We all know successful, inspiring people we look up to. And sometimes, we want to be just like them.
What's their secret? Can we be just as successful as they are if we copy what they do?
Yes and no.
While following someone's example and getting inspired by their actions may be a good thing, copying them without filtering can hurt your business. Take it too far and your customers will lose trust and find you unethical.
How to follow someone else's example without crossing the line and still remaining ethical, original and authentic? And how to know what ideas are worth stealing - and what's just a waste of time?
In the newest episode of the ActiveGrowth podcast, we're answering these questions. Listen in!
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Shane Melaugh: Hello and welcome to Episode 12 of the ActiveGrowth Podcast. In today's episode we're taking on the copycat business problem. This is a problem that we see or a trap that we see many entrepreneurs fall into. It can take several forms. The first is that we often see that new entrepreneurs basically just try to copy an entire business that they see and that usually doesn't work. Another more common issue is that you copy things from businesses that you admire. You copy things from your role models but if you copy the wrong things if you focus on the wrong things then that's not going to help you succeed at all.
On the other hand, there's nothing new under the sun and you should indeed copy and steal like an artist but it's about what you do, it's about what you do with your role models with websites that you think are really cool that you want to emulate. What do you pay attention to? What do you copy? How do you copy things or how do you follow inspiring examples in such a way that it helps you build a strong and unique business. That's what we're talking about in today's episode.
You can get all the show notes for this episode including a download link for this episode and all the references books we mention and so on by going to activegrowth.com/12.
Hanne Vervaeck: Now, many entrepreneurs when they start out, they start by copying people they admire. There are a lot of problems with this technique or strategy, if you can call it that way. Not only it's not very ethical but it's also one of the best ways to actually keep your business small and don't allow it to grow.
In this mix of episodes, we'll take a look at why this happens, why it's a bad thing, and how we can avoid falling into the same copy trap.
Now, I'm sure that everybody has encountered this before on the web. Now, I have seen this many, many times. For example, I follow Marie Forleo and she has something that's called Marie TV. When she started out she was doing these videos with like a weekly blog type of thing or weekly videos rather. She did this in front of a brick wall and she was sitting on the chair with her legs crossed and he had little table with flowers next to her. Then all of a sudden you see all these women coaches trying to copy being in front of a brick wall or at least having a table with flowers next to them.
Shane Melaugh: That's pretty funny, right? It's like somehow the copying isn't just to the degree of oh someone is doing weekly vlogs about marketing, I'm going to do the same for women entrepreneurs or whatever. It's like copying even these details. It seems a bit odd when you look at it. It's like why would you also want to do it in front of a brick wall with flowers next to you.
Hanne Vervaeck: Well, I think one of the reasons why we started this podcast was because we were tired of seeing this happening in podcasts.
Shane Melaugh: Exactly.
Hanne Vervaeck: One of the best examples is EO Fire. The Entrepreneur on Fire podcast got really, really big and it has these very strict formats where John Lee Dumas is always asking the same questions and all of a sudden you see all these marketing podcasts pop up that ask exactly the same questions.
Shane Melaugh: Yeah. One of the things I also notice is not only is it like the same format. It's like we talked about, the same guests, the same questions and so on. Also, it really seems that … I've been interviewed on many podcasts including Entrepreneur on Fire but also many others. It's even like down to mannerisms of the hosts are the same. Everybody does some kind of a lightning round type of thing and even the emails you get as a guest when you agreed to schedule an interview then you get the same email with the same instructions that list the same landing pages. It's amazing how much of a copycat approach this is. You can really almost not tell which podcast you're about to go on and it also, as a guest, it doesn't really matter because they all ask the same questions in the same order and do the same thing.
Hanne Vervaeck: You mean that we forgot to say, "Hello, ActiveGrowth nation."
Shane Melaugh: Exactly, that is the reason why we have not gotten great success and sponsorship by some mattress vendor yet.
Hanne Vervaeck: We're doing it all wrong. Now, I know that you had the same problem with IM Impact, right?
Shane Melaugh: Yes. IM Impact was what the website was called before we changed it to ActiveGrowth. At the time, so obviously, we were the first to use the first Thrive Themes which was FocusBlog. We tested it out even before it was available on our site. Then once we launched Thrive Themes, the FocusBlog theme became the most popular team right away and it was mostly because I was using it. I had been using it until and so a lot of people in our audience wanted to use the same theme and then from there, it spread further.
Another funny thing that happened was Authority Hacker, they also started using it and they have, I would say, probably a larger audience than us, especially at the time I wasn't really doing much in IM Impact anymore, but Authority Hacker was really taking off at the time. They had like a large growing audience and they also were on FocusBlog.
Their audience, I think they actually contributed to the spread of FocusBlog, much more than I did with my own website. You see all these new sites that are running on FocusBlog and it's really, the only reason for that it's not that FocusBlog is like the best theme for a new site or whatever. I mean it's decent theme but it's not better or worse than other themes that we offer. You would think that people basically look our themes and pick the one that they like the most but what they end up doing is they see Authority Hacker. They're like I want to be like this and then they use the same theme.
Another thing that I think I can take a bit of credit for so like I said that the spread of FocusBlog I think is mostly down to Authority Hacker and their audience. I think what I can take a bit credit for is I created a type of homepage on IM Impact that I then started seeing everywhere. Where it's basically I have a top section with a background image or a color and a title and stuff and then followed by an opt-in form, followed by some blog post, followed by an about the author and another opt-in form. That really simple homepage layout again was like one to one copied all over the place. I've seen it in so many places now.
Again, the funny thing about that for me is that this wasn't like a brilliantly designed strategically created homepage. This was me going, "Oh crap, I have to do a homepage," and I threw something together in half an hour. It's basically just the first thing that came to mind. I was too busy to really invest in that but somehow this took off as a style of homepage. I think that's actually one of the dangers of this copycat thing. You don't actually know if you're copying something that someone has put a lot of thought into and that has good reason to do or if it's just randomly someone did something and it may or may not be good.
Hanne Vervaeck: Yeah, exactly. We have a few more examples because, for example, on the Thrive Themes videos we started using what we call the bubble effect. It's basically, when we're having a screen cast you can still see the person who's doing the screen cast in around that bubble in the corner of the video. I don't know, wait. We have hundreds of people asking us how we did that.
Shane Melaugh: It's also funny when you do a video or you do a tutorial and you put in all this work because for of all, I mean, we have this to begin with because we combined live video and screen cast video, which most people don't do. They just show the screen.
We started doing this where we record the live video and the screen cast and we edit it together. You put all this work into creating a tutorial or something. We're creating this piece of video content. In the comment everyone's just like oh, how do you that bubble effect, I want to do that. It's like, "Dude, I put so much work into the content and all you care about is this little circle effect."
Hanne Vervaeck: Which honestly, it would have been a star. The tutorials would have been as good but yet the bubble effect is very popular.
Now, I have another story where it was actually for me a really big problem. I followed this online course in France, in French. I knew that it would be similar to B schools. I know that here I'm using quite a lot of examples from Marie Forleo but well, I follow their program so I know what I'm talking about here.
I thought like okay, this is going to be interesting because this is going to be B school but adapted to the French market. I follow the program and I was just shocked because everything, like the structure was the same but even the examples used in the videos were the same. I thought that was so lazy because at least, the person making this course could have thought about French examples rather than just copying the American examples.
Shane Melaugh: Yeah, which would have actually been an opportunity, right? That would have actually been an opportunity to differentiate yourself but then being so lazy and copying it, not only unethical. It's just also really lazy.
Hanne Vervaeck: Exactly. Now, why does this happen? Because when you hear this, when you can hear us talking about this it is pretty cringe-worthy. When you see it, it feels icky. When it happens to you, it's like, "Really? That's what you're copying or what you're taking away from my stuff. The reason that this happens is actually, it's pretty logical because human beings are programmed to copy.
We learned from a very young age that we should fit in, that we shouldn't stand out. We wear the same clothes as our friends or from very young age, you copy your older brother or sister. Then at school you wear the same clothes as your friends and you use the same language as the group you want to belong to or you start imitating idols, for example. It's something that we are very used to doing. It's not just that. It's also that it's one of the most efficient ways to learn because we learn by copying other people or by copying what's happening.
For example, when you learn how to write, you will just copy the word over and over and over again or when you learn how to just learn a language, somebody will talk to you and you will repeat what they are saying. That's how you teach children to learn a language. You show them a picture of a cat, you say cat and they repeat cat. That's exactly how we are taught to learn and how our brain works to learn.
Shane Melaugh: Yeah. I think it's also one of the things, we've touched on this before, where being an entrepreneur, in some ways you have to go against your nature. We talked about this on the procrastination episodes where it's like you're not really made to do entrepreneurial work. Your brain hasn't evolved for this kind of thing. I think the point where you have to create a new thing and you can't just copy something that already exist, one to one is also something where you have to go against your nature because like you said, this is what humans do, we copy.
Hanne Vervaeck: You'll also hear the expressions like wow, don't we invent the wheel, for example. I don't know is that an expression in English? Don't try to reinvent hot water?
Shane Melaugh: No. Don't try to reinvent hot water. Is that what? Dutch or French?
Hanne Vervaeck: Okay. That was Dutch expression.
Shane Melaugh: Right.
Hanne Vervaeck: Basically, we are also taught that you don't have to try to reinvent everything and that's also true. I think it's rare to actually do something that has never done before and copying can be a very good way to acquire new skill. For example, if you learn copywriting or just simple writing, if you copy a sales page then that is often one of the first exercises that they will give you when you learn copywriting.
Shane Melaugh: Yeah. Just copying like the text that someone who's really good at it has written can help you start forming these connections in your mind, start seeing how this is put into practice. Like we said, there's many examples of this. I mean, obviously, that's how they use to teach painting and the other arts. You could copy the paintings that your old masters did. Certainly, any kind of movement skill is also learned by that. You just copy the motion. I've experienced this a lot in learning things like dancing and martial arts where often you have to just start one-on-one copying something and you don't even have to understand the motion, you do. You don't even have to understand the purpose of it or anything. You just copy it and after a while if you get good enough at it, you start to get it and then you can start improvising on your own but it has to be built on this basis of copying.
Also, we're not trying to say that copying is always bad because like Hanne just said. Basically, there's nothing new under the sun. It's not like you have to be like the 100% inventor in everything you do. That's never going to happen.
I like the flower pot in brick wall example for this because we often … It depends on where your priorities lie and what you end up copying. There's also nothing wrong with seeing Marie Forleo doing a weekly entrepreneurial marketing video and thinking I'm going to do that too. There's nothing wrong with seeing us do a bubble effect in our videos and wanting to do that too. The question is like where are your priorities and what are you focusing on because if the thing that you spend most of your time copying is getting the flower pot in the right position or having the bubble effect in your video then that's probably not going to help with whatever your business project is.
What we're trying to do in this episode is trying to uncover what to copy, how to copy, and what to ignore to really give yourself an advantage when you're building your own business.
Hanne Vervaeck: Exactly. It can be pretty hard because one of the problems is that, especially when you just start out and you're following someone online and you see what they are doing and you admire what they are doing. Then it's really hard to find a way to do it better because it already seems perfect. You're just like, "Wow, I might as well do the same because I can't see how me as a beginner could improve on what they are already doing." It feels pretty safe to do that because they are successful with the strategy and so well, if you copy then you should be successful too. That's how it should work.
Shane Melaugh: I think that the problem is if as a beginner, especially if you just have one person like one example, one idol and you just can't see yourself, you can't see any way in which you could possibly do better than that. The best you can hope for is that you can just do the exact same.
Hanne Vervaeck: The thing is like I'm not at all blaming anyone here because I know that I fell into that trap, because exactly when you are too focused on the wrong thing and then … I mean, I spent I don't know how long to have a horizontal opt-in forum on my homepage because that was what the people that I admired were doing on their homepage. Now, I'm like honestly. I spend so long just having that because I still had to code it in CSS and I'm not very good at coding CSS. I mean that was before Thrive Leads.
The thing is, in hindsight, I'm pretty sure that's not what brings in more leads. I just felt as if I needed a very similar website to the people I admired.
Shane Melaugh: Yeah. I did that too. The stuff that we talk about also, this goes into rapid implementation. We say look, this is whether you're in opt-in forum is horizontal or vertical, it doesn't matter. Don't focus on these kinds of details. Just ship something and get something going.
We talk about this but of course, this comes from our own experience. I did this too. I had stories of this where I tried to customize my website to make it look like some other website or to make it look like some image I had in my head which basically came from other websites I'd seen. They spent way too much time on these details that don't really matter.
When we talk about ignoring these things and getting your priorities written and so on, we are definitely speaking from experience so that we made these mistakes.
Hanne Vervaeck: Back to the real copycat, the biggest problem with copying a website or a podcast or an online course or whatever, it will always hold you back because you will never be authentic. It will never feel authentic and especially if people know the original.
There's this quote from Kipling that I really like. It says, "They copied all they could follow but they couldn't copy my mind. I left them sweating and stealing a year and a half behind." This is so true because if your business model is just to copy someone else then you will always be one step behind because you can only see what happens on the surface and you will never be able to take a leader position.
We already hinted at this before because you will probably copy the wrong stuff because it's the easy stuff to copy, like it's what happens on the surface. For example, you will copy the design of a website or the colors but not the structure or the layout in the video like the flower and the brick wall. Again, not how the video is actually made.
Shane Melaugh: It's like we look at the stuff that is most obvious and most gets our attention and we tend to copy that. Something in web design is also that we tend to latch on to attention-grabbing features. An example of this would be, let's say, you see a website and it's maybe of a business you admire and you see that they have a really cool like smoothly animated drop down menu effect. Your mind latches onto that. You're like, "Oh, this is so cool, I want this." Then probably if you're building your own website you can fall down the rabbit hole of trying to make this happen.
You look at different themes. None of them have quite the right drop down menu effect. You get a theme and then you get a different plugin that overrides the theme's menu things so you have a different menu there from a plugin but then it still doesn't have the right animation so you get a third plugin which then overrides the CSS and lets you add custom animations to stuff.
Now, your page takes five seconds longer to load. You're loading three plugins on top of each other to try and get an effect that still isn't going to be as cool as the one you saw, all right. Also, you spend like a week on this and what you don't see and that this is the problem because something like that, a cool animation on website, like that stands out to us. It's something we can easily grasp like, "This is cool, I want this," but the problem is it actually distracts from the most important stuff that happens on the website. If you think of a website as this whole structure that supports a business, the most important stuff is often stuff you can't see.
Most likely or what might be happening on this page where you saw this cool menu, what might be happening is that really, the page you're looking at is the result of maybe weeks and weeks of user testing to visitor recordings, user tests, interviews, and so on, to try and figure out how do people interact with this page. What makes sense to them? What do they click on? How far do they scroll? All this kind of stuff, then based on that, a team of people run dozens of AB tests, testing all kinds of details, testing different value propositions, testing different angles in how they present their offer in the copy and so on. They ended up with this page that you're looking at.
The menu animation is something like the CSS guy had an afternoon where he didn't have a lot of work so he quickly did that, it doesn't matter.
Hanne Vervaeck: Maybe if we're talking about the AB test, maybe they are currently running an AB test on their menu and you just spend one week trying to copy and they will figure out that it's actually hurting their conversions and so they leave it out in about two weeks.
Shane Melaugh: Exactly, that's it. This is the kind of stuff that you just don't see. You can't see all these stuff that happens in the background. Especially again, like we said, in a menu animation but even something like the colors used or the copy and the heading or whatever, these are things that we can easily see and then we want to copy them. Something like what value propositions did they test? What different value propositions did they test? What did they test in terms of which segment of their audience they're talking to, in what way, and how they structure their offer and their funnels and all this kind of stuff?
All this is hidden but these are all things that actually make a much bigger difference to the business performance of that website than anything that you can see on the surface. Again, it's human nature. Obviously, something that is attention grabbing, that is different, we latch on to that and that's what we are most likely to copy.
Another example of this for me is when you look at content marketing and stuff like that, social media marketing, there's all this talk about things like word count, right? How many words do the top-ranked blog posts have for various keywords? How does word count in a post correlate with the number of shares? Should you have your sidebar on the left or on the right or should you have no sidebar on your blog post? When should you publish your post? When should you publish your tweets right? What are the ideal times and so on? The thing is all this stuff is measurable, right? You can download the thing and it says the latest study or whatever and it says, "On average, the top-ranked post have one 1,857 words." You can look at your own blog post and go, "Well, I only have 500 words. I should write another 1,387 words." Right?
That's something that's easy to grasp like you can hire someone and say, "You have to write at least 2,000 words because that gets more shares and better SEO rankings but really, these are just the most easily measurable things. Obviously, if you actually think about it, hold on, what really matters? Obviously, it's like the substance, the content matters way more because you can publish 2,000 words of garbage nobody's ever going to share. There's no objective measure of whether the 2,000 words make any sense or not. There's no objective measure of whether this is really good content, whether it's relevant to maybe some current events. That's not measurable. You can't put that in a pie chart and so we latch on to this stuff that we can count and measure easily.
Hanne Vervaeck: Now we're not saying that copying is necessary a bad thing but we want to give you some ways in which you can actually go from being a copycat to becoming an innovator using smart ways of copying. As we already talked about before, one of the first things that you can do is start by understanding the underlying principles rather than the superficial details. The superficial details typically brand color, which WordPress team but actually ask yourself, what makes this website successful? What is it? Is it their content? Is it the type of content? Is it the quantity? Everything that's under hood rather than just on the surface.
Shane Melaugh: As an example, if we go back to Marie Forleo's weekly videos, one thing I would look at there is how does she structure her content? Does she make like series of content? Does she follow up on previous videos and the current videos? Does she answer questions that people sent in? How does she select the questions if that's what she does? How does she structure this whole thing and how does she do her intro? How does she get your attention in the intro? What does she do at the end of the video?
Are there any other ways? Does she build in open loops or hooks or anything like that during the video to keep your attention? How does she teach? How does she explain things? Maybe does she also do entertaining things? How does she keep people watching? What does she do in her content in individual videos but also over a series of, let's say, 10 videos that would turn someone into a Marie Forleo fan? This kind of stuff is of course more difficult to spot than the flower pot next to her but those are the things that probably actually make a difference.
Hanne Vervaeck: And it's one of the reasons why I actually like writing the articles, how Marie Forleo uses testimonials or how, we did another about Ramit Sethi, about how he does lead generation because it forces you to go deeper and to look at everything that they are doing around a very specific topic.
Shane Melaugh: It's a really thing to do. This is also something we had and when we did the marketing apprenticeships, we had our apprentices do this. We had them pick one business or one marketer and try to hunt all the way through their sales funnels and stuff. The idea would be you sign up to their mailing list. If they have multiple opt-in offers, you sign up to all of them and you pay attention to the emails that come in and to whatever content and offers and so on that they link to. You basically try and backwards engineer their funnel. It's like, "Okay, this is the opt-in offer, what comes next?" Okay, after two days, they send an email with a link to this content after one day. They send an email with a link to this special offer, the special offer expires after five days, what happens after that and so on. You try and you can actually map out or use Draw.io to map out funnels where you can literally try and backwards engineer what someone's funnel looks like? This is a lot more work.
Hanne Vervaeck: One of my favorite activities.
Shane Melaugh: Yes, Hanne is a huge fan of this. As you can see, if you check out those posts she mentioned. You can literally try and visually map out the business engine that someone uses and it's a really interesting thing to do and this is an exercise you can do to take below the surface, which by the way, don't do it on ActiveGrowth. We don't have any sophisticated funnels on ActiveGrowth right now so that will be a waste of time. You could try it out on Thrive Themes.
Hanne Vervaeck: You can sign up and get everything and we will not try to sell you anything because we're not selling anything.
Shane Melaugh: Yeah, no, ActiveGrowth of course is not a great example right now for sure but Thrive Themes is … Actually, you could try this on Thrive Themes, right? You could try and backwards engineer what we do on Thrive Themes and many other examples. Basically, I really recommend you do this. If you have an idol or just a role model business basically, where you're like, "This is really cool. I want to learn from them." Try doing this, try digging through their funnels.
Hanne Vervaeck: Now this goes into our next point where you can study somebody rather than copying them. In the book Steal Like an Artist, a book by Austin Kleon, he explains that you should start by picking a master that you admire and then study that master so really try to get to know everything that there is about that person and about what they are doing and how they get their inspiration because this is more of a creative, a book for creatives. Then he goes one step further and he says, "You have to create your family tree." He explains that you should look at the master that you admired because everybody looks up to somebody. You should start studying those people because that's where the person you admired got his inspiration from.
At that point, you can actually make like this family tree where you can see yourself more as the last in line so you can become more like the child or whatever from those masters rather than just having one person that you copy everything that they are doing.
