This post is first being published on April 15, 2022. Tax Day. The day just about every business owner despises. Many entrepreneurs feel the government takes way too much of our money and is entirely too invasive. Speaking of sketchy business practices, we’ll finish our storytelling series by discussing business spying.
Doing market research prior to starting your business is always wise, not to discourage you from trying but to figure out prior to making an investment whether there is merit to your ideas. Instead of feeling discouraged when you realize how many coaches there are in the world – or even just in your state – consider this competition a good thing. This is proof positive that a need exists for coaches, and they have paying clients.
Now dig a little deeper into your research and determine how many of these coaches are in your specialty. Again, not to discourage you but to encourage you to set yourself apart, create a unique selling point that will attract your ideal clients.
When is Spying Unethical?
Smart business owners will always know what’s happening within their industry as well as locally with their competitors. In many instances, you and your competitors are vying for the same clients, so it’s smart to know who’s doing what to attract those clients.
Market research crosses the line, however, when you copy exactly what your competitors are doing. If Coach A sends out a direct mail postcard and you copy the text word for word but add your own name to it, that’s copyright infringement and unethical. Is sending out a direct mail postcard a good idea? Sure! But hire your own copywriter and graphic designer to make YOUR postcard unique.
The same is true when creating your website, sales pages, and signature classes. Always invest in your own business with your own professional copywriters and designers or you will be known as a copier. Not only does that tarnish your reputation but it can get your website shut down. Hosting companies do not have a tolerance for plagiarism and unethical behavior. Can you create a class based on the same topic as another coach? Of course you can. But put a twist on it by adding your own case studies, discuss the topic from a different perspective, or offer another feature that the first coach does not – such as a private Facebook Group – to make it more appealing and unique.
Want to use some photos in your advertising? Don’t just copy an image from Google Images! Either take your own photos, hire a photographer, or use royalty-free stock photos. Go one step further and check the licenses at stock photo houses to ensure that you’re using the photo correctly for advertising purposes. In general, stock photos with corporate logos or names are for editorial use only, which means they can be used in a blog post but not an advertisement or endorsement.
Another very important reason to look at your competitors is to determine what price point your market can handle but this may require multiple steps. First, check their websites and sales pages. What prices are they charging? What are they offering for that price?
Next check their testimonials and social media profiles. What does their tribe have to say? How active are they on social media? A large number of followers doesn’t mean anything if they are not interacting with them.
Lastly, search for reviews. If people are unhappy with something, they will let the world know about it online, usually more frequently than if they had a wonderful experience.
Again, doing this type of pricing research is not to copy what a competitor is doing but to determine if what you have to offer is priced accordingly. You will likely have differing ideal clients which can impact price. If you’re looking for local clients, your location will play a part in determining price. Pricing in New York City, for example, would be much higher than in a smaller, more rural region of upstate New York.