Type in the words "entrepreneur" and "original" into Google and you get 48.2 million hits.
Type in "entrepreneur" and "copying" and the number is 1.72 million.
No one is going to be surprised by that 28:1 disparity. Entrepreneurs are supposed to be original, right?
Well, I am here to tell you that copying an existing product could be the way to go.
Now, let's be clear. I am NOT talking about violating patents, trade and service marks and the like. Not only is that legally dumb, it isn't going to gain you anything in the marketplace. If you come out with an exact copy of an existing product or service at exactly the same price, there is no reason for anyone to buy yours, as opposed to the original.
But if you put a slight twist on something that already exists, you could be far ahead of the game.
Consider these six benefits:
1. You can move faster. You don't have to find a market niche. Someone has done the work for you. Not only have they have identified a need in the marketplace, they have confirmed it exists by the fact that they have been able to garner customers.
2, It is less costly. You don't have to educate the market about what you have. The first mover has gone to the expense of doing that. They had to spend money to explain to people what they had and why it is a good thing. You get to piggyback on all that costly work.
3. Less risky. Related to the second point, copying something requires less capital, fewer people and involves less wasted effort. Right from the beginning you know what you are setting out to do--creating a better version of something that already exists. You ignore everything that will not get you closer to that goal.
4. You can offer the product for less...since as the last two points proved, your costs are less. No, you never want to be in a position to be competing solely on price. The only people who win in that scenario are the end users. But offering an improved version of the product at less cost will get people's attention.
5. You provide a second source. No matter how good a product a supplier offers, companies hate to be dependent on a single source. They are concerned that their sole supplier could go out of business, or raise prices to some extremely high level. Your product serves as a second source--and a way for customers to hedge their bets.
6. You can supply that missing "it" factor. Odds are the idea you are copying is pretty good (otherwise you would not be copying it.) But no matter how good it is, chances are it is missing something. (Something the original producer is bound to include in the second iteration.) You can offer it first, putting a twist on whatever exists and satisfying the market's need immediately. There is no reason for customers to wait for the original's "new and improved version."
There is an art to being "a fast second." You have to be fast and you have to offer a better version. But if you can, you can be extremely successful.
And that can be even better than being original.