Sep 2 2009

Book Short: Go Where They Ain’t

Book Short:  Go Where They Ain’t

Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant, by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne isn’t bad, but it could literally be summed up by the title of this post.  I think it’s probably a better book for people who aren’t already entrepreneurs.

That said, there are two chapters that I found pretty valuable.  One is called “Reconstruct Market Boundaries,” which is a great way of thinking about either starting a new business or innovating an existing one.  It’s a strategy that we’ve employed a few times over the years at both Return Path and Authentic Response.  It’s hard to do, but it expands the available territory you have to cover.  The classic Jack Welch/GE “we don’t just sell jet engines, we sell AND SERVICE jet engines” which expanded their addressable market 9x.

The other useful chapter was “Get the Strategic Sequence Right.”  The sequence of questions to answer, according to the authors, is:

  • Will buyers get enough utility out of it?
  • What’s the right price?
  • Can you cost it low enough to make good margin?
  • Are you dealing with adoption hurdles?

The reason I found this sequence so interesting is that I think many entrepreneurs mix the order up once they get past the first one.  It’s easy to start with market need and then quickly jump to adoption hurdles, cost things out, and go with a cost-plus pricing strategy.  The book documents nicely why this order is more productive.  In particular, pricing first, then costing second, is both more market-focused (what will people pay?) and more innovative (how can I think creatively to work within the constraint of that price point?).

The common theme that’s most interesting out of the book is that new frameworks for thought produce killer innovation.  That’s clearly something most entrepreneurs and innovators can hang their hat on.