Marketing Myths – Copy the Competition

Welcome to the first edition of our brand new weekly blog series, Marketing Myths. Each week’s installment of Marketing Myths will aim to bust a commonly held belief about marketing. Last week, we busted the “People Read” myth.

This week’s myth = Copy the Competition

You can’t blame the people running a business for paying a lot of attention to the competition. It’s been hammered into them from the very first business courses they ever took. They learn about competitive strategy and competitive analysis. It gets baked into everything from pricing and product development, to sales and marketing.

And because they are so tuned in to thinking about the competition, they tend to put more faith than they should in the relative intelligence of those firms. They point to things the competition is doing and ask their own team why they didn’t think of that first?

“How come we’re not doing that?”

And in many of these companies, copying the competition becomes a key bit of strategy.

Here’s the problem – no company ever achieved long term success by copying what another company is doing. Companies succeed when they stand out, when they do things no one else is doing, when they have a clear advantage over the competition.

Instead of copying the competition (who might be just as clueless about strategy as you are), it is important to figure out what sets you apart. What makes you different from them?

If you don’t know the answer to that question, neither do your customers. And that’s a recipe for disaster.

Stay tuned next week for another myth. If you have a marketing myth you’d like me to bust, add it in the comments below.

Market To Mondays – Part 6

Welcome to the latest edition of our new weekly blog series, Market To Mondays. Each week, we will introduce you to a new group of people you should market to. We’ll tell you who they are, why you should market to them, and how you might get started.

Last week’s group was Google Searchers.

Today’s Group = Your Competitor’s Customers

Depending on what industry you’re in, customers will have different levels of brand loyalty. But across the US, consumers are proving to be less and less loyal to brands and products than they’ve been in the past.

And it’s not just price that draws people away. Consumers are looking for companies that value them, make their lives easier, offering more effective solutions, etc.

So it should be no surprise that your competitor’s customers make an excellent target market. Not only do you know that they need what you have to offer – they’ve proved that by shopping with a competitor already – but you know exactly how you’re better than that competitor. Which means you can construct very specific messaging to lure those customers away.

But how?

Surprisingly, there are a number of ways that you can market to your competitors’ customers.

The most direct is calling them out in advertisements. The best current example of this is Sprint’s “Cut Your Rate in Half” ads that are running right now. The entire purpose of those ads is to attract Verizon and AT&T customers with lower prices. This can be very affective, especially for new companies in a market or industry who are looking to get their name out there.

Another option is targeting search ads to your competitors brand terms. This works on a smaller scale, but is a good strategy if you’re going up against a well-established brand in your space. You can also target Facebook ads to people who “like” or “follow” competitive pages on Facebook.

If you or your competitor have physical locations you can try outdoor advertising in the surrounding area to lure customers away. And depending on how big your competitors are, they may make their customer lists public and/or saleable. You may be able to buy a list of their customers and sell directly to them with direct mail, email or phone calls.

The point is this, just because someone has chosen your competitor in the past, doesn’t mean they are a lost cause. In fact, they are an easy group to target, and one that should almost always bear fruit. So don’t give up on them, ever.

What group should we cover next? Now accepting submissions for audiences that we will cover in an upcoming “Market To Mondays” post. Submit your ideas via our contact page or in the comments section below.

The Case Against Copying the Competition

Yesterday we made the case for copying your competitors. If you have not read yesterday’s post, I recommend you do so and then come back to this one.

Here’s the case against copying your competitors:

  • If you know what they’re doing is not working, don’t copy them. This should be a no brainer, but too many companies will follow their competitors no matter what they do. Make sure you know something they’re doing is working before following suit.
  • If your plan is to take market share away from your competitors, you need to do something different or better. You are never going to steal customers away from your competitors by doing the same exact thing that they’re doing.
  • If you want consumers to view you as better than your competitor, you should not match every offer that they put out there. If the value that you deliver is better, than you can justify a higher price. Lowering your price just because your competition does is not always the answer, and will usually lead to further price cutting and loss of margin.
  • In today’s crowded market, companies that stand out from the crowd will continue to succeed. If you want to be different, you have to truly look and act different. That means that there is no room for copying your competition. Your competitors should want to copy you because you take all their customers away.

The Case for Copying the Competition

Last Thursday I posted about paying attention to your competitors. Some marketers and small business owners do, others don’t bother. I tried to make the case that you should always be aware who your competitors are and what they’re doing in order to position yourself for success.

Now there are two different ways to use the information you glean from this competitive research that will be the subject of posts today and tomorrow. You can copy what your competitors are doing, or do something different.

Here’s the case for copying your competitors:

  • If you know that what they’re doing is working, you should be doing it to. Maybe they’re making an offer that people are responding to. Maybe they’re targeting a group of consumers that you’re missing. Whatever it is, if you know that it’s working, you should consider following suit.
  • If your competitor does something that takes customers away from you, you should do it too. Maybe a new competitor in the market changes the way they price their offering, and your customers are drawn away. When that happens, you need to evaluate how you can compete with this new reality.
  • If you’re new to the market, you should fit consumers’ expectations. Established companies in your market have done a good job of setting expectations. And while you might want to disrupt an existing market, you should copy what you can about existing players’ models so that consumers can get to know your brand more easily.
  • If technology or other outside factors are changing your industry and your competitors are moving faster than you are, you should follow them. It’s better to be late than never when things change. Don’t get caught serving a market that no longer exists.