Why It’s Okay to Steal (Marketing Ideas)

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There are so many clichéd quasi-inspirational quotes you've likely heard on the topic we're about to delve into for a few hundred words: "Good artists borrow, great artists steal;" "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," and "just do it." Who knows if anyone even actually said that and if it was just their guilty conscious speaking?

It doesn't really matter who said it or if they said it because these phrases, and many more, have been accepted as sage wisdom. Whether you think it is or not, it doesn't really matter, because whether you copy or not, you should still be aware of what your competition is up to. I've done countless interviews for this blog to that effect.

But the Small Business Administration has a new blog post that might make your eyebrows arch: "When it comes to business marketing, there’s nothing wrong with being a copycat—in fact, it’s downright good business."

What your competition does is a good barometer for helping you envision what tweaks you would make on whatever they do. It stands as a figure in your mind to pose questions to: What would I do differently? What can I learn from this? What do I like or dislike about this approach? What weaknesses could doing this create for my business?

That sort of stuff. It applies to marketing and also for customer service, the way a store is laid out, and just about anything else that the public is also exposed to. One of the worst things you could possibly do is act like your business exists in a vacuum and bury your head in the sand. That's for the birds. You're a human. And as a human, maybe you should read this SBA blog post.

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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