If you’ve spent time and money developing products, services, channels, or a way of doing business that gives you an advantage over your competitors, it makes sense to keep these unique and exclusive to your business for as long as possible. Here are a couple of ways you can protect what makes your business special and will help you remain competitive.
Design a business that’s hard to imitate
If your product is easy to design and manufacture, you’re going to spend all your time trying to stay ahead of copycats. For example, a common business model is funny sayings printed on basic mugs using available fonts. This is common because it’s easy. Since it’s easy, others can quickly do the exact same as you.
So, how would you elevate such a brand and ensure it can’t be copied? Make ceramics by hand, come up with your own sayings, and hand lettering your mugs in your own handwriting are just a few of the ways.
Protect your Intellectual Property
Having the law on your side is handy when it comes to stopping any imitators. Your intellectual property or “IP” includes the parts of your business that you can legally protect if anyone breaches your rights.
- Trade secrets
- Company and domain names
To help decide what to do, make a list of the essential elements of your business you can’t do without, identify if they can be protected, and then weigh up the cost of legal protection versus the possible loss.
Protect your Intellectual Assets
An intellectual asset or “IA” is a competitive advantage that usually can’t be legally protected, such as your business contacts, networks, your business know-how, and knowledge of what customers want. In these cases, you can still build a barrier by:
- Keeping your information secret.
- Have staff sign confidentiality agreements.
- Document internal processes with key employees only.
- Share information only to qualified leads.
To help decide what to do, list what intellectual assets are mission-critical to your business and outline how you’ll keep these elements confidential.
Create something People will Miss
While it’s easy to create something unique, it’s important that your unique product is something that people will want. This is about finding a hole in the market, that once you fill, people can’t imagine having to go without. If you’re one of many selling the exact same thing, it won’t matter if your business exists or doesn’t. People will still be able to purchase. But if you sell something they can’t get anywhere else, you’ve set yourself up for success.
Become a Resource
The more you know about your product and the related industry, the more valuable you can be to your customers. Encourage them to ask you questions, and if you don’t know the answer, find out. Build up your knowledge base by reading industry-related books and magazines. This will make your relationship with them much stickier because even if they’re tempted to ditch your product, they’ll hesitate to lose you as a source of information.
Stay in Touch
How often do you pick up the phone and call your existing customers? Certainly not as often as you should. Yes, it takes time away from other sales activities, but think of the five minutes you spend talking to your best customer as “customer insurance.”
As a rule, the more important your customer is, the more frequent your check-ins should be but don’t neglect any of your customers. Keep in mind you’re also not just limited to using the phone; email and even snail mail can be great ways to maintain contact.
Be the Industry Expert
Post your thoughts on social media, speak at well-known events, run webinars or podcasts with other industry experts, emphasize your qualifications and publicize any testimonials from high-profile people or businesses. If you can prove you know more than anyone about your industry, it’s a great advantage and hard to copy.
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