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Why Copying Your Competition’s Marketing Could Be Your Biggest Mistake

There are times when you are stuck in business. It could be that you have reviewed your marketing and it doesn’t appear to be working. Alternatively, you could be a fledgling business, just finding your feet and recognise that you need to ‘do some’ marketing. Whatever the situation, there is a temptation to copy a…

Copying Your Competition's MarketingThere are times when you are stuck in business. It could be that you have reviewed your marketing and it doesn’t appear to be working. Alternatively, you could be a fledgling business, just finding your feet and recognise that you need to ‘do some’ marketing.

Whatever the situation, there is a temptation to copy a competitor. Of course, a huge assumption is being made here. You think your competitor’s marketing is working for them and therefore all you need to do is change a few words and graphics and “hey presto” you have successful marketing.

Sadly, the truth is usually very different. Perhaps one or two elements are working, but how can you tell which they are? Especially as I’ll wager your competitor probably doesn’t know either,

So how do you know your marketing isn’t working?

Rather than copy your competitor’s marketing, it would be sensible to assess what you know about your own marketing and compare to your competitor. Let’s walk you through a few examples.


What is your strategy and how is your competitor different? Let’s dissect this. How many ways are you using the internet to advertise and attract prospects? This could be your website, pay-per-click, social media, banner advertising, article marketing, forums etc.

Consider this. Are you using all of these forms of marketing and if so, are they working in association with each other or as stand-alone funnels?

Here’s a scenario: You use one or more social media channels to create engagement. Do you send readers to your website? If so, have you installed any analytics software to monitor the traffic? Is your strategy to build a good fan base through this media?

Without analytics, you haven’t a clue whether you are getting traffic and where it is coming from. By installing Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools, you can glean valuable information e.g:

  • What channel (search engine, social media, forum etc) did they come from?
  • Do you have a high bounce rate (visitors who only look at the page that they arrived on)?
  • How long do visitors stay on your website and read your information?
  • How many pages do they view?
  • Typically what happens next?

Do you receive a contact from the visitor or have you let them leave without offering them something they require?

All of this data will be captured in your analytics and therefore provide so much information for you to learn from. This enables you to test and monitor the changes.


Every piece of marketing you use should be responsive, unless of course you have money to burn. I recommend direct response marketing techniques rather than the more institutional “old school” methods. What’s the difference? Let’s say you run an advert in a magazine. The old way would be to provide your name of course and contact details. You may advertise a specific product or say what you sell. Essentially the ad is written to create awareness. These type of ads cannot be measured very well and rely on somebody in the office asking the prospect how they found the business.

A direct response advert will be very different. The ad will still have your contact details, however, it will also contain a headline to attract your prospect’s attention and a reason for the reader to get in touch through an offer with a code. This code identifies which ad, in which magazine attracted the enquiry – it can therefore be measured.

Beware – you cannot successfully copy your competitor’s positioning in the market.

If you study your competitor’s marketing, you should be able to work out the strategy behind it… if there is one. Who are they aiming their marketing at? Where are they advertising to attract these people. What actions or offers do they use? What are the key messages they are using to attract prospects to their business? This last question is important. This is telling you part of their strategy, their positioning in the market. What this means is they provide a clear message regarding who they are, what they provide and why a prospect should choose their business rather than a competitor. Is your message that clear?

It is imperative that you find your own positioning in the market rather than copy. Why? In most cases what you offer, how you offer it and how you do business will differ from your competitor. If you copy a competitor’s marketing, you have to be able to deliver in the same ways. That is not how you do business and therefore fulfilling orders could be riddled with problems. Be yourself and attract business you can cope with which in turn means customers return time and again.

Think about it… if your competitor positions their business as the largest in the north, or having the largest stock or the biggest range of stock or the cheapest prices, are you able to sell your business the same? It’s rare for a business to be able to carry off the positioning of another business and usually leads to disaster.

Your positioning is a true reflection of who you are and what you offer. It’s best to trade on this as it is playing to your strengths. Trying to play to a competito’’s strengths could lead to your downfall, gaining you a bad reputation in the market.

Litigation is a possibility…

Of course, if you have made the mistake of virtually copying your competitor’s adverting, you could find that they retaliate by instructing solicitors to sue you. Litigation is expensive and time-consuming. Worst case, your competitor could win the battle which in turn could lead to the demise of your business. It’s not worth the risk!

It’’s always better to fight your battles on the playing field, using your own marketing that truly reflects who you are and what you do. This is far more powerful and easier to trade under rather than copying a competitor’s marketing. As the saying goes, “people cannot be consistently who they aren’t.” This is the same in business. You cannot trade well under false pretences.

By all means look at the overall structure of a competitor’s marketing in respect of how they integrate different elements of marketing e.g. blending social media with their website. However, final warning, unless you know for sure that this marketing is successful, why would you try to create your version of it?

Monitor all the places your competitor advertises. Check out the messaging looking for consistency across all media. Finally, ask yourself if this really attracts your type of customer? If the various types of marketing link well, could you advertise using the same methods but with your message? Could you do this in a way that allows you to measure the success of each component? This way you will know which elements are working and which require further testing. In time, you should discover some media do not work and you can simply remove them from your marketing activity and focus on the successful elements.

The big message here is that copying can be expensive and ultimately get your business into trouble. Trade on your strengths and the truth will resonate through your activities. Measure your activities, you will soon find exactly which elements work for you and which may require more testing. The good news is that this is safe and provides excellent feedback for you to manage successfully.

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