We’ve all heard of the expression “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”.  Well, that may very well be the case when it comes to flattery, but when it comes to your business, copying your competition is not only debatably unethical, it can spell d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r. Legal implications aside, with such an overcrowded marketplace filled with virtually everything that a consumer could possibly ever want or need, merely copying another business, entrepreneur or product will likely not be sufficient to capture enough market share to sustain a viable business.

When a hot new trend breaks out, a new business becomes the talk of the town or a new person is being heralded as the flavor of the week, it can be tempting to want to jump on board. But, don’t strive to be just like the hot new thing. Not only are trends fleeting, but it won’t come across as authentic. People like to buy from others that have the KLT factor (those that they know, like and trust).  And nothing screams inauthentic more than the imitation knockoff of the original.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s perfectly fine to derive inspiration from another entity. And getting inspiration from or being influenced by an already successful product, service, business, or even another entrepreneur can be a great starting point for your own business or product. And it’s also okay to compare yourself or your business to another, as long as it’s a way to clarify or explain your own offering- as in saying that your restaurant is like “a cross between Chipotle and IHOP”. This is much different than saying that your business is just like Chipotle when it’s not or creating a carbon copy of Chipotle and then putting your company name on it.

Instead of just imitating or duplicating, think about what you can do to improve upon a particular concept. Focus on how to stand out from the crowd of competition by thinking about what your own strengths are.  What else do you specifically bring to the table to enhance and elevate that initial concept that inspired you? There are so many ways that you can differentiate your offerings- from improved customer service, branding, pricing, and products offered to even extending your reach into different niches or markets. Putting your own unique stamp on a concept is a major key to having a successful endeavor.

While it’s important to think about your own strengths, talents and experiences to distinguish yourself from your competition, it’s also important to think about your customers. What customer needs are currently unfilled or underserved by your competitors?  How can you utilize your own skills to meet those needs more effectively than the competition? If you can fill those voids and resolve their issues, you will stand out even more and have a much more successful business.

Other individuals or companies may inspire you or be an influencing factor for your own offerings, but that should just be the starting off point. Focus on your own authentic voice and skill set to differentiate your business, soothe your customers’ pain points and ultimately, stand out from the competition.