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Finding Blue Oceans With Jobs-To-Be-Done Opportunity Scores

Blue ocean and jobs-to-be-done are complementary frameworks and go hand-in-hand. In blue ocean, our goal is to define a unique market space of untapped consumers where we can create a compelling value proposition currently not being offered and in the foreseeable future. We do this by defining and measuring a set of customer attributes (or “factors as the authors of Blue Ocean Strategy, Kim and Mauborgne describe them) to build our product strategy on.

Knowing the jobs to be done, desired outcomes, constraints and circumstances provide the foundation and context in choosing the strategic attributes of a blue ocean strategy. By analyzing opportunities scores, we can identify sets of underserved desired outcomes that are used to segment markets into “blue oceans” along the jobs-to-be-done criteria.

If we look into opportunities that are underserved, we are likely to discover niches that currently are being ignored by the existing competitors. Competitors in an existing product category are focusing on making products better for existing customers, and often neglect creating products for non-customers.

Creating new demand to broaden an industry

Blue ocean strategy looks outside the existing market boundaries and realize there is a larger set of potential buyers. Using the “four actions” described  by  Kim and Mauborgne in their book, we can discover and define new rules (important attributes) of a blue ocean:

Which of the factors that an industry takes for granted should be eliminated? Outcomes with an opportunity index of 10 or less are a good place to look for attributes and factors that could be eliminated to better create and serve a “non-hiring” market niche.

For example, Zipcar reasoned if it could eliminate the concept of owning a car, it could open up a whole new set of consumers who only needed a vehicle on occasion. People living in urban areas who normally take public transportation, might on occasion need a car to travel to places where public transportation poorly gets their job done (i.e. picking up groceries or outside the transportation network).

Zipcar defined a blue ocean where the incumbent auto makers and rental cars companies are not likely to compete by removing the hassles of owning a car, including the issues of parking and maintaining a car. And making it easier and more cost effective than renting a car,.

Which factors should be reduced well below the industry’s standard? Here again finding outcomes that are currently overserved represent an opportunity to simplify and eliminate cost for targeted new niches. Opportunity scores of 14 or under are prime targets of attributes that can be reduced.

For example, Yellow Tail Wine reduced wine complexity by making the wine structure uncomplicated and very “drinkable.” It removed the industry jargon that non wine drinkers struggle with so as not to make the new buyer feel dumb. It also reduced the range of product offerings to keep selections simple – red wines and white wines.

By making their wine simple and more approachable for the non-wine drinker, Yellow Tail defined a blue ocean that attracted a non-consumer who might otherwise had been intimidated by all the wine jargon and selections.

Which factors should be raised well above the industry’s standard? Opportunity scores of 10 to 15 represent attributes that can be improved.

In the case of Zipcar, a primary competitor is rental car services. Rental cars typically require going down a rental lot, signing contracts, and having to return it back to a central drop off point. That’s acceptable if you plan to rent a car for a day or more, but what if you only need it for an hour or two?  Hassle free access to a car for a simple errand provides Zipcar a unique competitive advantage.

Which factors should be created that the industry has never offered?  Opportunities with scores of 15 or greater provide a set of untapped attributes that open up uncontested blue oceans.

Here’s where Yellow Tail really broke tradition and defined a new market segment. They knew to attract non-wine consumers they needed a product that was “easy to drink” (i.e. taste good for first time wine consumers). Make the wine a lot easy for non-consumers to select (limited verities and easy to understand product descriptions). While creating a sense of fun and likable (snappy label and play off the Australian culture – bold, laid back fun and adventurous).

Combining Blue Ocean Strategy with Jobs-To-Be-Done Marketing Lens Reduces Risk

Blue Ocean provides a strategic framework to fundamentally shift the strategy canvas of an industry to create uncontested market space that make the competition irrelevant. But for it to be successful, the attributes a development team choses must be based on real market realities.

The Job-To-Be-Done framework provides the means to collect and analyze real market data to develop a blue ocean strategy. By using opportunity scores and grouping them into logical clusters, a marketing and development team will have a high level of confidence their new innovation is based on reality and not assumptions.

A caveat before diving into a blue ocean strategy

A critical caveat needs to be underscored before diving into your blue ocean. If our initial research into a job doesn’t include a diversified set of potential job executors – including non-consumers of currently known solutions, we are likely to miss the real opportunity and ability to define a blue ocean.

The reason is that if all we talk to our people who currently consume a product category, they will have their own set of criteria based on their experiences of already hiring a product. They cannot relate to why non-consumers of a product are not hiring available solutions, thus their data input, while valuable for product improvement innovation, won’t give us insights into deep blue oceans.

Choosing the right mix of subjects in your research is critical and a discussion we will have in upcoming articles.


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