• Matthew Lerner

Reasons why you SHOULDN'T copy your competitors

Two weeks ago, I outlined my Top Six Competitor Analysis Tools and how I spy on competitors.

This week, I’ll reverse course and explain why you should not worry about competitors, plus who to copy instead.

Why shouldn’t you copy competitors?

If you imitate the competition the most you’ll be able to do is lag behind them, by definition.

And hopefully you’re in an industry where the main competition is mediocre giving you a real chance to stand out. And if your direct competitors are mediocre, why copy them?

Who should you copy instead?

I find that the best inspiration comes from copying great companies in other industries who are further along the innovation curve, and retrofitting their approach to my industry.

For example, in 2017 I worked with OurPath (now called Second Nature), to market a weight loss product. At that point, marketing in the weight loss space was still pretty basic - i.e., before and after pics, product-centric claims, testimonials and discount offers. So we looked elsewhere…

At the same time, Wealthfont (America’s first big robo-advisor) had hired a new head of growth, Andy Johns, (one of the sharpest growth minds alive), to help them solve an analogous problem.

Both companies were disrupting crowded industries that asked people to forego short-term pleasure for long-term rewards. And in both cases, the biggest “competitor” was inertia, meaning it's just easier for prospects to do nothing and ignore their lingering worries about the future state of their health or finances. See the similarity?

Instead of talking about their product, Wealthfront gave prospective investors a portfolio-builder tool that asked a bunch of questions about their financial situation, investment goals, timeframe and risk tolerance. Its algorithm delivered a recommended investment portfolio in exchange for their email address.

This was a master-stroke. The whole experience felt personalised, earned trust, and quickly delivered (for free) the “value add” of traditional financial advisors.

So, OurPath copied this approach and started their onboarding process with a series of questions. The result? They grew their weekly signups by 100X in 18 months. Not a typo.

How to action this.

  1. First, get clear on the specific growth challenge you’re facing.

  2. Brainstorm other industries who are solving an analogous problem, but are further along.

  3. Look for the hottest startups in that space. Typically these will be Series A - C stage, backed by top funds, and running the top tech growth tools. (Check their stack using the BuiltWith plugin)

  4. Study their approach, check out their ads, read their customer reviews, audit their flows and even user-test their flows to see how prospects interact with them.

I hope this helps!


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