The copycat culture in education business is a very real thing and, when you’re a small company who is just starting out, that can be quite a scary prospect. The last thing anyone wants is someone poaching their ideas before they have had time to get them off the ground!
One thing to remember is that in education businesses, we are all sort of improving the wheel in one way or another. Your product or service may well be 80% – 90% the same as another – accepting this is key. I’ve spoken to a number of fellow educational entrepreneurs and the stories they’ve told me range from unintentional copying, software or website copying, and even blatant design and word for word copying! There’s loads of ways it has been done and it happens all the time. It’s a part of the education business world. So how do we deal with it? How can we navigate our way through the waters of the education sector? I’ve got some ideas…
Don’t freeze when it comes to creating content for your education business!
I’ve mentioned others copying your product or service, but what about the opposite? Where do you start if you’re worrying your idea might be copying another company’s? Some entrepreneurs can be afraid to move forward because they’re scared to accidentally copy. Ask yourself this – does this make business sense? Reframe your thoughts, instead of seeing yourself as copying, are you responding to the current needs of teachers? There is so much out there that it is hard to know whether you are copying, so make the content.
Take it as a compliment when someone copies you in the education sector!
Back before differentiation was something of a dirty word, I started differentiating everything for Classroom Secrets. It’s what teachers needed at the time and no one else was doing it – so I did. This led to the creation of our reading resources and then our differentiated comprehensions. We became known for these and I received huge praise for them! Then, 9 months later, I saw differentiated comprehensions on a big competitor’s website and it wasn’t long before another website was offering their version of differentiated comprehensions too! But I took it as a compliment. Compared to them, my business was small – just me on my own – but they saw my product as worth copying and they saw me as someone worth watching. Most resource companies differentiate now and I am really proud that I brought this to the market.
Don’t look for people copying your education business and (if you do find it) don’t react to it.
Searching for examples of copying is wasted time. Same as being afraid it’s going to happen and taking it personally. You have bigger and better things to do. Your fans have your back and if they see something out there, they will bring it to your attention. If that happens don’t react to it and certainly don’t react badly. Think carefully. How much would a big public reaction damage your reputation? Is reacting publicly worth taking damage to your reputation? Obviously, in the case of a blatant copy or if copyright has been infringed, then do what you need to do – but keep it private.
Keep things friendly within education business.
There is room for everyone in the market, so there’s no need to go around making enemies. Instead, see yourself as a collaborator! Keep relationships friendly, offer guidance, let competitors know if their product is being shared for free on social media, be supportive when competitors launch something new. Building relationships will be useful going forward – you don’t have to become everyone’s best friend but making enemies will not serve you at all; you don’t know the network other edupreneurs have created for themselves.
In summary, copycat culture is a thing we all have to deal with in the education space but that’s okay! How you deal with it is what is important. If you want more information on this, check out episode 09 of my podcast.