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Back in 2004, W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne authored an article in the Harvard Business Review in which they laid out the case for Blue Ocean Strategy. Their premise was this:

“Competing in overcrowded industries is no way to sustain high performance. The real opportunity is to create blue oceans of uncontested market space.”

While the term “Blue Ocean Strategy” may have been a new one then, the concept wasn’t, as we had been doing exactly what they describe for our clients for more than a decade. We’d even written about some of our successes in a book published 5 years before their HBR article.

Blue Ocean Strategy is a Mirage

We have one client who originally hired us for a Blue Ocean Strategy project — that was very successful, by the way — who is now convinced that Blue Ocean Strategy is a mirage.

“As soon as you think outside the box,” he says, “you’re in another box.” He even likens the process to one of those nesting Russian dolls, each encased in a slightly larger version of itself.

While we certainly understand the need for escaping from the cut-throat, competitive, shark-infested waters of a Red Ocean, maybe the client is right. After all, it’s impossible to keep your Blue Ocean marketing strategy a secret in an environment where every detail of what you’re doing shows up somewhere on the internet within a few nanoseconds. And once your competitors see you achieving some success in a Blue Ocean, it won’t take them long to follow your lead … and you’re right back in the Red Ocean from which you tried to escape.

The trick is to create a sustainable competitive advantage

Without really thinking of it exactly that way, this kind of consulting has become one of our specialties. We work with clients to identify the unique DNA of their business and position themselves so that they are perceived as distinctly different from, and better than, both in-kind and not-in-kind competition. We’re not sure what that’s called, so we just keep calling it “Blue Ocean Strategy” consulting.

If you’d like to discuss your “Blue Ocean Strategy” needs with us, and explore options for your business, just send us an email message with your contact information and we’ll take it from there.

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