By Tony Mariotti
A real estate agent recently asked whether he should do anything about his competitors following his Facebook business page. He thought it could be prudent to ban or remove them. I understood the reasoning of the question; a competitor might steal his great marketing ideas. But as I thought it through, I honestly couldn’t come up with a single legitimate reason to ban anyone from a Facebook page.
1. Execution matters.
Let’s say you’re running a really effective advertising campaign (Facebook or AdWords) and you’re worried that a competitor will copy you. Any high-value marketing campaign involves a great deal of planning and legwork. For any given campaign, there will be a design and planning phase which takes several hours possibly spread out over several weeks. This is especially true if your competitor has yet to learn the AdWords interface, bidding, writing effective ad copy, etc. And then managing a running campaign takes time and effort as well. You can see where I’m going with this...
Copying is not the same as executing. The level of effort required from your competitors to do what you do will dissuade the vast majority of them. Those things that your competitors can see on the surface represents many hours of effort. Are they really up for it? If you out hustle everyone in your market, it’s terribly difficult to keep up.
2. It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.
Very few marketing ideas are original. Marketing is a lot like cooking from a recipe. When you think about it, how different are recipes from one another. Not very. In fact, two people can follow the same exact recipe and the end result will taste different. Chefs bring years of different experiences to the table. They source ingredients from different stores. Their techniques vary. The same is true with marketers.
Another land mine for your competitors – sticking with the cooking metaphor – is that they may see your final dish (e.g. an Adwords campaign) but not know the recipe you used to make it. If your competitors copy your marketing tactics without understanding the reasoning behind them, there’s little guarantee for them that it will work. Why? It’s not easy to deconstruct a campaign just by looking at it. It might be easy to guess what’s in a lemon meringue pie to the experienced baker, but put him in a restaurant in India and ask him what’s in the Tikka Masala and they’ll be thrown for a loop.
It’s also hard to tell from the outside which campaigns are actually working. If you have several campaigns running concurrently (Facebook Ads, AdWords, etc.) you’ll likely prune the ones that are underperforming. A competitor might easily copy the worst campaigns, the few you were planning to drop from next month’s marketing budget. You know what? Let ‘em copy those as much as they want!
3. Competitors already know.
Do you know who the biggest tattle-tales are? Customers. Your customers will tell your competitors what you are doing. Conversely, you’ll hear how your competitors are running their business, too. People talk. Always have. Always will.
If you own a website, you’re already quite visible. Competitors can learn a lot about you from your site. Just assume they frequently visit. In fact, they’d be nuts not to keep track of you. They know your brand positioning. They know the topics and tone of your blog posts. The bigger you get, the more impossible it is to hide, anyway. So why even try?
4. High visibility pays off.
The more visible you are in your market, the more referrals you’ll get from people who don’t even know you personally. You’ll be top of mind with that barber that keeps seeing your brand around town and shared online.
There’s even long term benefits for a well-branded business. The employees who work for your competitors are going to hear how good you are at marketing your business. They’ll be slowly demoralized from the constant exposure to all your amazing-ness. They’ll hear a nagging internal voice saying, “Why can’t we do that?” The payoff for you comes when you grow your business and start recruiting employees. People who know your body of work will want to come along for the ride.
Think about your brand as something you want spread far and wide. Don’t hide behind any superficial firewalls. What your competitors know about you and your marketing prowess can work to your advantage.