I can remember two egregious blatant acts of pure plagiarism that really upset me at the time, and the frustration still lingers many years later.
Copying your competitors is not a way to beat the competition, but, evidently, my competitors thought that it was.
In the first example, in their desperate attempt to beat our company, our competitors resorted to copying us.
The first case dates back to 2010.
One of our main competitors literally copied one of our blog posts and reposted the blog on their website. In the midst of my attempt to get them to remove the blog content, they then subsequently copied at least a dozen of our company’s primary web pages—verbatim, typos and all—and simply replaced our company name with theirs. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they inadvertently left our company name in the meta description and meta keywords.
They eventually removed the content when I publicly shamed them in a subsequent blog post.
The bitter feelings didn’t end there, though, as the owner of the competitive firm subsequently disparaged both me and my company by telling our customers mistruths both about me, and our company.
That’s not the way to beat your competitor.
In another, and maybe an even more egregious example of plagiarism, one of our primary independent contractors, who we hired for at least 30 hours a week and worked with for many years, decided to open his own competitive firm.
Up until that time, he did have a few of his own customers but operated his business from his home. I was advised that this individual had opened an office, so I scheduled an unannounced visit when I knew he would be there.
I knew immediately upon walking into his new office that there was a problem. What did I see?
- Not only did he buy the same office furniture, but the boardroom table, carpet, and set up were exactly the same as ours
- The boardroom was even arranged in a similar fashion
- He had customer letters and creative writing on the walls done in the same manner as us
- Their presentation binders had the same designs and content that we created
- The technicians wore the same color and style of golf shirts
Then I found out afterward, they deployed the same customer quoting and CRM software that we used. It looked as if we had commissioned a franchise, but sadly we didn’t.
Again, this is not the way to beat the competition.
What Do You Do If Your Competitor Keeps Copying Your Company?
You can do what McDonald’s does.
McDonald’s is constantly faced with competition, yet, in the face of an ever-increasingly more competitive market, they focus on their customer service and service experience.
McDonald’s is basically an open book. They’re a public company, so their financial records are open to the public.
There have been dozens of books that highlight the McDonald’s story, some even written by Ray Kroc himself.
Many companies have tried to copy them, yet, few have succeeded in beating them.
McDonald’s make sure that they provide an amazing customer experience, over, and over, and over again.
Too many CEOs worry about what their competitors are doing, yet, most would be far better off focusing on their own efforts, and worrying less about what the competition, and more on what they’re doing.
What is Your Business’s Competitive Advantage?
What’s your business’s competitive advantage, sometimes known as the “secret sauce” of your business?
Does your business have a competitive advantage?
Finding, understanding, and leveraging your competitive advantage is probably one of the main keys to growing your business. Unfortunately, uncovering the secret sauce can be as difficult as the quest to find the Holy Grail.
If your company has developed an anti-aging pill and has a worldwide patent on the pill, then that is, of course, your secret sauce. But for the rest of us who have businesses in competitive industries with potentially low barriers to entry, it becomes even more important to understand, and leverage, your competitive advantage.
As my company’s former 27-year president, I too spent a lot of time working on our competitive advantage, which was, and still is, innovation and customer service.
From the very start of business in 1991, I was always determined to look for new products, new ideas, new marketing techniques that would differentiate us in an otherwise very crowded market.
My innovation strategy worked.
It wasn’t any one thing that propelled us to the top of the market, but a series of many moves made consistently over many years that, when compounded, produced amazing growth results. Our continuous innovation push also made it difficult for our competitors to beat us.
Our company didn’t win every account. Far from it. But we were, and still are, a formidable competitor.
To Win and Grow Your Business, You Need a Secret Sauce
What is your business’s secret sauce?
As I’ve explained, our secret sauce was innovation. Our other secret sauce was providing outstanding customer service, and developing a customer-centric focus.
Your Secret Sauce Can’t be Copying Your Competition. That’s Not How You Beat the Competition
That’s right. You’re not going to beat your competitor by copying them. If you do, you’ll always be behind. You’re never going to get ahead.
My mindset was that everything could be improved. Everything. Our products, website, internal processes, people, and especially customer service.
So how do you adapt your mindset from one of a company that’s just in business to one that is winning in business?
9 Ways to Beat The Competition in Business and Create a Winning Competitive Advantage
1. Understand Your Business’s Core Expertise
What does your business do?
Find your expertise, and then double down on that expertise. Understand everything there is to know about the product and/or service. Study it. Study your competitors (don’t copy them), study businesses in adjacent industries, and then study businesses in other sectors. Whatever it is you do, you need to understand the products and services better than anyone else in the industry.
