Ditch Lead Generation, Build Community

In lesson one of ditch lead generation, build community, we covered three significant blue ocean strategy frameworks leveraged for use by leaders who wish to build communities.

These communities are proving to be strong providers of lead generation and new business.

A quick review of the frameworks in lesson one.

The As-Is Strategy Canvas showcases the current key factors of competition and lays out the current state of play.

Community Builders As Is Strategy Canvas


Blue = LinkedIn

Red = Facebook

Yellow = New Community






The key factors of competition in this example are

  • Simplicity of Use
  • Access to Audience
  • Ownership of Audience by Group Owner
  • Media & Resource Sharing Tools
  • Integration/API with Other Tools
  • Investment Required
  • Privacy and Security
  • Customization Potential

They may be different in the case of the community you wish to build. The primary issue for consideration is establishing key factors of competition that are applicable to the competition. Without an understanding of where the opportunities for divergence exist, you won’t have sufficient distinctions in your community.

The second blue ocean strategy framework shared for use in building communities is the Buyer Utility Map. This could also be considered the user utility map. This provides one the opportunity to have strategic conversations with possible community members. The conversations lead to an understanding and useful insight around blockages to utility. These blockages in utility and the user experience are GOLD. These insights provide the opportunity to build solutions to problems and deliver better utility to the user across the entire experience. See below. 

buyer utility map for community builders

Third, we ended lesson one with the use of the ERRC Grid from the four actions framework. The ERRC Grid from Blue Ocean Strategy stands for Eliminate, Reduce, Raise, and Create.

When you think of ways to serve your audience with community, what will be the key features/costs/benefits that you will eliminate, reduce, raise or create?

As we move into lesson two of ditch lead generation, build community, we’ll discover additional blue ocean strategy frameworks that may be leveraged for use in community building.

The next framework we’ll use is the Three Tiers of Noncustomers. This fascinating view of the market is unique to blue ocean strategy. The premise is that a company’s best use of resources, new product launch, marketing, and support is aimed at noncustomers, not current customers.

The three tiers of noncustomers framework is visualized below.

three tiers

Imagine tier one to be your current connections on a social platform. They are your group members on LinkedIn or Facebook. Perhaps they include people on your email list. They are connected but not on a platform you OWN. By virtue of this fact, they are ripe for a more fruitful relationship with a community builder that will offer them more value than your loose connection.

Tier two noncustomers are those that are in relationship with other community builders receiving value that you don’t currently deliver. They are consciously choosing another community over yours.

Tier three noncustomers are where the excitement occurs. These people currently don’t know you. They aren’t being served properly by any community around the niche you’re targeting. With the right strategy, connection, and offer, they will adopt your platform in droves.

The first principle of blue ocean strategy is to reconstruct market boundaries to break from the competition and create blue oceans.

The authors of blue ocean strategy have spent years identifying clear patterns for creating blue oceans of uncontested markets. They found six basic approaches to remaking market boundaries.  They coined this the six-paths framework. The framework challenges the six most common assumptions companies tend to make when a strategy is built.

To break of your red ocean of bloody competition, and ditch lead generation, build community, you have to remake industry boundaries. Give yourself permission to do so!

Path 1: Look across alternative industries.

The key to path one is to ask important questions about how your preferred community member is solving for the problem you help them with via another alternative. What core utility or functionality is substituted for one another? An example includes personal finance. One might use a financial software package or a CPA or use a pen and paper. All are capable of the same thing. Include mobile apps in the mix and the ability to substitute one for another is very easy.

In our case, we would ask what are people using alternatives to our community to do? What are alternatives to our community? Trade associations? Chambers of Commerce?

Path 2: Look across strategic groups within industries.

Most companies and individuals seek to improve their performance or status within groups within industries. In other words, just flat out competing with one another. Luxury car companies compete with other car companies. Value-driven health clubs compete with value-driven health clubs. Cheap airlines compete with cheap airlines.

When looking at groups, why do people move up to another level in an industry group, why do they move down? Why do they join a more “exclusive” group? What is the value of invitation-only?

If you’re looking to attract a certain niche member into your community, identify where they hang out and why they joined. Poll them on the value they are receiving and ask them what they want in a community.

six paths framework

Path 3: Look across the chain of buyers.

In the majority of instances, you would insist you know who makes the decision in buying your services or products. You may be right most of the time. However, there are generally far more complex issues at stake when it comes to who your buyer may be. It is worth asking, who defines value for your offering?

You are wise to target a specific buyer persona. You’re ahead of the game by even defining your customer avatar. It’s time, however, to challenge an industry’s conventional wisdom.

