How to Learn From Your Competition (without Copying or Stealing)

The most efficient way to build a blog is by learning from your competition.

The problem is that most people don’t know what to look for…

…So they end up copying and stealing ideas—wholesale—with hopes and dreams of blog success.

Naturally, that often doesn’t work.

Yes, it’s possible to experience “some” success, but breakaway growth? I wouldn’t hold my breath.

So how can you learn from your competition without copying, stealing, or wasting your time?

The Pebble in the Pond

A few years ago I read a fantasy novel by Terry Goodkind, and he introduced me to an idea that he called “the pebble in the pond.”

It’s a simple idea, but the meaning behind it is remarkable, and when you know how to take advantage of it, you’re golden.

First, what happens when you throw a pebble into a pond?

A small splash, and then some ripples emanate from the contact point.

Now when you’re looking to create a blog, or do anything worthwhile, you want to be the pebble thrown into the pond.

You want to be the rock that causes the ripples, successfully altering the state of your world…

Because when you’re not the pebble, you’re simply surfing another pebbles’ wake, and the best you can do is pick up the scraps.

But, “Derek…”

What does the “Pebble in the Pond” Have To Do With Blogs?

When you look at what your competitors do right, and copy them, you’re not the pebble in the pond. You’re spotting your competitor’s ripples, and picking up the scraps.

That’s not learning from your competition. That’s copying them, getting sub-par results, and wasting your time.

However, it doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to settle for the scraps. You can become the pebble that creates the ripples, and it’s easier than you think.

How?

The simple solution is this:

Look For a “Thread of Discontent”

Right now it’s easier than ever for people to air their opinions about other people, blogs, and companies. With blog comments, social media, and review sites, it’s almost impossible to escape them.

Now most people skip over these comments without giving them a second thought.

However, when you want to learn from your competition, you can read their comments and look for a “thread of discontent.”

What’s a “thread of discontent?”

It’s a problem that a majority of people have with one specific blog or company. It’s a chink in their armor, and it’s an opportunity for you to convert them into loyal subscribers and customers.

Why?

Remember, your competitor has created some ripples in their pond. When you find this thread and discontent, and solve it, that allows you to become the pebble that creates the ripples in the marketplace.

But now let’s look at some real life examples:

How Threads Of Discontent Helped Me Grow Social Triggers

As you read about in “reason why” article, when I launched Social Triggers, I did so by taking advantage of threads of discontent.

Back last year, people were complaining about blogs that would post fluff content with no data to back it up. I cured that by citing data in every article of mine.

People also complained that people were writing about the same ole stuff. I cured that by talking mainly about how psychology meets marketing (and I even quoted the psychology studies and researchers to back it up).

But even most recently, just a few weeks ago, I took advantage of another thread of discontent.

There are loads of podcasts in the world, and people would complain that they’d see “the usual suspects.” The people they’re used to seeing everywhere.

So, when I launched my podcast, I decided to go outside of the realm of the “usual suspects” and instead decided to feature world-class researchers from top universities, New Tork Times Best-Selling authors, and other people that may have been “unknown” in the world of blogging.

And what happened?

Simply telling people my plan attracted THOUSANDS of people to my site in 24 hours… The introductory blog post also attracted well over 300 blog comments.

Why?

It’s all because each “thread of discontent” helped me create the ripples in the pond, allowing me to experience breakaway growth… instead of scrounging for scraps.

How DIYthemes Took Advantage of A Thread of Discontent

Back when I got started building blogs, things were different. Really different.

I remember I started an entertainment site, and I wanted a 3-column WordPress theme. I wanted my content on the left, and 2 sidebars on the right.

I also wanted to add a unique header image to differentiate my site from the rest of the blogosphere.

I searched through the web endlessly for a design that would fit my needs, and I couldn’t find one. I ended up paying a developer a few hundred dollars to create me one from scratch.

I was annoyed, naturally.

And I wasn’t the only one.

Turns out that most people who were looking for blog designs wanted a specific column layout, a customer header image, a little embellishment, and that’s it.

No reason why that should cost $500 or $1000 or more!

That’s where DIYthemes came in.

Chris Pearson made it dead simple to create simple designs like that without using any code. What could cost as much as $1,000 suddenly cost $85 plus a little bit of elbow grease.

DIYthemes suddenly became the pebble in the pond.

And what happened? With over 40,000 customers, you can see first hand how lucrative curing a thread of discontent can be.

(Also, if you don’t currently own Thesis, learn more about it here, and see the pricing here)

Each Time One Thread of Discontent Disappears, Another Pops Up

Now you might be wondering:

“What if everyone solved every single thread of discontent in my market?”

But that’s just ridiculous.

As the market develops, new threads of discontent spring up, and it’s your job as a new business or existing business to find them.

And If you don’t, before you know it, it won’t be a pebble hitting your business… it will be a meteorite.

How Can You Discover “Threads of Discontent?”

That depends…

First, you need to find your competitors.

Remember, even though the blogging world is all about community, make no mistake. You’re competing for attention, and to win, you’ve got to treat it like a competition.

Now you likely know who your competitors are, and how to find them. If not, a simple Google search will help you.

Then, you need to infiltrate their community

I know that sounds shady, but I’m not talking about espionage.

Instead, simply read their blog comments, see who talks to them on Twitter, read reviews about their site (you’ll find them in Google), and do other market research just like that.

If you want to know what frustrates people, you’ve got to see it first hand. Plus, you can also implement my famous “what are you struggling with question?”

(That’s not necessarily about analyzing your competition, but you’ll find that people often respond with comments that can be weaved into a thread of discontent)

And Now I Pass It To You…

Are you the pebble in the pond, or are you trying to pick up scraps?

Tell me about it in the comments.

About the author: Derek Halpern ran marketing at DIYthemes, and is the founder of Social Triggers. To get more tips on how to be confident, sign up to his list here.