How To Find Your Blue Ocean Strategy®: Step 2

Need to change? Maybe you need a Blue Ocean Strategy.

In my previous blog in this series, “How To Find Your Blue Ocean Strategy®: Step 1,” I explained how Blue Ocean Strategy teaches business leaders to go where the profits and growth are and the competition isn’tto literally make the competition irrelevant. Using this revolutionary way of approaching business growth, companies can successfully adapt to changing times by reconstructing the market space, creating demand (not just responding to it), and devising value innovation (not just adding value in an existing industry solution). 

Now you’re ready for the next step: how to go visual exploring.

What is visual exploring and how will it benefit me?

Visual exploration is at the core of Blue Ocean thinking (and right up my alley as a corporate anthropologist). What we “see and feel” helps us better “think” about the problems to be solved and the ways to understand what we are really doing. Words are fine but if you see something or hear somebody talking about a problem they’re having, your brain is then freed up to say, “Aha, this might be an opportunity for us!”

There are many ways to go exploring. But let me begin with a strong caveat: One of the key rules of Blue Ocean Strategic thinking is “never outsource your eyes.” What I mean by that is, don’t let someone else do your discovery work for you. Get out of your office and go searching for new ideas yourself.

So, how do you do it? Here are 5 guidelines to help you structure your efforts:

1. Be willing to think about your business in new ways.

At Simon Associates Management Consultants, we had a terrific client in the roofing and siding industry, Benjamin Obdyke. With several products coming off patent, they were facing stiff competition from generics. How did we help them? For starters, we took the team out of the office for a 2-day retreat which produced a cache of new ideas and possibilities. Then we examined their distribution network and found large parts of the country where they could be selling their products but weren’t. And we spent time with the staff, listened to phone calls and looked at customer emails.

All of this “exploring” produced two crucial Blue Ocean insights: First, there was great value in the company pursuing stucco remediation. Second, Obdyke was very good at educating contractors and consumers about the advantages of applying their moisture-removal technology before undertaking stucco remediation. The result? The company reorganized, capitalized on a niche no one else was in, and grew their sales fivefold.

2. Lunch and listen with a client.

Instead of selling, try listening. Ask your client to tell you about the trends they are seeing in their industry, the challenges they are facing, and some of the ways they are trying to adapt to changing times (successfully or unsuccessfully). What are their pain points? Listen carefully for things they’re struggling with that could turn into big ideas for your company. What do they need that you could provide?

3. Be willing to beef up your marketing capabilities.

Far too many of our clients are struggling to grow yet have limited marketing expertise or resources. This means they are missing out on a key strategy for growth—marketing. With the growth of inbound (digital) marketing, the investment is very manageable and the analytic dashboards can quickly tell you what is working and what isn’t. A key componenet of Obdyke’s growth was its revamping of its website and interactive online presence. Maybe this could work for you too?

4. Open your eyes to new markets you’re not currently in.

When we analyzed Obdyke’s emails, we discovered they were coming from all over the country, particularly from areas where they weren’t selling because they thought in the warmer states, their products weren’t needed. Wrong! This assumption was based on perceptions, not reality. And without our visual exploring, we might never have come across this crucial piece of the puzzle. Are you doing something similar…ignoring a growth market because you think it wouldn’t be fruitful? Take a look at your emails and see what you could learn.

5. Change your target audience.

What opportunities might present themselves if you focused on buyer groups you are not paying attention to today—like pharma successfully did when it went after the user of their medications, not the prescribing doctor. Where could you create demand for your new innovative solutions? 

For one of our clients, EAC/Integrated Power Solutions, an OEM in the battery design industry, the CEO found that his customers had unmet needs but were not using him for several power solutions that his company could have provided—from chargers to consulting expertise. He was actually walking away from the solutions that over half of his top customers wanted. Are you guilty of the same thing? To what big opportunities are you saying “No, we don’t do that here?”

Happy visual exploring!

I can’t emphasize enough: go out and look at what is really happening in your business and your industry. Don’t stay in your office and only imagine it. Take your people, get out and actually walk through the buyer´s experience yourself. Listen to your customer phone calls, read your incoming emails. What are people asking for that you could sell them, or that after making some adjustments, you could sell to them? You’ll be amazed at what you can learn, and then change. Happy exploring!

More to come!

Look for my 3rd blog in this series of Blue Ocean Strategy “how-to’s.” In it, I show you how to go after nonusers with unmet needs, those consumers who may not be searching for you as a solution because you haven’t adequately “put it out there” that you’re the best answer for them.

Want to know more? Read our white paper on Blue Ocean Strategy.

To truly understand Blue Ocean Strategy and how it can help your company open up new market space and make the competition irrelevant, I invite you to read our white paper, “Blue Ocean Strategy®: A Brief Introduction


And for an even more in-depth explanation of Blue Ocean Strategy and how it can work for your company, check out our video.

Are you ready to embark on your own Blue Ocean Strategy?

Are you ready for a Blue Ocean Strategy instead of slugging it out in your old red ocean? We have done over 270 workshops for CEOs and companies that need or want to find their Blue Ocean Strategies—in all types of industries in the US, Canada and around the world. Perhaps we can be of help to you and your organization. Please contact us for a free consultation. We love to talk Blue Ocean!

 From Observation to Innovation


Andi Simon
Corporate Anthropologist | President
Simon Associates Management Consultants  |
Author: “On The Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business To New Heights