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How to Apply Blue Ocean Principles to an Existing Business

by Chris Young

Sure, you may understand the difference between a blue and red ocean, but it may feel like a lost cause if you’re already operating in a red ocean. It’s not hopeless though. It is never too late to implement new growth strategies and put your business on a new trajectory

Here are some thoughts to get you started.

How Existing Businesses Can Benefit from Blue Ocean Strategies

The world is filled with red ocean competition where competition is heavy and margins are thin.

I began my consultancy 21 years ago through speaking engagements coupled with developing and/or delivering workshops. Long story short, while some people brought me back in to speak and deliver workshops, the grind was slow and sometimes painfully long with low return. Competitors literally copied my strategy.

Over time, I identified ways to differentiate. I discovered the power of personality assessments, and my work evolved into consulting. I realized that some people did not value what I did while others greatly did.

This journey continues to this day. It is truly a beautiful grind that has been long and winding, where lessons were learned through trial and error. Let’s just say the flywheel was massive. It took a LOT to get it turning.

My consultancy specializes in helping our Clients build their “Moats” or their competitive advantagetheir “Blue Ocean.” My craft is a category of one. I get results and passionately believe in being compensated for the value created. I choose my Clients far more carefully than they choose me.

My Blue Ocean Strategy comes from the way that I thinkthe way that I approach and solve problems. I hate losing more than I love winning. I look for repeatable patterns and believe the way out is through the continuous optimization/alignment of people, strategy, execution, and cash.

So many of my “competitors” peddle assessments and workshops. This is a “red ocean”a world filled with competition based on price, price, price.

Life is too short for that grind with little return on investment.

Blue Ocean Strategy is about creating an uncontested market space that is completely different from other businesses in a similar space. These spaces are “blue oceans,” in contrast to fighting for survival in a highly-competitive “red ocean” with serious competition.

Unless you enjoy the grind of head-to-head competition beating one another up on price in a truly “red ocean,” find a way to create a product/service mix that is free of competitors. The Blue Ocean Strategy encourages creating a product/service mix that is essentially in its own market with little or no competition. While this is difficult to accomplish, it can and should be done.

The key to creating your Blue Ocean Strategy is to consider the market space that you operate in. 

Anything that truly differentiates your business from the competition moves you from red ocean to blue. The key is to identify your target personasyour ideal Clientsget into their heads, identify their pain, and then deliver value that they value. Do that repeatedly, and you will be operating in a blue ocean.

A true Blue Ocean Strategy outcome can be very challenging to accomplish. This can be a moving target as the world, market, and competitors adapt.

The Top 3 Blue Ocean Strategies You Can Implement Today

Blue Ocean Strategy is about creating an outcomes approach delivered to those who value those outcomes (the few who value) more than just a product or service (to the many who care little or less). This is about differentiation. 

Products may be Blue Oceaned. Take the famous example of Yellow Tail Wine, for example. Before Yellow Tail Wine, the wine world was stuffy, expensive, and risky. Then Yellow Tail came in, which created a whole new category.

I believe there are many businesses that are difficult-to-impossible to truly “blue ocean.” Gas stations are highly-competitive. For the most part, gas is gas is gas, and there are many. While I have my favorite gas stations (Costco and Shell), I can get gas from dozens of gas stations in my immediate area.

At the other end of the differentiation spectrum is my world: consulting services. I have honed my craft and developed a reputation for delivering real value. This differentiation has been the result of a journey filled with incredible mentors and countless feedback loop iterations of trial and error.

If I were to engage my younger self, I would not change a thing about my journey, but I would adapt the following filters and systemic thinking ways:

  1. Hone Your Mindset: Realize that price is what is paid while value is what is received. Until you realize that what you do and how you do it has an outcome that can be valuable to some, you will operate in a world filled with competition, a red ocean. As an example, my world, that is a world of selling assessments and workshops.
  2. Identify the Ideal Customer Mindset: Identify future Customers. There are those who will invest in your services, value what is received, and are more likely to compensate for that value. Sometimes you need to develop a Prospect’s mindset to a degree.
  3. Identify a Model That Delivers Real, Consistent Value: For me, this is through Scaling Up: the alignment of People - Strategy - Execution - Cash.

This is a long game. The key to true differentiation is mindset. Mindset is everything.

Examples of Existing Businesses That Embraced Blue Ocean

Many years ago, I worked with a company that specialized in making commercial safes. They were passionate about their craft. They made the kind of safes that went into convenience stores where cash was kept until needed or the armored car service came to pick it up. Let me tell you…This is a HIGHLY competitive business.

They competed in a red ocean. A safe is a safe is a safe until you cannot get into it. Part of what differentiated their safes from others is the heritage of the company. This company had humble beginnings in a family. The pride this company had in how they did what they did was incredible. Some of their Customers appreciated that value, but many did not.

We partnered to help them move to more of a “blue ocean” by creating a powerful Customer Experience. The “Murphy’s Law of Safes” is the safe fails when it is needed most. When Customers called my Client’s support team to request assistance changing their time (daylight savings time 2x per year) or getting into a safe with a broken lock, the Customer received a warm voice that took charge of the situation, helped them troubleshoot (for a fee outside of warranty), and then dispatched a reputable local locksmith to help if needed. My Client monetized this service in a huge way and moved from a more red ocean to one that was much more blue.

This work was accomplished through the alignment of people, strategy, execution, and cash. This Client valued my services as I delivered real value that could be quantified and directly attributed to our work together. 

The Next Step

A true Blue Ocean is not just about your product/service mix. It is about outcomes. And a true Blue Ocean Strategy is built upon a solid foundation of getting the right people doing the right things right through People - Strategy - Execution - Cash.

If you are serious about developing your own Blue Ocean, set up a time to speak with me.