Where Are You Fishing? In a Blue Ocean or a Red One?

entrepreneur marketing smallbusiness Nov 19, 2018

Do you know your competition? How they're marketing? Who their target market is? How they sell?

Good. You should. But that’s not where your focus, time, or energies should be invested.

What if your business could be in a league of its own instead of competing with others in your industry? What if you were setting the pace, creating unique products and living a “Blue Ocean Strategy”?

The term is derived from the book "Blue Ocean Strategy" (Harvard Business Review Press, expanded edition, 2015), by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. It describes how companies traditionally work in "red ocean"conditions, where businesses viciously fight against each other for a share of the marketplace. Instead, according to the blue ocean strategy, organizations should find a way to work in a marketplace that is free of competitors.

I know it’s been said that there is no reason to recreate the wheel but we can always make a better wheel! Seriously, look at how many versions of the actual wheel have been created since its inception in the late Neolithic age (9500–6500 BCE). Endless.

I believe the concept of Blue Ocean Strategy begins with an inward perspective - an initial perspective, which many times gets lost. Often businesses begin because they feel they can be better than their competition, and in fact they can. They go into business with all the grandest intentions of changing the norm in their industry, but all too often they fall into… well… the business of being in business. Their grand intentions are forgotten and they slip into “competing” rather than “innovating”.

The logic behind Blue Ocean strategy is innovation, focusing less on competition and more on alternatives. Being creative versus copycat. While we can learn boatloads from past entrepreneurs, business successes and failures, it’s our individual brilliance and creativity we must tap into, hold sacred, and shine for the world to see.

To tap into your potential blue ocean, Kim and Mauborgne argue that businesses and entrepreneurs should consider their "Four Actions Framework." The framework poses four key questions:

Raise:  What factors should be raised well above the industry's standard?
Eliminate:  Which factors that the industry has long competed on should be eliminated?
Reduce:  Which factors should be reduced well below the industry's standard?
Create:  Which factors should be created that the industry has never offered?

Kim and Mauborgne said that this exercise forces companies to scrutinize every factor of competition, helping leaders discover the range of assumptions they unconsciously make while competing.

Examples of Blue Ocean Strategy

One popular example of blue ocean strategy is Cirque du Soleil, which achieved revenues that took Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey more than a century to attain.

"Cirque did not make its money by competing within the confines of the existing industry or by stealing customers from Ringling and the others," Kim and Mauborgne wrote in the Harvard Business Review magazine. "Instead, it created uncontested market space that made the competition irrelevant. It pulled in a whole new group of customers who were traditionally noncustomers of the industry — adults and corporate clients who had turned to theater, opera or ballet and were, therefore, prepared to pay several times more than the price of a conventional circus ticket for an unprecedented entertainment experience."

Southwest Airlines is another example. Southwest tapped into a customer base who preferred driving to air travel due to the lower cost. Instead of competing with other airlines, Southwest positioned itself as an alternative to cars and offered reduced prices, improved check-in times and increased flight frequency.

"This new combination created an offering that enabled the customer to benefit from the high traveling speeds of an airplane at low prices combined with the flexibility of traveling by car," Blue Ocean Strategy Partners writes on its website.

So, where are you currently fishing? In a blue ocean or a red one? Are you focused on the competition or on you and your uniqueness? It’s easy to end up in the red ocean, most businesses do. The red ocean is survival and its bloody. The blue ocean is where you’ll THRIVE!

Learn more about Discovering Your Brilliance.

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