Just out of a meeting with a client who runs a fantastic Sri Lankan restaurant in Balham – it’s called Hop & Spice and serves the most divine curries ever to pass through my lips.  In fact, TimeOut magazine voted it 4th out of their top 50 restaurants, so I’m not the only one who loves it.

During our session, Bahi and I were discussing the relative merits of “stealing” ideas from your competitors.  We Brits tend to be a bit stiff about this.  I explained to him that in business we call it market research and it’s OK, as long as you put your own slant onto it.

We’ve done a few promotions during the summer to encourage more word of mouth and to build more trade.  One of the creative offers we came up with together was the Lucky Six dinner for mid-week meals, where after your dinner you’d get a dice with your bill.  If you rolled a six, your dinner was on the house.  It ran for a couple of months.

It added some fun to the quiet summer holiday periods and created a bit of a talking point that encouraged people to tell their friends about Hop & Spice.  It’s also only giving away 1 in 6 meals, so it’s not terribly expensive overall compared with a more usual promotion like a 2 for 1.

So back to our topic of market research.  About an hour after our coaching session today, Bahi sent me an email from a competitor (if you’re not signed up to your competitor’s emails, you’re missing a trick) with the following headline…”Lucky Dice at the [Bahi’s competitor] Restaurant”.  And guess how it works – yep, you got it right – roll a lucky 6 and dinner’s on the house!

So where do you think they got the idea from?  Where should we draw the line when taking inspiration for our business from other people?  In fact, is there even a line in business, or do you believe that anything’s fair in love, war and business?

And hopefully you’ve now got at least one more helpful idea about how to research your own market place…