Martin (Marty) Smith
December 24, 2013

Use A ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’ To Soar in 2014

Cirque du Soleil blue ocean swot

Cirque du Soleil Blue Ocean SWOT

Cirque du Soleil redefined “circus” creating a “blue ocean” where their value proposition could stand alone. Before Cirque du Soleil “circus” meant animals, brave performers and a nomadic tribe. Cirque du Soleil shifted circus to mean:

  • Acrobats and choreography.
  • Lavish sets and music.
  • Thrilling stunts.
  • Current cultural branding (Beatles Love, Michael Jackson).
  • Massive product development (there are 20 shows in USA right now).
  • Global branding.
  • We come to them.

Its no wonder Cirque du Soleil is a prominent example of “blue ocean strategy” in the book by Kim and Mauborgne. The book is an important read for Small To Medium Sized Businesses (SMBs), but practical and immediate needs may make adoption of a “blue ocean process” difficult. This post shares how SMBs can do simple things to identify “blue oceans” next year.

Start With A SWOT

Creating an honest Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis for your website and 3 to 5 competitors is a great place to start a “blue ocean” search. Create a spreadsheet to capture:

  • PageRank, pages in google, traffic, inboud links and website information with PageRankChecker, Google’s site: command, Alexa, SpyFu
  • Rate your website on 5 Stengel Brand Ideas: Exploration, Pride, Joy, Connection and Impacts Society.
  • Rate Keywords on KEI (Keyword Efficiency or searchers / competitive documents and by Stengel’s brand values).
  • Develop personas with pain points.
  • Add personas to keyword analysis (not shown).

Here is a rough example of a blue ocean SWOT created about a year ago for

SWOT Blue Ocean Analysis

See the value of having site, keyword, persona and branding information on the same page? was included to make the “platforms vs. websites” point. ReverbNation is platform where bands and music fans create pages of valuable User Generated Content (UGC) and then compete for traffic within the “commons”. is more akin to than ReverbNation, but ReverbNation’s effective “roll up tactics” are clear with millions of pages in Google, almost 70,000 inbound links and the SEO and content marketing power created from so much traffic and social currency. The “platforms crush websites” idea is critical since costs of developing platforms isn’t that much greater than traditional website development. Blue ocean strategies stretch imaginations more than wallets.

Create A Blue Ocean Strategy

Most Internet marketers prefer to hop into a known ditch and fight over every shovel of dirt. Creating a “blue ocean strategy” recognizes WHERE you are strong, evaluates competitor strengths and then turns all previous assumptions about your business on its head just enough to find a unique value proposition, a value proposition that exists in uncontested space like Cirque du Soleil did for “circus”.

There are many ways to create blue oceans online including:

  • User Generated Content Rollups – is a UGC rollup as is Facebook and Twitter. If create a platform others use to have conversations freely giving more and more UGC you’ve created a scalable rollup.
  • Content & Functionality Mashups – When Zipcar uses scaled social nets, GoogleMaps and a mobile app to create an in town car rental alternative they are mashing up several scaled systems to create a new idea. Creating Google maps on their own would be daunting tapping the Google Applications Program Interface (API) much less so.
  • Partnership Mashups – works great with business segments not online marketing savvy such as real estate where and are borrowing content from agents to sell back to them at a premium because these platforms are rolling up real estate information at market and national levels or where craft merchants tap a larger marketplace than they could individually thanks Etsy’s many partners.
  • Create A Commons – Commons, such as the one we created for cancer researchers at, create a “sum is greater than the parts” equation. Partners contribute content into a commons and that content is made more powerful because each partner contributes valuable content, social shares and traffic. At first the commons is tiny, but it grows rapidly from multidimensional support from many partners. Partners drive social shares, provide email marketing and a rich source of relevant content.

Blue Ocean Thinking

If you want to shake up your business vertical in 2014 adopt a blue ocean strategy. Creating “blue ocean” strategies, strategies not yet made red from over competition, requires letting some “preconceived” notions about Internet marketing go such as:

  • US vs. THEM – blue ocean strategies are about conversations and conversations dissolve lines between businesses and customers.
  • Proprietary vs. Open Source – Information with following and social support should be on your website with attribution no matter who created it.
  • Perfection vs. Early, Ugly, Often – perfection is a tyranny few Internet marketers can afford. Blue oceans require a lean fast and easy to change approach to development.
  • ROI vs. Blue Ocean Math – 2 + 2 = 4 ROI calculations can be blurry and out of focus at first since attribution (what is making what, when and why) is a bear online. Create fair attribution algorithms and error on the side of generosity. True blue oceans are so valuable stumbling around a bit should be expected and built into the plan.

Unify your marketing. We like Jim Stengel’s “Brand Ideas” as shared in his book GROW: How Ideals Power Growth and Profits at the World’s Most Powerful Companies. We like to determine the most important “brand ideal” and then use knowledge to organize everything from personas to keywords. Read How Your Unique Greatness Meets Customer Aspirations on Atlantic BT’s blog for more on brands, ideals, customers and keywords.

Where do most fail?

Most Internet marketing teams fail to find blue oceans. They prefer the comfort of the known. Knife fighting doesn’t scale. Someday someone will be better at the Internet marketing equivalent of “knife fighting” than your team. Blue oceans scale and then scale again and again. By the third time around competitors jump into your blue ocean thus confirming the paradigm shift. Ringling Brothers is desperate to look like Cirque du Soleil these days.

That moment, the moment a competitor must swim in your blue ocean, is when an Internet marketing team knows its won. Great Internet marketing teams know, despite the fact it could take competitors years to catch up, its time to find a new blue ocean. Time to find the next blue ocean before anyone watching even knows you are looking.

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Passionate cancer survivor, Internet marketer and former Director of Ecommerce who believes in Margaret Mead's quote, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Glad to be an "Editor of Chaos".

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