Tools to Find Your Strengths (and Opportunities)

If you’re standing still, you’re going to get left behind. Small business owners know what that means. They’re always asking, “How can I take what I’m good at and make it even better?” Traditionally, SWOT exercises have been used to answer that question. But other tools, like the Blue Ocean Strategy, are available. Here’s a look at this tool to identify your business’ strengths and turn them into new opportunities.

It’s All in the Approach

The SWOT tool looks at factors within your business and in the marketplace. The idea is to see where you can leverage your strengths. Then you can take advantage of existing market opportunities.

Rather than competing in the existing market, the Blue Ocean Strategy (BOS) looks for ways your business can compete in new, uncontested markets. They’re called “blue oceans.” Instead of trying to be the king of the hill, the idea is to climb an entirely new hill. Then, it doesn’t matter what the competition does. You’re competing in a new market by yourself.

Kim & Mauborgne, who pioneered BOS, use the Nintendo Wii as an example. Rather than releasing a console with more bells and whistles, they launched a new console with innovative controls. Now they appeal to people who didn’t previously play video games, like seniors.

Tools Available

BOS has a series of tools that help businesses develop and launch blue ocean strategies. Here are a few of these tools:

  • Buyer Utility Map – This matrix helps you identify different uses for an existing product. That helps you attract new customers. It compares ways to create value through the different stages of the buying cycle. One of the most common is helping a customer do things better and faster.
  • Sequence of BOS – This tool offers a decision tree to help you evaluate whether you have a commercially viable “blue ocean” idea. Through an ordered series of questions, you look at customer value, price, profit potential and adoption hurdles.
  • Strategy Canvas – Graphically compare the factors that your industry competes on with the level of value they give to the customer. For example, restaurants in an area might offer take-out service. But without a drive-up window, customers don’t get much value from it. Blue ocean ideas are the ones with high value offering.

One way to avoid getting left behind is to reframe the way you think about competition. Instead of competing in existing markets, consider using your strengths to create new ones. The tools available in the Blue Ocean Strategy can help you start.

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