Being an entrepreneur, you’re continuously working hard on your business idea with whole heart. In that case, you’ll never want that your business idea, which you lovingly call “personal”, gets worked upon by someone else too. For you, it might be like waking up to this amazing idea, calling it “yours”, researching on it quite well, gathering team members and starting to build upon it. High chances are that you’re already half-way through the product development, or have even completed it.
There must be some people who have already built what you’re right now just thinking of. Some might be starting up just after you exactly on the same business idea. Scary enough!
Has this thought ever frightened you that before you and after you, there’ll be so many other companies whose products will look similar to yours? Creating products similar to other companies, knowingly or accidentally, simply leads to high competition. Now, whether or not you’re ready to face that blunt competition, that’s another story.
Then, similar products being offered by different companies, is going to leave the audience in a confused state, and you might lose a customer. You might fail ultimately. No, I’m not trying to daunt you. In fact, it’s better for you to face the reality before it hits you.
Why is this issue important to discuss for your business idea?
Just in case you’ve not given any heed to this, let’s see why you should think about it. Here’s a little story. Since I work with this digital marketing agency, I get to know about the whole spectrum of startups, their niche, products, audience etc.
While randomly going through a list of companies that were in-line for a meeting with us, I noticed something - a pattern. Something struck my mind. After every two or three companies, the niche of the next company was the same. Observing the individual niche companies closely, I found that even the products in the particular niche companies were quite similar.
The first thought that clicked was, “Why are these people working on a business idea again that already exists?!” I was baffled, surprised, disappointed and blank at the same time.
The second thought that struck was, “What must these guys be thinking after realising that their product idea is already existing, and that there are others like them?”
After a sudden ramble of debate in my head, I decided to figure this out and simplify for anyone who is in this confusing state and needs an answer.
If you feel your business idea has got copied by someone, or somehow it looks like you’ve copied someone’s business idea, you need to shut up your mind. This is your mindset issue that is creating doubt and stopping you.
Wrong thoughts can creep up anytime. Can you identify yours among any of these?
1. Only three or four companies that work on similar business idea do well.
This is not true. If you just take a random search on Google for a list of niche companies, you will find lists titled like “Top 30 [niche] companies in [location]” etc. So, the upper limit to the number of companies working on the same business idea is not defined, and a lot of them can be labelled as “doing well”. It may be because the audience size is so huge that they probably share and serve them.
2. All the similar businesses have to do same activities to market their product.
This is slightly true, but again it depends upon the person handling the marketing. Each of the marketers of those companies working on a similar business idea will be a different human being. If none of them deliberately copies other’s methods, then chances of doing similar marketing activities will be very low.
All of those marketers will have different approach towards the product. Their marketing messages will be different. For one, personal emails will look attractive as a marketing tool, and for one other, only LinkedIn will seem to work, yet another would love to explore Facebook for Business, and Adwords and this goes on. No two marketing strategies can work exactly the same, even if the business ideas look similar.
3. All the similar businesses have access to same tools.
No, this is not only true for similar companies but every company on the face of the earth. The marketing tools are numerous and can be accessed by anyone today and tomorrow. So, there’s no point even considering this thought if it ever comes to you.
4. Those that are doing well have funds. If they don’t have funds, they disappear from the ecosystem after struggling for some time.
Money is important for doing business, that’s the harsh truth. You can certainly perform some tasks that don’t require budget but eventually when you decide to scale up, budget is an important factor. However, this should not discourage you if you’re falling short of funds.
You can roll out the basic version of your product and see the response how well the audience is accepting it. Give free trials. Start approaching for VC fundings in specific events with confidence because you’ve already tried and got results with your work. High chances are that you’ll get financial support for your business.
Now, let’s assume there are no creepy thoughts in your minds for this, but you’re still not sure whether to move forward with your business idea that seems copied. The question still lingers...
The answer: The difference.
If ten people do the same thing, how can they expect different results. This has been a truth forever. If everybody starts planting the same quality mango seeds, how can they expect different or better tastes in the mangoes from the trees that grow from them.
In another instance, in a school, every kid has same books, but some kids outperform, some do mediocre and some terribly fail. On the surface level, it looks all the same. On a deeper level, everyone’s inputs are different.
