Unfair Competitive Advantage Strategies and Examples

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Gaining an Unfair Advantage over your competitors might be a hard pill to swallow, but regardless of how you feel about it, there is no question that not only do you need to protect yourself from being vulnerable to your competitors eating your lunch, you also have to be prepared to take advantage of opportunities that fall in your lap.

One such example we discussed in an earlier post where a pizza shop ran a promotion that offered buy one get one free if you ripped out their competitors ad from the yellow pages, and brought it into their store.

Another great example I read about was a local business put up a Huge Blue balloon that could be seen from miles away to promote an event they were hosting and spent a hefty sum promoting with the message, ” Just look for the Big Blue Balloon.” This savvy competitor from a few blocks away put up a MUCH BIGGER blue balloon at his location. Guess who got tons of business piggybacking off their competitors marketing strategies? Personally, I would recommend before ever doing a strong marketing push or media buy to think about how it will affect competitors.

I know a company that used to buy lots of billboards and tracked each one individually… They noticed that their competitors were following them, and buying up the billboards they had once their billboards came down. Since this competitor was much larger and could afford to lose some money much more than their competitors could, they would keep paying for the billboards that didnt work for a few months so that the competitors would think they worked, and than watched their competitors put money down the drain they couldn’t afford. This created what we call Orphaned customers, which is a very important market segment that you should always pay attention to.

If you notice your competitor go out of business, you should explore buying their customer list, see if their old phone number is available from the phone company, or even approach them to buy their old phone number and route it to your office. If it was a physical location that is now vacant, you can strike a deal with the property owner to hang a big banner that says,” Bob’s Store is now closed, but Come to my store, and we will take care of all your needs.”

Another strategy for stealing customers from competitors is both phone number and domain name typos. You have to be careful because there are trademark laws around these things, but atleast protect yourself if you own a brandable or vanity phone number… Be careful to avoid a phone number with the letters O,I, and L, because the O can be mistaken for a zero, and the I and L can be mistaken for a 1. So, if a company owns 444-Roof, they should buy 444-r00f as well to make sure they dont miss calls that are directed at them.

For domain names, there are typo generators on Domaintools.com that can show you all the different types of mistakes someone can make mistyping your web address, so if you advertise that web address a lot, you might want to buy the typos as well. It would be a shame if your competitor bought them, and redirected your rightfully earned traffic to their website. (if you own a trademark, you can get the domain back from them, and maybe sue them, but without a trademark, I don’t know the laws…I just know to be wary and protect yourself.)

I know in the dating industry online, specifically in search engine advertising where websites pay per click to get visitors who search in google to thier website, and the clicks are sold in an auction setting, the big dating sites like match.com, eharmony.com, plentyoffish.com, etc… would drive up the cost to advertise in google to the point where it was too expensive to compete. This kept all the new sites from competing in google for the valuable dating traffic. (I m not sure which sites did this, I just listed the biggest sites above as examples of big sites that could afford such a tactic)

There are great tools to track and analyze and spy on your competitors with everything they do online, and if you catch them asleep at the wheel, you can certainly eat their lunch, and grow your business. One example is a company in the Car Donation industry where clicks were as expensive as $35, one company had their bids set at $20 but was only paying like $3 a click because their competitors were either outbidding them, and taking first position and the other competitors were bidding smaller amounts because couldn’t afford the $35, let alone the $20 click. One competitor discovered this by adjusting their bids in every price range, and watched how their competitors ad moved based around the $20 price range, so they set their bids to $19.95 and out of nowhere that competitor started paying full price, $20 a click, ran out of budget quickly and soon enough they were out of the market completely. They thought they could just set their bids and forget it.

One of the most expensive clicks in google at one point of time was Verizon Wireless, which could run you over $1000 a click. This is Verizon protecting its brand and making sure they are number ONE in google for their own brand name. Nowadays, google has rules about advertising on competitors brand names, especially if they are trademarked. I think they allow it as long as your ad doesn’t mention the trademarked term, but I am not sure what the current policy is…

The bottom line is that business is about feeding your family, and making money. You can be sure your competitors are coming for you and want to steal all of your customers, so take the cautionary tales and learn to protect yourself, your brand, your advertising, and if you so choose, go out there and grab that unfair competitive advantage of catching your competitors asleep at the wheel and exploiting their lack of foresight and action.

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About David Melamed

David Melamed is the Founder of Tenfold Traffic, a search and content marketing agency with over $50,000,000 of paid search experience and battle tested results in content development, premium content promotion and distribution, Link Profile Analysis, Multinational/Multilingual PPC and SEO, and Direct Response Copywriting.


  1. Marianna Elizabeth Beavis says

    If you’re not ‘unfair’ towards your competition, they’re sure as hell going to end up being ‘unfair’ to you in the end, at least in some industries anyway. And you’re very right about what the bottom line is in business and it’s the same thing that everyone is in for; money and livelihood. While some of those things you mentioned, while craft, are quite dirty, I feel like you can justify it in the sense that it’s every man, woman and company for themselves these days and if you don’t play the game, you can’t always guarantee that you’re going to succeed. I feel like I would personally be a little apprehensive though, for say the example you gave about the pizza store, and try to think about how what I was doing might negatively impact on my business rather than bring in more revenue. But still, you can always take a chance with these things and it might pay off.

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