Spying And Buying From Your Competition

Natalie MacNeil talks about spying on competitors

Today I want to talk to you about something that I’ve been seeing more and more, especially online:

People buying products, services, and programs from their competition so they can see what’s under the hood.

Big companies do this all the time — car companies buy competitors’ cars and take them apart to see what’s awesome, and what could be better for their own designs. Some companies have even admitted they have engaged corporate spies.

When I was studying business at university, a widely accepted method of pricing was to get quotes from competitors to see the range of price points, and what would be included in the quote that may be a value-add.

So all this is okay, right?

Well… it depends who you are and what you stand for.

In today’s episode of She Takes on the World TV, I’m going to delve into this topic of “buying and spying” and share my own experience of having competitors spy on my programs and how I handled it. We’ll also talk about:

  • What to do when a competitor signs up for YOUR program.
  • How I think the competition deserves to be treated (this one might surprise you).
  • The problem with focusing too much on the competition.
  • Why I’ll read George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones author) over any business book or website when I’m in a major creative mode.


My best advice here is to stop giving your attention (and precious energy) to the competition — instead, focus on being the best YOU there is. (Click to tweet)

If you have a different perspective, I’m open to hearing it in a comment below. And if you’ve experienced a competitor buying your stuff, I’d love to hear about that too.

Let’s start a discussion about how we treat our competitors. I want to treat mine with love and respect, and I want to command that same respect.

Thank you so much for watching this episode, and I hope you’ll share it with another entrepreneur you know.

Cosmic hugs,

Natalie MacNeil's Signature

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12 thoughts on “Spying And Buying From Your Competition

  1. I also don’t read or consume other people’s stuff when I’m working on my own projects. It’s too easy to be subconsciously influenced. Instead, I prefer to get my inspiration from nature and my every day life. (Yes, even when I’m teaching business – the best analogies are organic!)

    I’ve had plenty of people take my courses who ended up teaching some of what I taught… the interesting thing for me is that most of the time they don’t start out as competitors. They’re genuine learners and it’s only later down the line that my work gets passed on as their businesses evolve over the years. I’m okay with that, since I feel like I contributed to their growth, and I don’t want to stop people from teaching what they know, as long as they’ve learned it through “doing it” after they were taught by me.

    I would never want someone to just regurgitate what they learned, without having applied and added their own experience into the mix.

    1. Love that perspective Nathalie. I train women to become fashion stylists and inevitably over time, they become competitors and their business models become very similar to mine – but as you said – as they have applied their own experience and style to it, I’m ok with that.

  2. Thanks for this post, Natalie! I’m so glad you posted this and I think it’s fantastic you touched on the point of subconscious influence – even if the intention is good, we subconsciously pull inspiration from everything we see and touch. It’s all about finding healthy inspiration! Thanks again. 🙂

  3. Good one, Natalie! You’ve highlighted a major fault found in most conventional business training – obsession with “competition”.

    I’ve seen it destroy many people’s dreams, because it just gets them scared. And it held me back for a while. Waste of time and energy.

    Now I put that energy into building opportunities for cooperation. It’s made me some great friends – and it naturally brings in strengths that “competitors” will always lack.

  4. I agree it’s important to check out your competition, you want to stay abreast of industry trends and aware, but in the end if you copy them it’s pathetic. It’s like wearing the same shirt as someone the week after they did at school. You’re then a follower, not a leader. And, I think, in the end it’s unfulfilling deep down in your mind, because you know you copied someone instead of doing your own thing. When you do your own thing, it’s much more powerful

  5. The ideas about competition are interesting and reflect a scarcity mindset. However, more interesting is the idea about intellectual property. I have thought a great deal about this throughout a very diversified career.

    The truth is, originality is almost non-existent. How many different, original ways are there to create a business, market our products/services, paint a landscape? It has all been said/done before in some way or another.

    The art world is filled with work that is similar simply because there are only so many ways to put paint on a canvas (for example). In the literary world, an editing program will often detect plagiarism, despite no intentional copying taking place. There are just so many original word phrases. In fact most fiction, or marketing material, follows a predictable formula.

    Regarding influence, it is not possible to NOT be influenced by others. We are seriously denying the impact and capability of our memory over time, if we think that avoiding reading or observing what others are doing while we create; makes us somehow original. It doesn’t.

    The quote, “good artists borrow, great artists steal,” is attributed to Picasso and T.S. Elliot claimed artistic theft contributes to the creation of new art. In other words, our reproduction itself makes it new.

