If You Want A Following, Lead: Why Copying the Competition Doesn’t Work


Posted on March 27, 2018 by Aaron Johnson

Do what you do best

Your biggest competitor just rolled out a new social-media campaign, and it looks like it’s drawing in a ton of visitors. Or maybe they’ve redesigned their website, so everything about it is bright and shiny (especially the conversion rates it’s getting). Meanwhile, your company seems to be stuck in stasis, plying a strategy that just isn’t achieving the success that the competition has.

It can be very tempting to decide that the way to get similar results for your own organization is to copy what’s worked for someone else, and change your whole marketing approach in order to keep up. But this strategy only looks appealing—and, at the end of the day, it’ll do your brand more harm than good.

Your rivals don’t know everything

In all probability, your competition has no idea why their approach is bringing in better results. Let’s say they’ve redesigned some of their landing pages, and are getting higher conversion rates out of the new look. Most likely, they haven’t done much testing or data gathering to figure out why that is the case, and that alluring new layout was dreamed up in the first place either by a committee of opinionated employees who didn’t look deeply into the data or by a web designer who was pressed for time and made something based on their own opinions about what’s functional and what looks pretty on a screen. 

Often, your competition has cribbed their marketing or design moves from one of their competitors, who also probably don’t know why a particular tool or strategy works the way it does. And the last thing you want is for your own online presence to come across as a third- or even fourth-hand imitation.

You’re not a magic 8-ball

Unlike that astute device, you don’t know all, see all. You have no way of knowing what’s going on behind the scenes at a competing organization; what looks to you like a fantastically successful campaign may not actually be going so well for the people running it. External stuff like site layout or social media advertising tells you nothing about the internal workings of your competitor’s strategy, so don’t assume that something is great just because it looks snazzy.

Your brand gets lost in the shuffle

Even if they’ve done consistent A/B testing and figured out what’s making their marketing campaign tick, and even if things are running as smoothly under the hood as they appear from the outside, what works for your competition won’t necessarily work for you. You’re in this business because you believe your brand has something unique and valuable to offer, right? So why would you compromise on that vision in the very places where potential consumers encounter it for the first time?

Imagine that you work for a company that makes bath products—body washes, bath bombs, etc.—and you’re trying to build a following on Instagram and Twitter. Your biggest competitor has recently started racking up more followers seemingly by the minute, by making image-heavy satirical posts that reference current events and make jokes about “keeping it clean.”

Before you start writing copy like you’re submitting to the New Yorker cartoon caption contest, check in with your brand’s innate personality, values, and marketing goals. Maybe funny doesn’t work for you, or maybe you’ve committed to an image centered on providing a product that transcends its era. Long after your competition’s humorous reference points have faded into yesterday’s news cycle, your company will still be making classic bubble bath, not just for an age but for all time.

Lead the way

It’s easy to forget about your brand’s unique strengths and goals in the rush to get the results the competition’s getting by doing what they’re doing. But that kind of copying means that you’ll miss out on the chance to be an innovator in your field. Your organization is better-off, in the short and in the long term, with a marketing plan tailored to its own goals, and designed to help them lead. Every brand is different—so why should you settle for a campaign like everyone else’s?

Need a marketing plan that’s tailored to your brand’s goals, but not sure how to get started? SocialLink’s virtual marketing department has you covered.

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