2. Train Your Staff
It isn’t good enough that you know what your business does. Your staff needs to understand as well.
You need to be constantly training and improving.
Whether it’s certifications, guest speakers, courses, or self-study, everyone needs to be constantly improving. Work with your staff on building a culture of continuous improvement.
3. Build Improvement Into Everything You Do
If you want to beat the competition, you need to challenge yourself, and your staff, to improve every single day. You need to develop the mindset that nothing is ever good enough and that everything can be improved. Whether it’s the way you process invoices, the method you do your collections, your website, staff training, products, or the way your business provides customer service, every facet of your business can be improved upon.
The cycle of improvement should extend not just for the leader but for each member of the company. Every employee can improve their processes in everything they do.
Keep in mind, it’s important to remember your core competency. I’m not suggesting that you should constantly take on new products, or change things for the sake of change, but you need to develop an inquisitive and change-oriented mindset where you appreciate that the status quo is never good enough.
4. Provide Outstanding Customer Service
I mentioned customer service earlier in this blog post. Customer service needs to be at the core of everything your business does, similar to what I discussed earlier in regards to McDonald’s.
Too many companies cite customer service as a strength, yet, these companies would be hard-pressed to provide examples of what really makes them any better than their competition.
Amazing customer service is more than just words on a piece of paper. It’s about an attitude that needs to disseminate across the entire organization and everything that your business stands for.
5. Focus on Your Brand
A brand is more than a logo and a website. It’s about your business’s essence. What you do, who you are, what your business stands for, and how all of those messages are conveyed. There needs to be consistency throughout all elements.
Included In your brand is how you answer the phone, your auto attendant, uniforms, messaging, the wording on your website, tag lines in your email, designs of your company cars … really anything that is customer-facing.
What does your business stand for?
If you don’t know the answer to that question, then you’re going to have a hard time conveying that to your customers, and likewise, you’re going to have a hard time to beat the competition. In other words, if you don’t know, they won’t know either.
6. You Can’t Be Everything to Everyone
Stay focused and understand your business’s core competency.
There’s often a tendency to get sidetracked by the shiny object syndrome and to recalibrate your business every time you come up with a new idea. By not focusing, it’s possible that your message gets diluted, and as a result, there’s market confusion in regards to what your business does.
7. Learn How to Sell
This one seems so obvious, but it’s a lot more difficult than it might seem. It’s probably the hardest of all the other points I discuss in this post.
Selling doesn’t mean pushing product. There’s an art to sales that few salespeople actually understand. I wrote an article about this titled: Sell Me This Pen, which was from a scene in the Wolf of Wall Street movie, where Leonardo DiCaprio asked one of his salespeople to sell him a pen. The salesperson did a terrible job of selling the pen, but, DiCaprio applauded his efforts.
I took the pen example one step further and asked approximately 20 people I know to Sell Me This Pen Answer. Out of the 20 people I asked, only one person did a good job of selling me the pen. My point is that sales is significantly more difficult than most people believe it is, and consequently, building a sales team is an even more difficult task.
I wrote a blog post about how to build a sales team from the group up.
8. Find Your Business’s Moat
It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, you need to figure out what products and services you can sell to differentiate your company from all of the other firms in your industry.
You should attend trade shows. Meet with suppliers on a frequent basis, and figure out what new products they’re bringing to market. I’m not suggesting that your business should become all things to all people. Quite the contrary.
Specialization will help lead to a scalable and more successful business, and customer retention becomes easier when your business is focused. What I am saying though is that you need to find product that will help you differentiate your company from every other firm in the market.
9. Never Stop Learning
If you build knowledge into everything you do, you will always be one step ahead of your competitor, Most companies are lazy. They don’t view staff training as an asset, they view staff training as an expense, and as a result, are often reluctant to spend on building the brain power of the business. Training is a strategic competition weapon. Treat it as such.
Now remember, whatever you do, winning in business doesn’t mean copying your competition, it means being better than them. You know you’re winning when you’re not looking back at what your competitors do, but your competitors are copying and trying to be more like you, and that’s how you beat the competition.
Good luck with building your business.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy this one: Profit Isn’t a Disease. It’s the By-Product of a Well-Run Company. If You’re Not Yet Profitable, Fix It or Get a Job.
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Also, I published a book during the summer of 2018, “The Kickass Entrepreneur’s Guide to Investing, Three Simple Steps to Create Massive Wealth with Your Business’s Profits.” It was number 1 on Amazon in both the business and non-fiction sections. You can get a free copy here.