How to steal design business from your competitors

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“Stealing” is a bad word.

But today, I want to teach you a few ways you can steal business from your competition; a few ways you can get the edge on your competition and win more clients than anyone in town.

So in that sense, stealing isn’t all that bad. If this sounds like something that could help your design business move to the next level, read on and enjoy.

Sidenote: Once you're done here, try watching our interview with Chelsea Baldwin on convincing one-off clients to go on monthly retainer. Members of our community at SolidGigs get immediate access. You can learn more or join us here.

And when you’re done, hop on down the page and leave a comment. I’d love to hear what you think.

How to steal business from your competition

Identify your competition:
The first step is to really get a good grasp on who your competition is. Are you primarily competing with freelancers? design firms? a client’s friend or family member? Where is all the business going when it doesn’t end up in your repertoire?

Then focus on whoever it is that is taking your business away.

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Identify their client base:
Once you have identified who your competition is, take it a step further and identify their client base. Find out where they get their business from, how they find new clients, what attracts new clients to them, and what their clients think about them.

These people are now your target audience.

Research how they find clients:
One of the most important discoveries you need to make is how they find new clients. This will not only give you an idea of where all the clients are hiding (and believe me, they’re all around you), but it will give you ideas on finding your own clients in the future.

Find your competitors’ flaws:
Sure, your competition might have a stronger client base than you do, but they surely have a weak spot when it comes to business or design. Maybe they only build static flash web sites (you should offer custom CMS-based sites), maybe they charge too much (create competitive prices), maybe they don’t offer support once the project is finished (you get the idea, right?).

Turn your competitors’ flaws into your strengths and you are well on your way to stealing all the business in town.

Find a superniche:
We recently discussed the importance of a superniche when it comes to blogging about design. A superniche is the result of taking your niche services to the next level. Find a way to be the only designer in town who can [fill in the blank with your superniche]. For example, I know a guy who is the only catalog designer in my city.

Better said, perhaps other designers do a good job with catalogs, but if you want a catalog design that really knocks the socks off of your consumer, you go to this guy. Everyone knows it.

It’s his superniche.

Don’t steal just for the sake of stealing:
Lastly, it’s important to remember not to steal your competitors’ business away just for the fun of it. In fact, you may not even want to deal with some of the clients your competition has to handle on a daily basis.

Set goals to find and entice the right kinds of clients. Clients that will help you acheive your business goals.

Then steal away!

How do you get an edge on the competition?

So what do you do to steal away your competitors’ business? How do you get an edge up on your competition. Share your thoughts with all of us by leaving a comment.

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About Preston D Lee

Preston is an entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, and the founder of this blog. You can contact him via twitter at @prestondlee.

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  1. Hi Preston,
    thank you for that interesting article. I did some competitor research recently and I agree with most of what you said; one thing that I found out during my “survey” 😉 was that the range of competitor pricing can be huge. It made me realize (and most books about marketing I read about that topic emphasized that, too) that adopting a “competitive pricing” strategy is probably the toughest way to go. Of course it depends on what clients you pick in the end; someone who is only willing to pay 500 dollars for a full blown business website might not be someone you want to have as a client in the first place.
    But ultimatively (on my opinion) the most important parts are 1) to find your niche so you can charge premium pricing, 2) have an efficient way how to gain new customers and 3) make sure you are nice to your existing customers, because gaining new customers takes about 20 times the effort than retaining previous customers.

  2. Preston, I like the way you touch the subject. Personally I don’t like working superniche. Off corse when you have a client he or she can give you also work in other areas, but I like the whole process. So for me, I’m not that much interested in only desiging catalogs for example, but also logo’s, business cards, websites, packaging.

    Jack of all trades, master of none? I don’t know. I think it has to do vision, the concept. The rest is just using the right tools.

    Any thoughts on this?

  3. nice title! It’s not really stealing per se, but just working out your competitive advantages!

    I like the idea of super niche, but I bet you don’t stay super niche for long.

    Not that I would do this, but if you were really to steal clients you would go to your competition and check out their folio right? very unethical, but then you know who their clients are and the rest is up to the client.

  4. I forgot to say that I think demonstrating a brilliant client service relationship and getting your clients to tell your story is a great way to tell your story if you can get those stories in front of those prospective clients

  5. One thing I found really important is to offer a personal touch to local clients. I’m in San Diego, and offer free consultations for anyone in the area CONSIDERING a website. I’ve gotten a lot of work from either word of mouth after completing a job, or word of mouth after telling folks that they may want to keep the website they have with some slight changes. Just like always the personal touch makes a big difference, especially since so many business owners are wary of being ripped off after the early 2000’s run of overpriced web design.

  6. Would you consider it unethical to steal from a competitor who referred you to the client in the first place? I have this situation that’s bugging me a little:

    About 2 years ago, a large agency referred me to a client for some web development work. I had designed the agency’s website, and they liked my work, so they passed the client directly to me. We essentially shared the client, as the agency did print and advertising for them, and I handled all their online work.

    In 2 years, the client has renewed a maintenance contract with me twice now, and have even referred me onwards to other clients. In contrast, the agency has rejected two offers to forge an alliance, and haven’t referred any further work to me.

    Last week, I was at my client’s office, and happened to notice this incredibly dismal looking newsletter that the agency designs for them. I told them that the newsletter could look much better, offered to redesign it for them, and got the project. This morning, the head of the agency called me up and blasted me for taking the project, and said that my behavior was unethical.

    My understanding is this: we have no agreement, no alliance, no non-compete. We are not friends, nor have we collaborated on any projects. While I should have called to inform the agency that I had pitched for the project, the fact that their work was mediocre at best is what lost them the project.

    Was I wrong? Should I have gone to them instead and offered to take the project through them?


  1. […] How to steal design business from your competitors | Graphic … Apr 4, 2011 … Stealing is a bad word. But today, I want to teach you a few ways you can steal business from your … […]


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