Blue Ocean for Solopreneurs. Reconstruct Boundaries with Path 5 of Six

Blue ocean for solopreneurs is a series written to provide a translation of the business best-seller Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant into language more useful for the solopreneur or small business owner. Today in Blue Ocean for Solopreneurs we Reconstruct Boundaries with Path 5 of Six.

Path 5: Look Across Functional or Emotional Appeal to Buyers.

Companies of all sizes generally default to doing what the competition does. There is generally little thought given to strategic planning that leads to true differentiation of one company’s product over another.

In most cases, companies will compete on functional price-oriented factors or emotional feeling-oriented factors. These two competitive defaults end up training the entire customer base of entire industries. The cycles of function or emotion become reinforced over time.

One example shared in the text is that of Swatch. The budget-oriented watchmaker managed to transform a functionally friendly watch segment into an emotional buy and as a result, the brand went global and sales exploded.

Another example includes QB (Quick Beauty) House. QB House understood the traditional barbershop experience in Japan was ripe for disruption and began delivery of highly functional haircuts that took a fraction of the time at a fraction of the costs of the Japanese barbershop experience.


QB House Strategy Canvas
Via Semantic House

As you see in the QB strategy canvas, laying out the key competitive factors (the horizontal line) is not rocket science. What are your industry’s key factors of competition? Once these are established, decision-makers may begin to assess how similar their offerings are to competitors. As a reminder, the Low to High vertical axis has to do with value.

So what does Blue Ocean for Solopreneurs; Reconstruct Boundaries with Path 5 of Six begin to mean for solopreneurs or small businesses?

Let’s look at an example or two. When one thinks of solopreneur operations like attorneys, insurance professionals, home improvement pros, and artists it’s easy to be overwhelmed.  

Let’s look at a local garage owner as a case study. HIs business is primarily built on word of mouth. His industry’s competitive factors are price, convenience, quality, warranty, and service. 

He wanted to grow his revenue in ways that facilitated growth in top-line revenue numbers without incurring more costs in labor and facilities. 

He did two significant things. 

  • Established a scheduling system that allowed customers to share likely known issues with their vehicle on an online form while setting up an appointment for service. 
  • He introduced a finance program that allowed for nearly instant approval for those customers who needed financial assistance. 

In this garage’s case, the high degree of loyalty to the owner led to an emotional feeling-oriented driven business. What was needed to grow the revenue without increasing costs was a functional utility that allowed for greater efficiency (online appointments) and new revenue (financing revenue). 

The pandemic of 2020/2021 has accelerated innovation in terms of a decade. What was going to happen ten years from now is NOW happening. 

Example? Law firms now conduct entire case onboarding online and on the phone without having met the individual they are serving in person. 

Does your industry and company compete on functionality or emotional appeal? If you compete on emotional appeal, what elements can you strip out to make it functional? If you compete on functional elements, what elements might be added to make it emotional? 

If you’d like a full assessment of your company’s current state of play or simply want to talk Blue Ocean for Solopreneurs. Reconstruct Boundaries with Path 5 of Six in a complimentary 30 minute Blue Ocean Strategy session, connect with me here. I’m anxious to hear more about your business.