Explore this example. RevGenius.  RevGenius was born out of a young man’s desire to serve people he sold copiers to in a new way. He wanted to avoid cold calls instead, opting for building relationships. After a few months of offering value, he exploded his sales numbers and now with nearly 12,000 members, the community is an ecosystem unto its own. He’s not having trouble selling copiers.

He knew his buyer persona and never stopped serving them specifically. However, a look across the chain of buyers in any industry will uncover influencers in the decision who need to be served and considered. Your community will be well served to include the assistant to the purchasing manager, not just the purchasing manager.

Ask what can your community do to shift an industry landscape? What is the chain of buyers in your industry? Who does the focus generally go to? If you shifted that focus, how might you add more value?

Path 4: Look across complementary product and service offerings.

Few communities operate in a vacuum. In most cases, there are ancillary products or services that affect the value to members. In most communities, for example, the member has to advertise to reach an audience. If they don’t advertise, they have to devise and implement content and sharing strategies that lead to conversions. Most online communities are subject to traditional means of monetization. If your tribe resides on a platform you don’t own, it is also subject to the algorithms of that particular community as well.

Think of the context in which your product or service is used. Ask what happens before, during, and after its use. What are your audiences doing during the before, during, and after phases, and how are their questions and contributions being addressed in their current communities? If they are not in a community, no worries. Remember, NONE of the online communities we belong to were in our minds 20 years ago.

Path 5: Look across functional or emotional appeal to your audience.

It’s clear how online communities are in great part built around emotion and not functional utility. With rare exception, it’s been proven that online platforms are served by fomenting hate, distrust, and accelerating the escalation of online disagreements.

Think about how your audience is being served, or not. Are they being served via emotional triggers? Are they being served solely with functionality that is void of any excitement, engagement, or fun?

If your industry competes on emotion and fun, a functional treatment of your community and the offerings it provides may be of use. If your industry competes on hardcore functionality, a suite of offerings around good humor and intelligent fun may be of interest. It will pay to investigate how disrupting traditional views of your industry may serve your audience.

Path 6: Look across time.

Assess your industry trends across time. To properly do so you have to cover three areas.

  • The trends must be decisive to your business.
  • The trends must be irreversible.
  • The trends must have a clear trajectory.

Strategists of all strategic models are at their best when they are doing this work properly. Why so? It’s pretty simple really. When the three factors above are in play, you can follow the trends to their logical conclusion and make a far more calculated bet on where to deploy resources, investments, and ditch lead generation, build community.

When asking in terms of a community, think this way. What trends are likely to impact my industry? Are they irreversible? Are they evolving in a trajectory? How are communities my possible audiences use addressing these trends? If they are not, opportunities exist.

The final Blue Ocean Strategy tool we’ll visit is the To-Be Strategy Canvas.

When you’ve answered the questions posed above and found your offering tweaked with the new-found knowledge and insights, you are able to modify your key factors of competition to reflect that insight. What you have as a result is a To-Be Strategy Canvas. Let’s take a look and an example.

To- Be Strategy Canvas for Community Builders


Blue = LinkedIn

Pink = Facebook

Yellow = NUCO






What we have visible in this To-Be Canvas is a substantial divergence in the value curve from the NUCO (New Community) when compared to Facebook and LinkedIn. The primary assumption above is that you as a community owner have solved for major issues.

One: You have found access to an audience. This may have come from a newly discovered underserved niche audience or a partnership or collaboration with a group that has no outlet meeting their needs.

Two: The next major divergence is in the ability to integrate API’s that allow custom collaborations between channel partners, service providers, marketing partners, and other custom integrations that will serve your audience.

Three: You see major divergence above in the areas of privacy and customization. These issues may be grounded in policies YOU and your team control. These differences are assumed to serve your audience in ways they prefer.

It is this divergence in the value curve that ultimately prompts your creative team to build the right story, narrative, and marketing plan that will drive engagement and adoption of your platform.

There are significant methods of developing pricing models, corporate and employee buy-in, and ongoing innovation in the Blue Ocean Strategy arsenal.

I trust that this lesson and lesson one in the series leads to more questions than answers. If you’d like to discuss how blue ocean strategy frameworks and tools may be applied to ditch lead generation, build community, don’t hesitate to connect.

If you’re interested enough to learn how to implement these tools on your own, visit https://boschallenge.com for information about the upcoming Blue Ocean Strategy Challenge. A five-day/six-session event featuring how-tos on all the tools above. The tightly organized 45-minute sessions will empower you to move forward with your own Blue Ocean Strategy implementation.

If you’d like to discuss any Blue Ocean Strategy application to your business, schedule a call. We love to talk about Blue Oceans across all types of industries. Schedule that call here!