Strategy For Dealing With Copycat Competitors, And Positioning Your Business.
I am new to the forum and this is my first post. I hope someone can share some insights or advice.
My wife and I own a small business
that is about 5 years old. We have had double digit growth each year (even in a 'bad economy' although not without some foresight and careful planing) and we anticipate grossing a million this year. Its not without a lot of hard work.. the usual blood sweat and tears, along with our life savings. But we stick with it because we love what we do!
We were the first of our kind in the local market, and filled a niche that was greatly under-served. Apparently our success inspired others to start up some local competition. As they say, competition is healthy and it has kept us on our toes. We keep our ear to the ground and usually know well in advance when another coming on to the market. We plan for the worst and hope for the best.
Despite a half dozen or so competitors popping up, (and many quickly fading away) we have stayed on top. In fact, I credit them with giving us validation to shoppers who compare and find us a favorable choice and not just the only option. Currently just two direct competitors are in the market against us. Increasingly, they have been actively copying and mimicking us.
A few examples:
We announce a sale on a particular weekend - The next day they announce the same thing, but 10% lower.
We host a customer appreciation party - They host one nearly identical shortly after.
We introduce a new service for VIP customers on our blog - As we predict, they put up a blog post stating that all their customers are VIP's.
They have also recently been mimicking our facebook/twitter activities, with almost identical wording in status updates.
The latest tactic has been to send friend requests to all the friends and fans on our facebook accounts. First I just thought it to be a coincidence, but then I find this included people outside our industry, old schoolmates, relatives, even my own fake account setup to track marketing towards our target demographic. (I have since changed the privacy settings so they cant see a full listing of friends)
In a way, I see this as having them right where I want them -in second place, chasing us, just trying to keep up. I can respect some of the actions as being shrewd. Others, petty, desperate and unethical. (they have also posted fake negative reviews online) This last one, trying to befriend all my contacts, really irks me. Its beyond business, and literally personal, being my friends and family.
I'm debating posting a status update calling them out on it, although not by name.
So, I am hoping to find some advice. They haven't done anything illegal that I know of, and we are not the litigious type anyway.
What are the best ways to deal with copycats. How can we beat them at this game? What are some strategies for positioning your business in the market?
One way we have beat them at the game was with our blog. We launched a new site with a integrated blog. They soon added a blog. We doubled our efforts and took up the task of blogging daily. Within a month or two they fell back and faded to posting less than once a week.
Thanks for reading and for your insight. I look forward to everyones tips and ideas, be they specific or broad.