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Do You Copy?

Do You Copy?

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: October 16, 2012

 

We learn in grade school that it’s not right to copy others, and even as adults we know copying is usually frowned upon. But when it comes to business marketing, there’s nothing wrong with being a copycat—in fact, it’s downright good business. Looking at how your competitors market themselves can teach you what to do (and what not to do) with your own marketing strategy. Here’s how to be a successful marketing copycat.

Start by determining your major competitors, and include both big companies and small ones. Pay attention to their marketing campaigns—including print, radio, TV or cable TV, outdoor advertising and online advertising. (You may want to put someone at your business in charge of gathering and maintaining this information, since it will be an ongoing job.) Create a database or record of where each competitor is advertising, ad size, frequency and any other information you think is important. 

Next, assess the actual ads themselves. Start from a consumer or customer standpoint. If you were looking for this product or service, what would you think of this ad? Be objective; if you can’t, enlist a friend or family member to look at or listen to the ads for you.

Then assess the ads from a business standpoint. What benefits and features do the ads highlight? Do they rely on special offers and discounts, or are they touting luxury or premium products? What types of customers are they targeting (Moms? Seniors? Teens? Businesspeople? Value shoppers)?

Don’t forget social media. It’s easy to keep tabs on what the competition is doing on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest—just follow or like your competitors, then regularly check out their posts and how customers respond. You’ll get a window into exactly how successful their marketing is and what customers like to see.

Once you’ve got all this information, you’ll need to do some serious thinking. Ask yourself (and brainstorm with your team):

·         What do I like and dislike about my competitors’ ads? If something in an ad bugs you, it probably bugs potential customers, too. Conversely, if something resonates with you, it’s likely to hit home with prospects as well.

·         What tactics could I copy or learn from? Of course, you shouldn’t directly copy your competitor—and if your ads are too similar, it could even cause confusion among customers. But you can do things like advertising in the same places your competitors are or promoting similar benefits in your ads. 

·         What can I do differently to make my business stand out? Is there a media outlet your customers care about that no competitors are advertising? For instance, if you’re targeting teens, maybe you could advertise on an Internet radio service like Spotify.

·         What weaknesses do I see that could create opportunity for my business? For example, if all the competitors in your community are promoting their low prices, you could take the opposite tack and promote your personalized service, premium products or other benefit that differentiates your company and makes what you offer worth a higher price. If no one else is advertising out-of-home, but your target consumers frequently use public transportation, there’s opportunity for you to advertise on bus stops or in or near subway stations.

Of course, marketing isn’t all about ads. If possible, visit your competitors’ stores or offices (or have a trusted friend or family member do so) to get a feel for how customers are treated and other elements such as signage, window décor and employee uniforms. Ask yourself the same questions about what you like and dislike as a customer, what’s missing from the marketing, and what opportunities you see.

Once you get the hang of copycat marketing, you’ll be able to apply it outside your immediate competitors. Start paying attention to ads you like (or don’t like) for companies in your industry, even if they’re not directly competitive with yours. Create an “inspiration folder” with ads that help you generate ideas. You’ll soon find that learning from others takes your marketing to new heights.

About the Author:

Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky

Guest Blogger

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit SmallBizDaily.com to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She's been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades