Coping With Copycats

Increasingly in these days of social media and constant communication, you’ve probably come across people ‘copying’ your work.

You may have seen replicas of your costumes or choreography pop up onstage at local competitions or online. You have probably read ‘About Us’ pages on another studio’s website that are word for word the same as yours, or perhaps your highest-performing Facebook ads are now being ‘adapted’ by every studio you come across.

Of course, It’s super frustrating when you’ve taken the time and energy to create something unique only to discover that someone else – your competitors, no less – have taken your ideas and called them their own.

So is copying really a form of flattery?

And how can you protect yourself from people copying you?

Prevention Is Better Than The Cure

As a business owner in 2018, one of the most crucial things you can do is to protect your Intellectual Property (IP). There are a number of ways to do this as a studio owner, and all of them range in how protected you really are. You can check out this podcast I recently recorded with Lisa Fraley, which is all about the IP rights of the dance studio owner.

As laws and trade secrets do vary regionally, always consult your lawyer with regards to IP protection, and consider the following:

  • Conducting an audit to identify all your registered and unregistered trademarks and copyrights.
  • Investing in well-written non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). Make sure your teacher / staff agreements, licenses, contracts and technology transfer agreements all protect your intellectual property too.
  • Think hard about the future.  From your vantage point, what does the future look like? What may not feel like an ‘asset’ right now (for example, your original preschool program) may be worth protecting as you grow.

Get Clear On What’s Actually Being ‘Copied’

In this close-knit and often competitive industry, it can be very easy to become swept up and over-protective of your dance studio and what you have poured your hours, blood, sweat, and tears into.

But don’t forget that your personal and emotional investment in your business can often cloud your judgement around the bigger picture.

Let’s say for example, you’ve choreographed a gorgeous ‘Frozen-themed’ preschool ballet dance that is a total hit with your class and you know it will attract some attention (and hopefully new students) at the local festival.

You show up, and on stage is not only your competitors performing before you, but they are ALSO doing a Frozen-themed preschool ballet! Plus they are wearing almost identical Elsa dresses . . . and they are also handing out balloons and ‘Free Trial Class’ flyers just like you were planning to.

I’m sure you see where I’m going here.

This isn’t a studio copying another studio – this is just one of hundreds of examples where dance studios are following trends. These trends happen in choreography, music choice, uniform style/color, marketing strategy, and the list goes on.

Before you get too hot under the collar about these types of copycats, take a step back and assess whether or not there really is something there.

Yes, That’s A Copycat Alright.

Once you’ve run the issue through your ‘Is this really a copycat’ filter and you’re still sure that your work has been copied, there are a few productive things you can do.

One quote I always love to remember and am constantly reminding dance studio owners is this:

“When the copycats come out, you know you are doing something right”

When I think about this, it makes it so much easier to accept the compliment and move on so I can get back to working on what matters.

It’s important to pick your battles when it comes to the emotional side of this, and I can promise that if you get too caught up in it, the only damage you are going to do is to yourself and your business. Your time is far too valuable to waste brewing over things that are out of your control, so re-channel that energy to do what you do best: create.

Don’t Let Copycats Kill Your Magic

Nothing will fuel your brand, your reputation, your creativity and your fulfilment more that raising the bar for yourself and setting new challenges.

Of course it is frustrating to invest so much into an aspect of your business to then turn around and find other studios reaping the benefits of those foundations, but your studio won’t thrive if you are slowed down by others. You must keep hustling.

“Whoever makes the first version of something is less important than the person who makes the best version”, so stay focused on creating amazing dance programs and providing an amazing customer experience because ultimately that’s what will keep you on top.

Onwards And Upwards

Ultimately, the most productive way to deal with copycats is to ignore them. Like anyone else – If they don’t add value to your life, it’s not worth your time to be worrying about them.

And while anyone can try to replicate your ideas, they can never make a copy of you.

If you aren’t ready to ignore, then of course speak up and talk to people, and learn about why they are copying you. Get their thoughts on it and have a conversation about it, rather than an accusation.

You may even discover that it’s been a misunderstanding, or of course they may deny it all.

Either way, they will know they it’s on your radar and will be harder for them defend again, and you’ll have the closure to move on and continue to do amazing things in your own lane.

For more training on growing your dance studio into the business of your dreams while getting your life back outside the studio walls, make sure to join us inside the Dance Studio Owners Association and gain immediate access to hundreds of training videos, templates and resources specifically designed for studio owners just like you.




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