In a world full of fake news, half-truths, scam artists, snake oil salesmen, the question that I often get is “How do you deal with people who copy your work?” How do you deal with people who steal your idea? How do you approach a copycat? I know, it’s likely you want to take them out back and re-enact a scene from the movie Fight Club. But stay calm… Rather re-enact the scene from the movie Bad Boys… Remember what you need to do to stay calm? Woosaah…
Alright. Now that you’ve taken a deep breath. I’m going to tell you something you might not like. Ready? Here it is:
Get used to it.
Get used to copycats that steal your ideas.
Get used to fly-by-nights, wannabees, and those that want to get rich quickly and who look to you for leadership and blatantly steal what you’ve worked so hard to build up.
The world is full of them, unfortunately.
You can not copyright your ideas.
Let’s say you have a successful website with your own content, your own photos, your own processes, your own value proposition. Suddenly, the next day, someone posts something very close, enough that they clearly read your content and modeled their content off it. I’m not petty here, but this happens all the time at JTB Consulting. The first time this happened was back in 2009, when a fly-by-night car salesman from a well-known German manufacturer, I guess, wanted an extra income. He copied our website narrative, our value proposition and even some of our testimonials. I suppose he wanted to get an extra income by putting himself out there as a Business Plan Writer. Guess he wasn’t too good at car sales. Shame…
It really felt awful at the time when I, as Founder, spent 3 years pouring my heart and soul into JTB Consulting only to see someone else see it as a quick win for them to piggy back ride and merely copy and paste my thoughts and ideas. Sure, he got some clients from the deal, but thankfully, he closed shop after 2 years of trying to juggle his full-time job and delivering on the actual promises I made on his website (oh sorry, I meant that he made by copying my website). When it came to doing the work, he couldn’t cut it. His website and social media became flooded with bad press and customer complaints.
Sure, he got some clients from the deal, but thankfully, he closed shop after 2 years of trying to juggle his full-time job and delivering on the actual promises I made on his website (oh sorry, I meant that he made by copying my website). When it came to doing the work, he couldn’t cut it. His website and social media became flooded with bad press and customer complaints.
What I’ve come to realise as that at JTB, we just keep on doing what we do best. Underpromise and overdeliver, every single time.
If we make a claim, we can back it up.
All our customer testimonials are real and can be contacted by any prospective customer to determine the legitimacy.
Fast forward a few years and we now have no less than 5 competitors that have blatantly stolen and copied not only our website design elements, but also our process flows, narrative on our FAQ page, narrative of our competitive advantage, etc.
Moreover, we have found competitors that have gone as far as using our exact narrative on the quotations and, came across one of our client business plans and placed this on their website as one of their own examples. How do I know this?
Because the guy didn’t even take the effort to change our brand colours on the business plan. Also, elements of our business plan methodology include components of my Doctoral Thesis that I completed as a study into the South African entrepreneurial environment, and this is openly displayed and marketed as their own work.
8 years ago, I wrote an article “Beware of Scam Consultants, Beware of Snake Oil Salesman”. This article and its contents still apply today.
I am not in the habit of bad mouthing my competitors by calling them out by name, but these 5 companies know very well who they are. 1 is based in Cape Town. 2 are based in Pretoria. 1 is based in KwaZulu-Natal. And 1 is based in Sandton.
With all this said, what we have seen as well over the past couple of years, are clients that approached these copycats and then later, after receiving shocking business plans, financial models and market research studies form them, those same clients come to JTB Consulting to redo their work. And I must be honest, the quality that these clients received in most cases were appalling. So now it is not so much about these copycat one-man shows stealing JTB’s website and other content, they are stealing these clients’ money and providing a substandard service.
How do you warn these clients?
Well, we advise all prospective clients to do their homework. I have even written an article about this in the past as advice to prospective clients.
In today’s day and age, you will always find those copycats that can’t think for themselves.
Can’t invent. Can’t design. Can’t lead.
Can’t do anything but ride on the coat-tails of the leaders. The inventors. Those that want to offer true value and service to clients. Not just half-baked copy and paste promises so that they can make a quick buck or two from an unsuspecting client.
Competition can serve as a force for good. It can force you to do better. Copycats are unavoidable, but how you deal with them will be the difference between achieving continued success and becoming a one-hit-wonder.
How do you deal with copycats in your own business then?
Imitation is the most Sincere Form of Flattery:
When the copycats come out, you know you’re doing something right. People who copy your approach to marketing or branding or who offer imitations of your product or service are paying you a compliment. Understand that they are a fan of what you do and take comfort in the tribute they are paying to you by copying your work. So relax and say thank you. Accept the compliment (by calling them out publicly like I did) and get back to work! So, without further delay… Thank you copycat 1 in Cape Town, copycat 2 and 3 respectively in Pretoria, copycat 4 in KZN and copycat 5 in Sandton.
Don’t Let Copycats Kill Your Vibe:
Raise the bar for yourself; push your limits and set new challenges. It can be frustrating to invest time, money and sweat into something just to turn around and find your competitors feasting on it… yes, I am talking to you 5 vultures. But, you can’t let the coattail-riders slow you down or stall your progress. You must keep hustling. Whoever makes the first version of something is less important than the person who makes the best version, so stay focused on creating great content, products, services and serving your customers well. In the end, that’s what will keep you on top.
Your ideas and own work is important, but how effectively you deliver value to the world (and to your clients) is ultimately far more important.
Stay True to Your Customers:
When you’re building your brand you’re intently focused on the needs of your clients and customers. You do everything for them – to improve their lives, solve their problems and relieve their pain points. Once success hits and the biters start biting, many people turn their attention to the copycats, becoming obsessed and paranoid in the process. Don’t do that. Stay close to your audience, fans, clients and customers. Make a commitment to understanding their needs and constantly innovating and forcing the copycats to try and keep up.
Finally, Ignore them:
Ignore the copycats! They don’t add any value to your life so don’t spend your time and energy worrying about them. If people are stealing your ideas, content or approach – that’s okay. What really matters is that people can’t copy your unique experiences. They can’t copy your personality or the value you deliver in your work. Stay focused on your own growth, clients and the new experiences you are having and forget about rest who are following behind and stealing your moves. Think of it this way, the more copycats you have, the bigger your fan base. It sounds a lot simpler than it feels – I know. But trust me, it’s the way to go.
If you are the best at what you do, I have to wonder how productive it is for you to concern yourself with the activities of your would-be imitators.