When Competition Is No Longer Healthy

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    Healthy competition between small businesses is all well and good, and goes with the territory. However some businesses take things too far in their cunning plans to outdo you and steal all your clients. They wait for you to take the lead then copy all your ideas. You may have heard of the phrase that imitation is the highest form of flattery. Indeed it is, but what about calling it unethical stealing or plain plagiarism? Worst still, a really sneaky competitor will take active measures to reduce your success on internet searches.

    Here’s how to recognize these snakes in the grass:

    1.The Design Pilferer - Why would the Design Pilferer bother to think about a nice website design when yours is very easy on the eye and has everything they want? Much easier to follow your idea and layout.

    And your flyers – they’re grrrrreat. There’s just the right amount of information and a catchy headline, and the 6 face folded DL idea is spot on. The Design Pilferer will decide to just change a photo here and there, tweak the layout and there you go, flyer done.

    It’s hard to do much in this instance, but make sure you do regular website maintenance and update your offers. Hopefully your competitor won’t be bright enough to keep up.

    2.The Copy Cat - Maybe your competitor has actually come up with his own website and printed material design, but what about the copy? If he’s not up to the job and doesn’t want to spend money on a professional copy writer, he may take a peek at your material and realize it’s perfect. A quick copy and paste and a spin on the words, and his publicity material is sorted.

    The best outcome for you here is that he has inadvertently added some text that doesn’t relate to his specific product, or has made a few spelling or grammatical errors during the spin process.

    3.The Promotion Prowler - Does your competitor prowl about on the sidelines, watching you and waiting to see what promotions you launch? Maybe you offer a ‘3 for 2’, a ‘30% Reduction’ or a ‘Buy Now, Pay in 3 Months’ incentive. Well look at his new ‘4 for 3’, ‘40% Reduction’ or ‘Buy Now, Pay in 6 Months’ promos.

    Ah yes, if you can do it, then he will do it too. Your only hope is that in his enthusiasm to better your offers, he hasn’t bothered to check out his net revenue and will come unstuck by offering things far too cheaply to be worthwhile.

    4.The Database Thief - Do be careful when you send out emails to your clients, particularly when you email the whole database. Whatever you do, don’t put all the email address names in the “To” option or all recipients will see the email address of everyone else on your list. And if that list should get into a competitor’s hands, he has access to the contact details of all your hard earned clients.

    5.The Domain Name Stealer - Some really nasty competitors may take things a step further, believing that all is fair in love and war. Say your business,’ Mike’s Pump Shop’, is all about pumps: big pumps, small pumps, water pumps, air pumps. But one of the pump’s fabulous trade names is better known than your business name. At this point you may choose to purchase a new domain for that trade name, for example www.thebumperpumper.com. Your plan is to direct any clients who go to this site, back to the main website. However when you try to buy the domain name it is no longer available as the Domain Name Stealer has already purchased it. He may then use it to try to direct clients over to his own pump shop website; even though they think they are going to yours. The sneakiest of tricks.

    6.The Bare Faced Liar - The worst type of competitor is one who bad mouths your products and staff to your clients in a bid to discourage them from talking further to you. A client may tell you when you chat during a follow-up phone call. Do put the record straight in a professional manner without getting into a war of words. Clients will run right out the door if they sense they are going to be in the middle of a competitors’ battle ground.

    These types of competitors can make your life difficult if not hell. But you must retain your professionalism, don’t get drawn into tit-for-tat retaliations at any cost. And pray that they are spending so much time watching what your company is doing, that they don’t keep an eye on their own sales, reputation, finances and are adding to their own downfall with their unpleasant ethics.

    Joe Russo

    Joe Russo has over 6 years of experience with online marketing, sales and business management. Joe enjoys working on challenging projects, working late hours and the Boston Celtics. 

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