too. It’s super subtle, but I noticed. It was super obvious after I did a professional training, my one pal started to use a word from my title in her website. It’s all good, I guess lol…

    • Yes you’re totally right Lisa – sometimes it’s really subtle and can make you a double take. Especially when you know you came up with something original or it was a turn of phrase that no one was using beforehand. It can be frustrating, but like with the friend who likes your shoes – that’s not so harmful, unless it’s totally copying you.

      • This sort of subtle copying is really hard to address I think. I recently had someone use the EXACT phrase I had used in a private Facebook group in a blog post of theirs. How do you address that?
        I just let it slide – I kinda thought I’d come across as a crazy woman to bring it up.

        So I just shifted direction and keep innovating I’m ALSO a bit more careful and keeping some projects under my hat for a bit longer before making them public even in private groups.

        • That’s so interested Marama. I think it’s wise to keep projects and ideas under wraps if you can, because it gives you more of an advantage when you’re ahead of your “copycats” or competitors, for sure. And Facebook groups are tricky, because they feel private but who knows who is reading and gleaning inspiration!

  6. Nathalie,

    This video couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. I currently am experiencing a copy cat experience and was at a total conundrum of how to handle the situation. I’m more of a “just ignore it it’ll go away!” but I knew that there had to be a happy medium.

    Thank you, Nathalie, for your ever graceful way and advice of handling sticky situations. I’m always so impressed with your ability to be friendly and firm all at the same time.

    xoxo
    Licia

  7. Thanks, Nathalie! As always, good stuff. My contribution is simple enough: From time to time, I simply copy and paste some unique phrasing from my website into a Google search bar. It’s helped me find culprits more than once — including one who copied almost every word and the color scheme from my home page. Each time I was able to stop the problem with one not-so-friendly, but not explicitly threatening phone call. Something like “… I expect that material to be down by the end of the day.”

    No one has ever asked, “…or else what?”

  8. Great post Nathalie – and I love that you’ve addressed it with both common sense and compassion in mind.

    I see both sides of it –

    Definitely I agree that some ideas come up all at the same time – also, I think that some people overestimate the originality of their own work.

    Plus – I know that I’ve been influenced by my own mentors.

    However – it does suck when it happens. It always reminds me however, to get crystal clear on what I do, and take it to the next level.

    xx Denise DT

  9. Great post Nathalie and one I never thought I’d need so much as now. In the past year, I’ve seen numerous copycats of my brand and sent out several firm but kind emails letting them know that by using my copy, it would diminish both our brands.

    The hardest was when a former client literally took my phrases + tag lines, business model {literally structuring her programs 90% the same as mine from opt-in to 1×1 mentorship}, and copy. Wow – that was like taking a bullet to the heart {especially because I’d had a great relationship with her for over 3 years!}.

    Thankfully I reached out to my Board of Advisors – a group of my absolute favorite clients who have turned into my go-to peeps for my niche – and they all encouraged me to get a lawyer involved and let her know I meant business.

    And ultimately – like you said, she’ll never have that ‘moat’ around her business like I’ve built over the years.

    Big hugs,
    Rach

  10. I have sadly had my ideas and hard work stolen a few times. To say it lit a fire under my not so nice side, would be an understatement. However, I did chose to take the hide road. I solely believe copycats are completely unable to attract the energy and abundance to make it successful because they are simply copycats and only our unique original ideas coupled with our action and unique personality is what allows us to succeed and surpass any copycat. I love your approach Nathalie of compassion and definitely see both sides like Denise mentioned! I also have struggled with distinguishing ME away from my mentors during deep work with them and feel that it is something many of us struggle with. Smiles, A

  11. Thanks Nathalie, Thankfully I’ve not had any major content stolen and fingers crossed it stays that way. Recently though a competitor seems to have been “inspired” by my tagline and unique position in the market and has taken some of my wording for her own tagline. It’s obvious to me that she’s stolen my stuff but it’s not something that I can prove or approach her about.

    It must happen all then time particularly with bloggers in similar industries that we’re inspired by what we see and read and create our own version of it, sometimes without even knowing we’ve done it. I’m sure that I’m guilty of this too!

    My plan is to get some support from my mastermind buddies and I’ll most likely just forgive her and redefine my USP to differentiate myself. I’m not sure how many times I’ll be able to do this though!

