I could have sworn I saw that site before…

Have you ever thought that to yourself as you visited a site for a potential product or service you were interested in?

That’s because in most cases, the sites are almost exact duplicates of one another. Sure, the names, logos and colors change. But for the most part, it’s a copy/paste business approach.

Go into any business category and Google “industry” plus the word web design (for example, real estate web design) and you’ll come up with a variety of marketing companies that provide a template approach to web design for that industry. You choose a template. Adjust the colors to your liking. Upload your logo and an image or two. Fill in a few pages of content, and voila, instant website.

Some even offer you a monthly option where they will automatically upload “relevant” content to your site that pertains directly to your industry.

The problem comes in how many they sell. If a marketing company exclusively sells websites and content to the real estate industry, for instance, they will have to sell hundreds of realtors on their services in order to become a profitable business.

And I know many of these companies are doing just that, not just in real estate, but in many industries out there. Photography, dentists, catering – you name it, you’ll find a marketing business offering a “template” process exclusively towards that industry.

It sounds good in theory, but what happens to the consumer when they try and find someone to do business with?

You visit the first website and spend five minutes looking through the content. You decide to look at a few more companies before making a decision, and do another search. The second, third and fourth look a lot like the first.

And the consumer gets confused. “Wait, what’s the difference between these businesses?”

This problem happens all too often in the small business world. And here’s how it begins.

Amanda decides to start up a therapy business. She’s recently completed school, has worked for another specialist for six months gaining experience, and is now ready to start out on her own.

She has a huge list of things to do. She signs a lease for a commercial unit, sets up her phone, her Internet service, buys office furniture. The list goes on and on. So of course she looks for short cuts when she can.

She needs a website and does a quick search. She finds a template system from someone in her industry and uses them to design her site. After all, they already have content written, she can just add her name and forget about the details.

Then she decides to design her marketing – her price list, her services, her brochures, etc. Again, she’s in overwhelm mode, so she copies the text right off her website, and off a few sites she Googles within her industry.

Sound familiar?

Yet there are two problems with this approach.

1. Did she copy content from someone who’s barely scraping by, or an expert in her industry? Is it the right approach to attracting clients that will build a profitable business?

2. Does she have a passion for what she copied from someone else? Has she truly defined what she wants to offer, or is she offering what everyone else does because she hasn’t considered how to offer something better?

When we have a Big Idea, the concept of bringing it to market is huge, overwhelming in most cases. Where do you start? What should you do first? How do you know the best way to do something?

Yes, you really do have a lot more questions then you’ll ever find the answers to. That’s a given with such a huge change in your life.

So in many cases, people do what comes natural, and they start to copy.

Copying is easy. It provides us with guidelines that already exist. They allow you to quickly see what someone else is doing, and put the same concept into your own business life.

But that’s where you lose your individuality. And that’s where your own Big Idea can quickly lose its shape. And lose its inspiration.

The Competition Trap

That’s where the competition trap comes into play.

In today’s world, we’ve made it super easy to see whom our competition is. We can follow them (stalk them) in everything they do.

Chances are your competition is ahead of you – they have more followers, more clients, more products, more years of service, so they will naturally have more systems in place.

So it’s easy to pick up ideas from them, and morph them into our own ideas.

It can work on some level, as long as it doesn’t impact your vision – your reality for what your business will look like five years from today. The services you offer. The products you sell. The way you communicate. The customer service you develop.

If you have a Big Idea, define it in as much detail as possible. Look at the big picture, the small details, and everything in between. Look for mentors that can help you further define your own ideas, rather than looking for inspiration in what already exists.

You’re unique. You have great idea. You have a special way at presenting what you do to the world. Don’t copy; inspire instead. Your business, and your customers, will thank you along the way.