You're dealing with the "fast follower" concept, here. To me the biggest issue is planning ahead since you know this is going to happen. If you are entering the market without a defensible position then it's going to be easier for someone to clone you and try to hack their way to faster growth. I think the real question is how do you build some competitive advantage into your business model that cannot be cloned. In essence that's the "secret sauce" that most pitches say they have, although many of them don't turn out to be actually a defensible position.
Perhaps there's some value in being "the original" or positioning yourself as the high quality solution. The question becomes is the competition as good or better? There are a lot of great businesses that entered markets because they could make iterative improvements by learning from the mistakes of the first mover.
There's a saying in Silicon Valley that for every good idea out there there are ten other people out there with the same idea. Five of them will give up but the other four may just as well come out at the same time you do.
At Farallon Computing, a pioneer in Macintosh networking, we faced exactly this problem from day one with our tiny PhoneNet connector. It was like a classic widget in that it did its job well, better than the product from Apple it replaced, and had a patent to differentiate it. Then along came the clones. Soon they had blinking lights that customers liked even though they actually affected performance. Go figure. I used to fall asleep at night to nightmares of competitors giving their product away in front of us at our MacWorld booth. Ah, the old days.
The first lesson is not to assume that someone else who releases a product a week after you do is a "rip-off." When you see it that way, you've already applied a attitude of moral superiority that assumes you deserve to win because you are first. That's actually really dangerous because it leads you to be blind to what the customer sees.
You're better off assuming they're out there and jump on anything that even smacks of competition to prepare your internal team for the differentiation. As soon as you spot them, dig in and figure out how you're different and better. What can you learn from the ways they're different and (ya gotta admit) better. Never, ever, lie to yourself.
Andy Grove was right... only the paranoid survive.
The real challenge is how respond to your competition without letting it drag you off your charted strategic course. The best way to do that is to really understand how the feature differences affect your target customers -- and your future target customers. Sometimes you can do a magic positioning dance that makes the competitor unimportant. Could be it's a parallel market that may as well be a parallel universe.
I hope that's helpful. Feel free to reach out if I can help further.
If the mere mention of your idea/product is all it takes to rip you off, you're already screwed.
There has to be something else that differentiates your company other than simply the service/product you are offering. This can be a whole laundry list of items but ultimately, there has to be something other than simply the idea to sustain your business, otherwise you're going to lose.
In my mind, entrepreneurs are too paranoid w/ other business stealing their ideas. Don't worry about them stealing it, worry about when they stop.
No one launches with a perfect product. If it's novel and popular then you have to expect others will attempt to piggyback your success, at which point the quality of your team and the deep knowledge of your customers will be vital.
You will have the best usage data and the best access to what is good/bad about your existing proposition via existing users. This will allow you to make smart decisions about the cuts/additions to make to your product, enabling you to stay ahead of the game by delighting existing users and keeping your position as the leading experience in the space.
That's a very good question, and is something I had to deal with on a monthly basis when I created Rent a Coder/vWorker.
There's two ways to deal with it. The first is that if your product involves some sort of unique and patentable intellectual property, then you simply pay the money and patent it. This protects you from someone doing the exact same thing, and can also be a key asset if a company is considering purchasing yours.
Unfortunately, most of the time the above is not the case (and it wasn't the case for me either). It's extremely difficult these days to run across a business idea that can be patented. If your product is not patentable, then you have only one other choice. You are in industry where there will be a lot of copying between competitors. The only way to stay ahead is to continue to create new features that your competitors have not thought of yet, and always stay one or two steps out of them.
But it's not enough just to be better, you have to make sure everyone understands why you're better.Make sure you educate your audience on the differences between you and your competitors with a chart of features that shows why your product is far superior to the others. If you notice the chart is looking less compelling over time, that means you need to work more on your product. It is a lot of hard work, but it's the type of work that will make your product better and better, and more and more useful for your customers.
I don't know what your particular product is, but if you'd like some specific advice on how to do this for your product, then just give me a Clarity call.
First of all.. Why don't you think of a patent ? If you really have the great innovative idea, then File a patent before launch.
Now you 've launched. But let's think one step earlier. What was your market ? Do you have connections with the suppliers ? Users ?
Retaining your customer base is one of the pillars for your success, no matter who is competing with you. To keep and expand your customers, make sure you are excellent on customer serivce to retain the current , and also the business development to expand to new ones.
You started a porduct.. Brand It ! Be the market leader. It will be very evident that the next one is just a copy. It is still in your favour , even , if they just thrive to be like you. But in the same time, you need to keep the brand by continuous improvement. Analyse your competitors and include new features on your products at a competitive price.
Make sure you are always one step ahead with innovation.. This will always keep you a head. Operational large scale production is not always the ideal way to keep you in the market, unless you are really delivering a Low Cost product with a stable good reliability and acceptable quality at that price. Always look to be differentiated.
Some , non appealing to lots of entrepreneurs , ideas are thinking of merges with the clones, or acquiring one if you have the fund, or even be acquired by one. It is not to kill the clone. It is to have their market share too..i.e. to expand yours, and instead of killing your operation expenses just for the sake of competition, you will have a stable relaxed market that you can focus on dominating with more efficiency and quality and new features before a new clone starts so you make it harder for the next new comer to compete with you .
If you want a deep analysis and strategy planning for your situation gimme a call. I can help.
Good Luck !
Plot twist: you get better marketing than they have. That's literally the only way.
It doesn't matter if your product or service is "better" or whatever.
You know who has better hamburgers than McDonald's? Pretty much every place. You know who has the better marketing? McDonald's.