Identifying Blue Ocean Opportunities to Capture New Markets
Seujan Bertram |
 11/07/22 |
5 min read

Identifying Blue Ocean Opportunities to Capture New Markets

Regardless of industry, over the past few years the challenge du jour for businesses has been predicting consumer and market shifts. But today, category disruptors are increasingly pivoting away from predictions and toward identifying, and leading the market to, blue ocean opportunities. And they’re creating new categories and capturing new markets as they go.

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What are these blue ocean opportunities––and where are companies finding them? It starts with the strategy.

Blue Ocean Strategy is the simultaneous pursuit of differentiation and low cost to open up a new market space and create new demand. It is about creating and capturing uncontested market space, thereby making the competition irrelevant. It is based on the view that market boundaries and industry structure are not a given and can be reconstructed by the actions and beliefs of industry players.

As the definition implies, flexibility is required to successfully manage this strategic exploration, as is informed risk. But organizations typically struggle with both concepts, as they lack confidence in the accuracy of their data. And as challenging as it is to sell company leaders on big ideas that have established proofs and success metrics, that struggle is multiplied at least ten-fold when seeking sponsorship of untested ideas supported by shaky consumer and market research that amounts to little more than unsubstantiated guesswork.

Sticking to the Shoreline

For most companies, these blue ocean proposals are left to languish, with informed risks rarely taken. And any perceived “flexibility” in forward planning is largely superficial. Everyone wants to be innovative, but few have the appetite for it, viewing the exercise as unnecessary as their company’s position in their category is secure. This is a dangerous (and false) assumption.

Many businesses support small, incremental changes though, and this brings them toward the edge of the shoreline. They often reach the periphery of a blue ocean entry point––and this is where they hover.

It is somewhat less crowded in this new space, at least for the time being, as other cautious explorers arrive and begin pushing barriers into that unknown. And then everyone moves forward together by degrees, with different leaders inching ahead in turn, taking little notice of the new and nimble entrants jumping in just ahead of the pack every day.

Those Bold, New Companies are Coming for You

This is the greatest risk to businesses today – these new companies, these risk takers, are bold contenders and their numbers are growing. Not only that, but they also do not play by the same rules as they’re unencumbered by traditional industry and category norms.

The only way to stay ahead of them is to swim far out into the deep, build a widget your industry needs to stay afloat and keep testing it for leaks as you master further depths. While this endless iteration and improvement sounds exhausting and unnecessary to some companies, others recognize it is crucial to surviving long-term in competitive markets––and every market is now highly competitive. Digital transformation has seen to that.

Embracing Exploration

Category-creating movement––advances that push a business toward uncontested markets, doesn’t happen without dedicated attention and effort. As mentioned previously, at NetBase Quid, we focus on looking forward every quarter during our QBAs. We appreciate the successes and challenges we’re experiencing, as they inform our understanding of the space––but we focus on lessons learned with our eyes directed toward the future

With a continuous drive to explore our own blue ocean strategic planning, we encourage our customers to do the same. And we’re pushing AI-powered enterprise consumer intelligence and management boundaries to offer enterprise level insight that helps businesses explore possibilities that take them well beyond their typical comfort zones.

Why a Blue Ocean Strategy is a Game Changer

Blue Ocean Strategy is not an OR but an AND. This is important. We do not encourage companies to abandon what they do well. Rather, we help them leverage their existing technology, talent, and expertise to expand their offerings, pioneer new markets and position themselves for the future.

How can they do this?

In a very popular article published in the Harvard Business Review in 2004 titled “Blue Ocean Strategy,” they used Cirque Du Soleil as an example.

At the time, the circus business was in a long-term decline and was hit by steadily decreasing audiences and increasing costs. They re-invented the circus by inventing a new industry that combined elements from the traditional circus with elements drawn from sophisticated theater.

Cirque Du Soleil was successful because they applied Blue Ocean strategic moves

  • They did not focus only on innovation – instead they leveraged their strengths and invented something new.
  • They streamlined costs while offering customers more value – they reduced the costs of animal acts and created an experience that brought back audiences.

While the term may be new, Blue Oceans have always been with us including the Model T, the first standardized, mass-produced automobile. Here are a few examples:

  • Airbnb revolutionized the hospitality business and created gig economy
  • Novo Nordisk’s NovoPen allowed easy injections with insulin cartridge housed in a pen-sized device
  • YellowTail created a fun, simple wine that can be enjoyed every day with vibrant labels––and it started with two simple choices (a white and a red).

When developing a Blue Ocean strategy, businesses should leverage their consumer and market intelligence research to identify emerging trends and white space opportunities, particularly those inhabiting the space in between categories. This identification could manifest in conversation spikes around a particular need that consumers are facing; a shift in sentiment toward an established service or cultural norm; an exciting new patent application that signals the advent of a technological advance; or even a geopolitical crisis on the other side of the world.

It all hinges on capturing accurate, real-time intelligence that decision-makers can use to confidently and quickly make category-defining decisions. And we see it happening every day. It’s exciting!

Internally, the process is more reflective and dependent upon open communication. At NetBase Quid®, we strive to navigate our own teams toward the Blue Ocean and can offer some ideas we share internally that may help jumpstart your own thinking here.

Navigating Teams Toward the Blue Ocean

Our leadership team has challenged each employee to consider how they can contribute to the journey––and we’ve shared questions to inspire thought and conversation, both company-wide and within departments. It’s broken out by internally and externally facing teams:

Internally facing teams

  • We have a vast ocean ahead of us––let’s get ready for it by optimizing our offerings and building processes and workflows that support scaling and growth. What should be stronger, and how? Take ownership of your workflow and speak to enhancements.
  • How can we streamline costs? Are there redundancies to reconsider; areas where we’re going through the motions and experiencing little result?

Externally facing teams

  • Our customers inform our strategy–be relentlessly curious and capture that insight to share with your team.
  • Continue to link what we have right now to what our customers value––our assumptions here should not be driving change.
  • Condition the market for things to come. Prepare current and potential customers by sharing the company’s vision, once solidified. And ensure every externally facing teammate is clear on that messaging!

Is your company venturing into the Blue Ocean as well? I’d love to hear more about your process, challenges, and success. There’s so much space out there to consider and I find that it’s mutually beneficial to enter a new frontier with likeminded explorers!

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