In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, it’s more important than ever to anticipate and understand the needs and preferences of tomorrow’s customers. Who are they? What do they want? What are they searching for, and will you be the one they decide to spend their time and money with?
To address this crucial aspect of strategic planning, I had the pleasure of conducting a workshop on “Who Will Be Your Customer Tomorrow,” using the Blue Ocean Strategy toolkit. I want to share with you here the key insights and practical strategies discussed during the session.
Understanding Blue Ocean Strategy
Blue Ocean Strategy is a revolutionary business growth model that shows organizations how to seek uncontested market space where competition is irrelevant or non-existent. By focusing on value innovation and creating new demand, rather than “the same old, cheaper,” companies can unlock new opportunities and tap into unexploited customer segments. This innovative business development strategy enables companies to shift from competing in crowded “red oceans” to exploring wide open “blue oceans.”
Identifying your future customers
During the workshop, we explored the importance of identifying and understanding your customers in the future. I always like workshop attendees to think about something that happened to them recently where a customer contacted their company with an unmet need, or a non-user called or emailed them needing support or an explanation of their services. These moments are very important. Do you try to satisfy their need or do you answer with, “Oh we don’t do that.”
As I often say, “The signs are often all around you if only you can see them.” I urged my workshop audience to look at Google Analytics to see what people are searching for, then make sure their website can help potential clients find them.
But when it comes to the future, we often need to go beyond the moment
So how do you effectively identify and segment potential customers? Here are some approaches for you to consider:
- Market research: Conducting thorough market research helps you gather insights into emerging trends, changing customer behaviors, and evolving needs. By analyzing data and staying updated on market dynamics, businesses can make informed decisions about targeting future customer segments. But you need to put your own eyes and ears on it too. Since I am a corporate anthropologist, I encourage our clients as well as my workshop attendees to go “hang out” and watch what people are doing. Listen for their stories and what they want from your products or services.
- Customer co-creation: Engaging with customers directly in the product development process enables businesses to gain a deep understanding of consumers’ desires and preferences. By involving customers early on, they can create goods, either tangible or intellectual, that meet their evolving needs, ensuring long-term satisfaction and loyalty. Today’s buyers want relationships, not just products to buy.
- Foresight techniques: Trend analysis, scenario planning, and future forecasting are all techniques that can help you anticipate shifts in customer demands. By envisioning potential scenarios, you can prepare yourself to meet the emerging needs of future customers beyond what you can see today.
Applying the Blue Ocean Strategy toolkit
To help workshop participants implement Blue Ocean Strategy and take it back to their companies, we explored various tools from the toolkit, including:
- Value innovation: Value innovation focuses on creating new market spaces by simultaneously pursuing differentiation and lower costs. We discussed the importance of challenging industry assumptions, identifying new value propositions, and redefining the cost structure to meet the changing needs of tomorrow’s customers.
- Pioneer, migrator, settler: This tool helps you identify where you are focused today. Are you hunkered down as a settler doing value imitation, just like everyone else? Or are you trying to migrate away from the rest and incrementally innovate? The goal: opening a new market through value innovation (think Starbucks, Zipcar, Uber, Airbnb).
- Buyer utility map: The Buyer Utility Map helps you assess the value that a product or service delivers to customers. We discussed the importance of understanding the buyer experience, identifying pain points, and creating innovative solutions to enhance customer satisfaction.
- Strategy canvas: I had each participant create a strategy canvas to see how they were investing their company’s assets to go after customers today and what they might have to change to go after future customers. Their canvases were, as we often find, quite reflective of their current state of thinking.
- Four Actions Framework: While we did not have time to do any Four Actions Frameworks, we believe that this is a very valuable tool to encourage organizations to eliminate, reduce, raise, and create factors across key dimensions of competition. By challenging traditional industry boundaries and conventional approaches, companies can discover new ways to attract and retain future users.
The future belongs to those who proactively shape it
By applying the principles and methods of Blue Ocean Strategy, businesses can successfully (and profitably) navigate the evolving market landscape, discover new opportunities, and unlock uncontested market space. Understanding future customers and innovating accordingly is key to staying ahead in today’s rapidly changing business environment. It is by embracing a “blue ocean” mindset that you transcend the limitations of existing markets and break into new, undiscovered spaces, just waiting for you to dominate, creating a sustainable competitive advantage.
Maybe it’s time for your Blue Ocean Strategy?
Are you ready for a forward-thinking Blue Ocean Strategy instead of slugging it out in your old, backward-looking red ocean? At Simon Associates Management Associates (SAMC), we are certified Blue Ocean Strategists and culture change experts who specialize in helping organizations of all sizes and across industries rethink their business strategy to find new opportunities for growth and success. Contact us to discuss how our team of corporate anthropologists can work with you to discover, develop and apply a Blue Ocean Strategy. We look forward to hearing from you.