Google was not the first search engine. The history of search engine dates back to 1990. It all started with a very basic search engine called Archie which was capable of just capturing the titles as a list, not the content. This was followed by a series of search engines. The creators of Google entered the game in 1996 with a search engine called BackRub. This was again followed by more search engines and updates to the existing ones.
It was in 1998 that finally Google was launched. But this didn’t stop at Google. A lot of search engines were developed and launched even after that. People just did not stop. It didn’t matter to them and they kept creating better and more useful search engines. Just for fun, you can see the history of search engines here.
So, the complexity of what you should do if you find that your business idea is similar to someone else (copied), the simplest answer is Differentiate.
Here are 7 reasons you should NOT think about quitting, but differentiate:
1. It is a chance for you to deliver better than anybody.
Okay, accept the fact that your business idea is already existing for some people. Now, what?
Do the same thing, but do it differently. Study the loopholes present in other companies and work upon improving specifically those. This will help you in presenting the same in a more edible form, more pleasing to the needs and emotions.
2. You can make it easier than before.
Work upon the process that a user will have to go through to use your product. Reduce the number of stages a user passes, reduce the amount of information you ask from the user to get started with you, let your FAQ section answer all possible questions in short.
Work upon the content throughout your website, app and other platforms. Let the content be so fulfilling that the user feels satisfied and has no questions left unanswered. Give the user the access to some special content too which will bind him/her to be a fan.
3. You can be creative by using trends and create different experiences.
There are a lot of tools you can use to look for industry and market trends - Google Trends, Buzzfeed, Mashable, Trends on Twitter, Facebook Trending, YouTube trends, Buzzsumo, Adwords, Trendwatching, and so on.
Start studying the trends on any two or three tools and modify the experience for your users according to what is trending among your audience.
4. Good that your audience already exists somewhere.
It’s awesome that your product is not completely alien to the audience. Aliens are mostly not welcomed. Let it happen gradually. You exactly understand your audience and they are also in need of something. For now, that ‘something’ is provided by someone else, but if you do it better by any means, those audience will not take time to switch over to you unless their needs are fulfilled.
5. Great opportunity to be super specific. People need it.
Somebody’s negligence becomes an opportunity for someone else. Let that someone be you and grab it. Instead of keeping your product a general one that caters to a large audience, you can work upon your business idea a little more and come up with something really specific.
Of course, the audience will be very small, but your product will be extremely targeted and this will give the audience a feeling that it is made only for their needs. The percentage users will probably be more for you in this case as you will be able to build the trust easily.
6. You can make your marketing message emotionally connecting.
You might still be doubtful and do not want to modify the product features. That’s completely okay. But, to reach out to your audience, using similar tools, modes and platforms, the only thing you can modify is the content and tone of your message. Use words that your audience can easily relate to. Craft stories around your product and how it is solving a particular problem.
There’s no moral harm in reminding the audience of their problem in an emotional message. This will just be a part of marketing, no sin. This will build a connection stronger than others.
7. Available giant company might acquire your company later.
This can’t be your end motive however, this can be a possibility. If you grow well and fast, there’s a high chance that another company that works on the similar principles would like to takeover your company and acquire it for a huge amount for which you just can’t say No.
That’s how huge companies like Google and Facebook behave when other companies start becoming giants.
To have a business idea that resembles others, is not the latest news. This is a repeated phenomena. It can easily give you second, third and fourth thoughts about even continuing the work. It can actually lower your productivity. But, all this for nothing. There are better options than giving up.
- Study other companies, that you feel are similar to you, in-depth. Their product, marketing, weaknesses, strengths, tools they use, growth graph, product modifications, company culture, customer reviews, PR activities, patents they have, process of buying and selling, core team - Don’t leave anything untouched there.
- Take a step ahead in knowing them more. Take demo from them to exactly see how their product looks like from inside and what exactly it feels like using it. Check job openings in those companies to get an idea about how those guys are moving forwards. Talk to their customer care rep to get a firsthand feel and see how you can make it better.
- Keep track of other new entrants with similar product. This will give you confidence that you launched before someone. Use same strategies to know them also. You might get to know some really great insights and probably some better ideas for your product. [Read: How to Introduce Your Brand New Company to the World in 5 Easy Steps]
Even if you are the twentieth one working on a particular business idea and producing the similar product. Let it be. Identify gaps in the already existing ones, and you can really excel in your business. Just don’t lose your calm, and keep working hard and smart.