We will start today’s post with an old phrase that has been attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, 19th century essayist, lecturer and poet. It says that if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door. This is taken to mean that if we do something better than all our competitors, then we can’t help but be successful. But, doing things better than everyone else is a tall task. Can we really expect to be the best (insert your profession here) ever born? Especially if we’re relatively new to the game?
There certainly have been more books written on how to succeed in business than almost any other subject. While there are many different methods touted to ensure our success, today’s discussion will be about one of the simplest methods out there: seeing what everyone else is doing and copying them.
Let’s face it, unless we are successful in creating a whole new industry, which the vast majority of us will never be able to achieve, there are already many other companies out there (our competition) that have achieved some level of success. One of the first things that we should do when starting or attempting to revamp our business is to observe what other successful people in our industry are doing. How are they getting customers? What is their marketing strategy? How are they utilizing their web presence?
That’s not to say that we need to copy everything that our competitors are doing, but there has to be a reason that they’re profitable. It simply makes smart business sense to follow the example of the successful people who have gone before us. If they’ve already figured out how the mousetrap works, why not start out by copying their design?
Now, once we’ve figured out how things work, we need to decide whether we’re going to be satisfied with being part of the status quo, or if we want to try and rise to the top of our field. If we do aspire to be the best, then we’ve got to take another look at that mousetrap, clean it up, and make it shine.
It’s simply not enough to do exactly what our competitors are doing. There would be little reason for customers to use our services if we’re providing the same product as an already established business. We must take the knowledge that we’ve gained about our industry, and figure out how to add to it, increasing value for our potential clients. There needs to be a compelling reason (other than undercutting someone’s price) why a client should choose us over our competition.
We need to be proactive, adding our ideas and individual touches to our offerings. Maybe it’s our personal service, maybe we offer an easier checkout process, maybe we offer a higher quality product at a similar price point, or maybe it’s a bonus services that only we’re able to provide. The alternatives are endless, but they all lead potential clients to choose our superior product over the competition.
Following the road map laid out by those who have gone before us makes good business sense. While the blatant theft of ideas from other businesses is never a good idea, if someone has already provided us with a blueprint, we’d be foolish not to follow it!
No matter which path we follow to get there, we have to work at our business, modifying our products to stand out from a crowded field. But when we’re starting out, there really is no reason to build a better mousetrap.
Unless, of course, we have a really bad mouse problem…
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