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Finding Your Blue Ocean Using Jobs-To-Be-Done Marketing Lens

Blue Ocean is a strategic framework a company can use to discover and develop uncontested market spaces with little or no competition. Sounds good so far, but how do you find your blue ocean?

Recall from last week’s blog we discussed the “four action framework” and introduced the “six paths framework.” In future articles I am going to talk more about what the six path framework is and how it’s used to create a blue ocean. Before diving into the six paths, let’s back up a bit and look at how blue ocean and jobs-to-be-done marketing lens fit together.

Before we can go hunting for a blue ocean we have to decide where to begin our discover process. If you are an existing company, you already have a set of offers to address a customer need, but your offerings may no longer be unique from the rest of the competitive pack. While you may be able to compete nose to nose with competitors, “specmanship” and/or price becomes the preferred weapon of your battlefield leading to stalemate and declining profits. A red ocean by definition. You need new fertile ground to grow your business.

If you are a startup, most likely you have a general sense of a problem set where you think you can create a unique selling proposition and attract new customers. Your challenge is to find a niche where you aren’t competing nose to nose with an established incumbent. You can’t win in a red ocean as a new entrant. You need to find uncontested ground where you can become the market leader.

Blue ocean strategy is appropriate for both startup and established companies. But before you can apply blue ocean strategy in either situation, you need a deep understanding of what customers and non-customers (non-consumers) are really struggling with and/or wishing for. If they only just had…

In early blogs, we talked about the “jobs-to-be-done” marketing lens as framework to discover what customers want by understanding the underlying jobs they are trying to get done, the set of desired outcomes they want to achieve in getting the job(s) done, and the circumstances and constraints preventing them from achieving their desired outcomes.

Without knowing what problems people are trying to solve, and how well they are solving their problem, blue ocean strategy won’t help much in defining a successful new business. Similarly, without knowing the competitive landscape and all the alternatives that customers have – including non-consumption – jobs-to-be-done marketing lens by itself won’t guarantee a winning business strategy because the ocean you pick might just be a red ocean with competitors lurking to copy you and eat your lunch.

Blue ocean and jobs-to-be-done are complementary frameworks that 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 selling proposition currently not being offered now 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.

To define and measure the attributes, we turn to the job-to-be-done marketing lens. Recall that people have specific important jobs to get done and define their level of success through desired outcomes. We also know that there are constraints and circumstances that influence the level of satisfaction in achieving their desired outcomes. 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 defined from the job executer’s (customer’s) perspective versus the competition’s. Thus, we can create “new-rules-of the-game” to attract new customers and avoid head-to-head competition.

A blue ocean strategy takes shape over time as we gain more insight as to what customers really want and don’t want. Jobs-to-be-done marketing lens provides a method to know what customers’ value the most and the least in getting their jobs done. By knowing what these attributes are, blue ocean gives us a strategic context (four actions) and a clear view of the competitive landscape (six paths) to change the rules of the game and capture uncontested market space.

Now that we have a sense of how to define the key attributes of a strategy canvas, we will look at the six paths to create a blue ocean strategy.

Until the next time, happy swimming.


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