  12. Holy cow. This is perfect timing. You know this hit me smack in the face the other day as I stared at an almost 100% copy of my own website. I was shocked! And, I learned a great lesson from that last week. I’ve been partly go pro and partly bootstrapper – so, I’ve had this weird way of doing things that I like to call “almost pro”. I’ve known for a long time that I need pro pictures for my website and seeing that website that looks just like me has pushed me to take a new course to help me bring in some additional dollars for a new photoshoot.

    It sure has.

  13. Ahhh you rock Nathalie, thank you for making a video about this. I have had a copycat incident in the last 2 months and I am firmly in the ‘say nothing’ category. Yet every time this person pops into my peripheral, it hurts my heart. Ouch.

    This person has used a word out of my business name which I spell slightly differently (the one that makes it unique), so I’m not sure I can claim a word. But I can’t believe she has done it, it’s such an obvious copy!!! I don’t have the guts to write a letter, she lives in my town, has bought my products and is part of my network, plus I don’t want to seem possessive as my business teaches love + happiness! Dilemma!

    It does make me happy to hear you talk about us all being unique + that the behind-the-scenes can’t be copied. Loved that quote about being a year ahead of the copycats too!

    AND I bought your polite pop up and i absolutely LOVE it. I rarely buy WP plugins, but I have been following you for so long (since raw witch days!) and I’ve always wanted to buy something from you (to thank you for all these awesome vids!) but nothing’s ever been right for me until now! AND I’m pleased to report that it is SO helping me run my website design biz. Everyone’s getting it installed now and they’re all so happy! xxx

  14. Had that jaw dropping moment of seeing a new competitor in my niche with a too-similar website today. Thanks for your advice! Part of me thought maybe I should just let it go and trust the universe to look out for me. Really, just another manifestation of not wanting to hold my ground (that I worked hard to build.) I decided to send an email first. Hoping not to escalate to a C&D. Why does it feel so uncomfortable to enforce this boundary? What was that part of it like for you?

  15. Very interesting article, especially love the quote at the beginning. I think this article can be applicable to any kind of situation (ex. lesser extremes of copying than most people on this website :)), including high school where when faced with competition, friends begin copying your extracurriculars and stealing ideas. It’s pretty annoying but thanks for this post and all the helpful tips :) Will keep them in mind next time I get irritated.

  16. Hey Nathalie,

    I enjoyed reading your post. I liked your advice on the happy medium. Firm but fair letter. I had a twitter account use one of my post headings in a profile.

    I was a little taken back by this. All I thought about was if there was ever any doubt as to whether it was mine would be the date when I started sharing the post.

    It lingered for a couple of days and I let it go. But I will certainly take on what you have written here. Thanks.

  17. Hi I have “friend”- become family member, so i cant run:). we are friends with over 15 years, when i though she was my friend, i share about everything, boyfriend , love, future plans… soon things were happening i though i was going to with my boyfriend, grand canyon, Africa, wedding dress, she did everything i planned. I was so mad. then we have kids, ( i have 2 beautiful children, she has also one daughter, they trying their second)anyway, last September i found myself pregnant again, first person i told, she was so mad, she even text why i got pregnant before, she is trying so hard,.. she was not happy me being pregnant. that period.. very weird.. we barely talk to each other, i last baby after 7th week:)i was so sad, i cant even explain, how. i got from unhappy face in message,… then I knew I told my self enough was enough. wedding anniversary, she looked at my ring asked why i didn’t get same as her, I finally said: we have twin husbands, same looking kids, same clothes, similar furniture in our house, even same color skin foundation, married same day!!!you buy everything i buy, some people asked we are also twin!!!! whats else there make me. i love jewelry, this is my thing. she is bought new set, she is starting to do jewelry. I took my kids JCPenny last week picture taken, without telling her guess what, she has family picture taken in JCPenny , even same background. .. so much. it is starting me sick. first i thought, I guess she likes my ideas, but now noooooooooooooooooo. if she wasnt family member i left her long time ago.

  18. Thanks for the great advice, I am sadly a “first timer” but as I try to set clear boundaries for what is my territory, trying to keep at the right distance someone who has an identity crisis, I try to take it also as a compliment to my work….