Shane Melaugh: Which brings us to the next step right away, which is basically having more than one mentor or more than one role model. If you're only following like one person, one business, one marketer, one YouTube channel, then you're really missing out on variety. Creativity is often just like smashing other ideas together. The problem is if you have this single focus on one role model then your mind will more naturally gravitate towards just copying. As soon as you have multiple different sources, then your mind will start smashing those different ideas together and that's where creativity happens.
This is one of the reasons why competition research is a really important part in my process. That's actually still something that I spend quite a lot of time on for our product design, product development. I always try to find, first of all, closely related products so as an example for Thrive Architect which we're developing right now, obviously I spend a lot of time using other visual editors. Other visual editors for WordPress but also less related, other visual editors that aren't WordPress, and other editing tools such as image editing tools, video editing tools and so on, because I want to get like this wide view of how different people and how different companies have solved the problem of how do I edit something visually, how they have solved this, right? There are two super valuable things that happened from that.
First of all, you can see often from the less related stuff, you can see ideas that you can then transport into your area and you can see examples, you can see aspects that you admire. You can see aspects where it's like, "Oh, I like how this solution does this particular thing. I want to bring that in." But you can also see the stuff that you don't like and that you don't want to do. I think that's also really important and I think in other exercise, you could try and do is you could look at the businesses and marketers and so on that you admire. Also ask yourself what do you want to do differently? What do you not like about what they do? How would you do things differently? With these steps, if you simply have more variety, a greater variety of sources to pull ideas from, and an idea of what you don't want to do, that will automatically make you so much more creative.
Hanne Vervaeck: That's exactly what we suggest you should be doing. Not just look at your own market but also look at other markets because you can often learn a ton from what's happening in other markets. Then, it's your role to see how you could adopt this to your own audience and to your own little world right? Because then it will always be unique because you will be the first one who actually does it in your market.
Let's say that you follow online marketers but you are not teaching online marketing. You're in real estate, for example. You'll see that there's like this one online marketer is doing a 30-day list building challenge. You see this happening, you see a lot of people signing up for it and being excited about it so then, your idea would be something that relates to your market. Maybe, you could do as an opt-in offer, a challenge, a 30-day challenge to more saleable house, for example. This would be unique because you would be the first realtor doing that and then you will see that people will start copying you.
Shane Melaugh: It was a good sign, yeah. One thing that I have done very specifically, I think especially that really helped me when I was starting out, and I didn't have such strongly formed ideas of my own yet, is to have two focus points. One, what do I want to do the same and two, how do I differentiate myself? Because I think that number two is where like your unique selling proposition comes from and for me, that is extremely important. You have to know what you want to offer, who you want to offer it to, and how the thing you're doing is different from what other people are doing in your space.
For example, when I started building information product, I remember the time when I started analyzing other marketers and other businesses in more depth, and it started to dawn on me how they had these funnels set up, how they had multiple ways in which you could basically get on their mailing list, and then depending on how you got on their mailing list, you would get a different sequence of emails and they would have like special offers, they would have low-priced products once you bought those, they would pitch higher priced products. They would have live webinars and so on.
It starts to dawn on me what the system looked like. This is something I admired. There were several businesses and other marketers that I saw that were really good at the whole selling process. I was like, "This is something I want to do." The same people, often their actual content, the stuff they were actually selling, I found was quite lazy. Especially with information products, I think that's still true. Most information products I've ever bought were just lazy. It's basically someone on a screen cast. Most of the time, nothing's happening on the screen. They're just stream of consciousness talking about the topic. There's very little structure. Basically, bad teaching, they're not good teachers. They're great marketers, they're not good teachers.
For me, that was then the second focus point. I was like I want to have this strong marketing that they have but I want to differentiate myself by creating a much better customer experience once someone becomes a customer and by being a much better teacher, by really focusing on good teaching, good structure and my contents and so on. That helped me right away. That broke me out of this trap of just copying someone else and just doing what everyone else is already doing right away. This is something you can very practically do, right? You can make sure that you have essentially, a list of things where it's like, "This is what I want to do, this is what I want to copy." Then another list of things is, "This is how I'm going to be different," and I think just having these two focus points, that makes you unique. That makes your work unique.
Hanne Vervaeck: Of course, we're still talking about copying the underlying processes and not just copying design and layout, right?
