Blue Ocean or Red Ocean – know your true value

This week I went back to Kingston Business School – where I studied for my Masters in Marketing – to hear a guest lecture on Strategy in Action.  Oliver Jones, CEO of Chayora presented a great case study of how a blue ocean strategy can ‘appear’ over time.  As he said, when you set off building a new business venture, you don’t necessarily know the questions fully yet, let alone the answers.

Which is why start-up company’s propositions often evolve for a few years before they find a focus.

Chayora are building data centres in China, to help international businesses access the Chinese online market; something you can’t do if your servers are outside the country.

What interested me was how the articulation of Chayora’s value proposition changed – from providing access to data centres in China, to helping organisations understand how to enter China.  This shift moved the company from focusing on the ‘what’, to focusing on the ‘why’ and leverages the knowledge they’ve developed of the Chinese market beyond their technical know-how with data centres.

This type of shift is something that value selling uncovers, as you work to understand the real needs you’re selling to.  And central to both a good value proposition and a blue ocean strategy.

As a brand marketing consultant, clients often come to me at the stage where they’re starting to see the need to shift beyond describing the features of what they do.   Working with them usually involves looking more broadly than the product or service they sell, to see which problems they really get hired to solve.

Whether you’re in a blue ocean or red ocean, differentiation is important.  In a blue ocean you create a different market, in a red ocean you fight to stand out against others in an existing one.  Either way you can’t differentiate how you deliver until you understand why you’re needed.

My advice this week is to take some time to ask your clients (and your sales teams) why they really hired you.  These conversations are never wasted and are often the first step to focusing your value proposition.  Whatever colour the sea is….