Recently, I had the chance to introduce the book, Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant to a colleague. The book, by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, describes the idea of discovering uncontested market space rather than continuing to fight in the “bloody red” markets saturated with competition. Instead of building a better mousetrap, the book, which is accompanied by a comprehensive website, encourages you to develop a new way to catch mice – and by doing so, render the other mousetraps meaningless. Its prime example is Cirque du Soleil, the cultural phenomenon that includes trapeze artists, clowns and other traditional “circus” entertainers, but is decidedly not a big-top act. I still remember years ago, before seeing one of the Cirque shows, a friend kept referring to the upcoming performance as “The Circus.” She was amazed at what she saw, and she was careful not to call it “The Circus” after the show.
At McKinley, we are consistently conducting market scans to help associations understand what competitors are doing, how they price their products or services, and what corners of the market are saturated. The research is meant to cover the red oceans in detail in hopes that we can identify some blue oceans to explore. Many associations have been successful in finding these blue oceans as well – and without requiring a seismic shift in thinking. While some examples in Blue Ocean Strategy are somewhat extreme, they don’t always have to be that dramatic. Even subtle offerings that build on a current platform, such as a segmented newsletter or a content track that focuses on cutting-edge technology, can have a dramatic impact on your members and solidify your brand. You need not travel across the continent to find your blue oceans – you may just need to think a little bit outside the boat.