Shane Melaugh: Exactly. I think with copying design and layouts, so first of all, like Hanne mentioned earlier, it's a problem as soon as someone knows the original. Because if someone comes to your site or sees your course or whatever it is, and you copied the design and layout, then all they can think of is, "This is copycat." That's not a good idea but I think also, it's something that should just be a low-priority because sure, if you really like that menu animation, then you can kind of put it on your to-do list. "At some point I want to have a cool menu animation like this," but it's not what you should be spending a lot of time or focus on, right?
In general, I think that the way copying works well is if you can make your own patchwork of inspiration from different sources plus some of your own ideas. The same is true for things like design and layout. If you just see a website and you're like, "This is cool, I want mine to look exactly like that," then, you're going to have the copycat problem and you're going to not be able to stand out. If you see certain elements, if you're like, "Oh, I really like," I don't know. For example, on ActiveGrowth, we started doing hand-drawn illustrations and we did that mostly because it's faster. We can make the graphics faster. I didn't invent that, right? I've seen other websites with hand-drawn illustrations and I was like and I picked that one aspect. I go, "I want hand-drawn illustrations like that." I don't copy anything else from that website. That's what makes it unique in the end.
Hanne Vervaeck: At that point, it's also not as if you gave one specific hand-drawn design to our designers and said like, "I want that."
Shane Melaugh: Yeah, exactly, yeah.
Hanne Vervaeck: It's more like the look and feel rather than the exact colors. I think that's a very important distinction where you can be like, "Oh, I really like this website. I like the look and feel of this website so I want to have something similar," rather than being like, "Yes, I like this exact text color of pink and I like this," because then it becomes complicated to not be a copycat.
Shane Melaugh: There you go. Those are the steps we recommend to help you steal like an artist and use inspiration to create something unique instead of being a copycat. You can go to activegrowth.com/12 to get links to everything we mentioned in this episode and links to, for example, the post that Hanne mentioned, which I highly recommend you read. Those are the posts where Hanne dug into some businesses that she admires and looked at how did they generate leads or how did they use testimonials. First of all, these are just really informative posts but also, if you look at the post in terms of how did she do this, how does she analyze someone else's business? I think this is a master class in how to use basically inspiration and learn from the masters instead of blindly copying the wrong stuff.
I really think that this is an incredibly valuable skill to have and those posts are great real-life examples of how it can be done. Links to those posts and much more at activegrowth.com/12 and like we mentioned in the beginning of the episode, none of this is a judgment of people who copy because, first of all, we've made the mistakes of copying the wrong stuff and the wrong way ourselves and also, for example, we mentioned the bubble effect thing. People always ask us about the bubble effect in the Thrive Themes tutorial videos, which is totally fine as long as you don't let that prevent you from making the videos because you don't know how to do the bubble effect yet.
On that note, we are actually going to release a tutorial on how to do the bubble effect pretty soon. If we've already released that, I don't know the exact timing of this but if we've already release that, we'll also put the link to that tutorial in the show notes of this post. You're absolutely welcome to copy that but also pay attention to how we do our tutorials because I think the bubble effect is the least important thing that we do to make our tutorials the way they are.
As always, we're also interested in your questions and your feedback and you can also go to activegrowth.com/12 to leave us either a voice message that you can record directly on your phone or directly on a computer or leave a written comment. I'd love to hear from you and if you're enjoying this podcast, if you're enjoying the way we do things differently, we'd love a review but also, we'd really love it if you shared this with someone you think could benefit from it. If you have a friend, if you have an acquaintance where you think this series or this episode could be really useful for them, send them a quick email, send them a message and share this podcast with them. That would really mean a lot to us. Thank you very much and I'll catch you in the next one.
In This Episode You'll Discover:
- When copying is 'okay' and when it isn't
- How blindlessly copying others can seriously hurt your business
- Some famous examples of pointless copying
- How to stay authentic
- How to copy businesses the right way
- What other aspects to focus on when analyzing another business.
- How to avoid copying unimportant things.
- Finding the fine line between collection inspiration and full blown copying.
- Read Hanne's post on how Ramit Sethi collects email leads.
- Read Hanne's post on how Marie Forleo uses testimonials in her business.
- Book: Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon
- Finally revealed! Watch our video tutorial on how to create the bubble effect for your screencast videos.
What Are Your Experiences?
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