The market is competitive, we all know that, but what is really important is that you maintain your market edge.
You always know that you have got something right when your business concept, idea and / or how you operate is replicated (copied) by a competitor. It is a sign that you are the market leader and it also is a sign that your innovative thinking is respected and, at the very least, you are seen as successful in your field. In general, where you lead your market, most competitors are a step change behind you so you need to ensure that you keep ahead and maintain momentum.
To do this it is important to understand and move with the latest developments in your market. Market research is critical and essential, so you will need to invest time and effort in getting this done. I find that training and development opportunities often provide this avenue but I also utilise a mentor and keep strong links with experts in their field.
It also is important to realise that, particularly where your business model is well established and has a permanence of presence that this also brings strength to your brand and confidence to your customers. But they also will have an expectation that you will be up to speed with what is happening out there. This is especially true in the field of technology.
Apple were/are the trail blazer in smartphones and, to me at least, their ground breaking technology has been imitated by others, but the onus is on Apple to remain at the front. I won't likely change from Apple, because their continued innovation means that I see them as a superior product. Soon after Henry Ford patented the assembly line method of manufacturing, it began popping up in production lines everywhere. Indeed, some innovations have lead further improvements which were the seeds of larger movements such as Lean Manufacturing and Continuous Improvement methodologies.
And don't put it past your competition to use any method possible to copy your idea, some actions could be potentially underhanded or even dishonest. Even when at the NZ Gift Fair a couple of weeks ago, we had people coming onto our stand and videoing our card designs! They were treated to a shot of all 6ft 3 of me standing in the line of their shot and politely directing them to security.
I also recall a documentary which highlighted people who are employed by companies to buy products, deconstruct them and communicate their secrets so competitors can play catch-up. Although the end message of the programme was, had these businesses stuck to their knitting (and invested that money properly in research and development) they would likely have innovated and gained ground in the market rather than being cast as perennial followers.
Your competition may also talk a good game, but so long as you innovate and are confident in your business model, talk is just that – talk. Take confidence from your own track record and successes and if you think you need to innovate to stay ahead, invest in it. Investment is just that, and it may take time, but true innovation is what will set you apart and develop strong revenue streams and margins.
The market will lean towards the innovator and established reputation, it always does. What the innovator needs to do is keep innovating, stay one step ahead and continue to be a true leader.