The Blue Ocean Strategy is a concept where business owners look to succeed by finding uncontested market places rather than “red oceans” where competition is fierce. It makes sense right? If you plan to start a business, fewer competitors mean more opportunities for your brand to shine.
First of all, it’s important we get rid of the notion competition is terrible. It’s a good thing to find a competitive market. It means not only are people looking for your services and products but also they are primed and ready to buy.
Also, being first in an industry in no means guarantees success. Consider some of the most significant online brands we use every day like Facebook, Google or Spotify. Before these giants, we flocked to sites like Myspace, Friendster, Ask Jeeves and Napster. Imagine what our world would look like if Larry Page and Sergey Brin said “golly, Jeeves already answers to everybody’s questions. There isn’t a place in the market for our idea.”
The key to surviving a saturated market comes down to two factors: courage to pull the trigger, and the discipline to follow through with the actions needed to reach your goal. There are several other strategies you can implement once you’ve left the dock and entered the crowded market.
Find Your Blue Ocean
Are you already in a red ocean? Great! It means a lot of people need what you’re offering. Even a red ocean has pockets of blue oceans. What does this even mean? Within saturated markets, there are niches untouched by your services. There are groups of people who need what you sell, but for whatever reason, they can’t easily find someone positioned to sell to them.
These sub-niches are where you can thrive even in the most crowded markets. Brainstorm how you can take a big idea and package it for a small audience. Become the thought-leader, go-to expert for that specific demographic. Maybe, you narrow your audience by geography, age or interests.
Add a Differentiator
What makes you different? And, before you say “quality customer service,” know that’s the go-to for almost every company. It’s okay to say you have quality customer service, but you need to follow the statement with your “why.” Are you a plumber who offers 24/7 emergency services? Do you give an extended warranty no one else will offer?
On Route 66 in Albuquerque, there’s a moderate sized RV park with typical amenities you’d expect like a pool, spa and standard RV hookups. Vicky, the owner, knew she needed to be different because there were so many options in the area for RVers to park.
She loves vintage RVs, so she found several, renovated the interiors, and used them to advertise. People visit her RV park to look in these old trailers and even rent them for a night or two. Her differentiation landed her on national shows and television series featuring fun stops on Route 66. In fact, it’s not uncommon for her to have visitors from all over the world come specifically to her park because she found a differentiation and showcased it.
Sell Your Story
Your story matters because it’s your brand, and it can be a tool to inspire people to choose you over your competitors.
Penzo is a kitchenware brand. It’s marketed as “functional art.” People can buy plates at every department store, but why would they choose Penzo over more affordable brands? People love exclusivity, and Penzo provides it. Every dish is handmade in Zimbabwe, and its colorful, intricate paintings are inspired by African wildlife and landscapes.
The plates support communities in Zimbabwe by employing local artists. Buyers know it is authentic Penzo because when they flip it over, it is signed and dated by the artist. Penelope Penzo became a leader in the industry by telling a story, not by designing a colorful plate.
Walk on the Wild Side
Jump from space? Who would have thought Red Bull could give you wings? Felix Baumgartner had the world biting their nails as they anxiously watched him jump from the stratosphere back to earth. He even broke the sound barrier.
What do people remember from the crazy stunt? First, a man jumped from space, but second, that Red Bull sponsored it. Even in the competitive energy drink market, you bet it was an insane marketing strategy.
Okay, it’s possible you don’t have $73 million to drop someone from space. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t do something almost as insane. Think about your current industry, what is no one doing because it seems too crazy? Simply put, how can you innovate in your industry? This will take some time, investment and possibly risk, but if you execute your idea, you might find yourself leading the industry.
Add Something Valuable to the Conversation
In academia, professors and research students publish new studies in every field. Unless they are checking for accuracy of a previous study, every new paper continues an existing conversation in a new context.
For example, a researcher might learn individuals who receive financial literacy classes on credit card debt are less likely to use them irresponsibly. So, their study could expand to look at a new demographic like financial literacy courses for adults in bankruptcy. Or, they could look at a different aspect, like how financial literacy classes affect student loan debt.
So, if everyone in your field is talking about one topic, you can work on adding new and valuable information to the conversation. This strategy is lot like finding a differentiation.
What does it mean to add to the conversation? It starts with your brand, your products, website and how you interact on social media with your followers.
An example of a company adding to the conversation is Upward VR in Oklahoma City. A lot of people enjoy gaming either by purchasing or playing at arcades and other venues. Upward VR focused on leveraging the newest technology (Virtual Reality) to create a unique gaming experience. They added to the conversation by talking about a new way to game in groups.
With technology, there is no reason you can’t respond to customer inquiries in minutes. Maybe that’s a little creepy, but it works. Only a few elite companies make it a policy to contact leads in minutes; most will take their time. They might respond in an hour or even a couple of days.
You can make your mark in the industry by being the first to contact them offering the service or product they’re interested in purchasing.
Adopt New Technology First and Adapt Quickly
If you’re new to an industry or market, odds are you’re small, but you’re also nimble. Imagine a cruise ship and a speedboat. Bigger boats take time to turn and go new directions, but speedboats can turn on a dime and race down a new path.
Use your small staff and budget to your advantage. Corporate red-tape doesn't hinder you, so take action quickly and adopt new technology, jump on different social media platforms and adapt to the environment as it changes. Before you know it, the industry giants will struggle to keep up as digital trends come and go.
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