    In the age of the internet, the whole legality issue of copyright infringement is going to be seriously challenged in the near future. How can any work on a public forum be considered private or original? It does not take much research to discover similar or same work.

    Perhaps people who copy do not pretend to be original. Can we know for sure what their intentions are?

    Only when our learning is limited, can we believe that something we do or say is original. It is a better idea to acknowledge that we have limited intelligence and creativity. Everything we know we have learned from somewhere else, preferably from many places. It is best to share in a way that we do not pretend to be original.

    It is best to stay focused on our own intentions rather than worry about what other people are doing.

  6. What about learning from your competitors? I’ve learned so much in the last year or so from several of my ‘competitors’, and as a voice coach I do teach my students quite a few of the exercises I’ve learned in this process. I often teach them differently, mix and match stuff from several different competitors, and even invent my own exercises (sometimes completely fresh, but usually mixing different elements from different teachers), but the core ideas are still ones I’ve learned from the best in my industry. I don’t really see any other way to do what I do. Is that wrong, and if so what can I do differently?

    I should say that the way I communicate the ideas I’m teaching is as authentic as possible! I might use a couple of phrases from other teachers (which I will attribute), but the language I use is otherwise all mine. 🙂

  7. I’ve never done this, but I don’t know if I buy the notion that purchasing someone else’s products or programs qualifies as spying on them –it’s publicly available for purchase, they’re buying it themselves using their real, actual name… how is that spying?
    I would certainly not condone stealing anything from a competitor or anyone else for that matter, but I find that suggesting that it’s “icky” to check out what the competition is doing is a bit condescending. why is it any more icky than reading their blog posts or their sales pages?

  8. First of all I came across your website because I was browsing Yaro Starak’s blog and I saw that he did a postcast with someone that has a website name with the same concept as mine (She—-)… I HAD To check it out !
    Personnally That’s what brought me to your page and Not your competition.
    Anyway, back to the topic, I think that you are absolutely right in this video.
    I am a nutritionist (one who studied at university for it of course..) and I have consciously and unconsciously submerged myself into my work for many years to develop my own view on how to help people achieve great eating habits.
    I have done around 5000 hours of consultations with people at my own private clinic that i started at the age of 26.
    And today i am preparing to launch my futur online services (2.5 years of work, so hopefully only a couple of months left to finally deliver all the content and product!!)
    I think today I feel like I have something to offer to the world and put it out there exactly because of the concept you talk about in your video.
    Isolating yourself like that does help you get a different perspective and create something meaningful (and eventually, a brand).
    I would personally add something to the video: The first step. Before ‘isolating’ yourself, get yourself credentials. There should be a MIX of rigorous knowledge (and the hard work that comes with it to get it) and the part where you isolate yourself to think.
    I personnaly think that this should be added to your advice. There is field work to be done before creating anything and market the hell out of it.

    Thank you for sharing your videos,

    Sofia Abdelkafi R.D

  9. This is definitely a very tricky topic. I totally agree that when you are in creation mode it’s so important to clear your mind of anything that would feel like swiping someone else’s product or branding, etc. For instance I don’t check out other blogs like mine when I am writing my posts.

    But I do see the ‘learning’ aspect side of things as well. I’m a voracious learner and love taking in as much as I can about organization & interior styling. Of course I want to learn as much as I and see how I can apply them to my own life and business.

    I’ve started taking professional organizing courses and plan to do an interior styling training program soon. These are schools that teach pro organizers and stylists how to do it all and not meant for consumers, but I’m making a conscious effort to only work with one-on-one clients and won’t develop any training programs (for consumers) until I’ve had ample time to develop my own brand and processes.

    In the past I have been afraid to interact with the ‘competition’ but I’ve found that when I do many become good connections and we are able to refer others to one another based on our unique specialty. I feel like it all comes down to intention, and in the cases that we unintentionally let someone else’s voice into our work and relationships with our biz colleagues it’s important to clearly and concisely do the right thing once we become aware of it.

  10. UGH! I am going through this right now! I have someone in my group who is taking a look at ALL of the marketing data I am gathering, and who had the nerve to build a program based on it and pitch it to my group! When I kicked her out and called her out on it, she pitched a fit. She’s even having friends contact me.

    Yeah. Get your own space, do your own thing. It’s just better energy!

    Thank you for posting this! <3

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