freelance copywriter, copywriting tips, white papers, rainmaking tips

As part of my ongoing dedication to keep you, my readers, to keep you up to date on the latest marketing information relevant to the freelance copywriter (no, you don’t have to thank me) I read a lot of books on marketing and copywriting.

The latest book I am reading is, The Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. The premise of the Blue Ocean Strategy is that most businesses spend their time and efforts competing over each others’ clients until there is blood in the water, turning the ocean red.

In contrast, Kim and Mauborgne look at businesses that have been so innovative they have made their competitors irrelevant. These businesses pursue a concept called “value innovation” which creates new markets and even new industries.

The authors begin with the example of Cirque du Soleil, which set out to create a circus that did not compete with the likes of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey or any other circus. Instead, Cirque created a new market by combining the best and most profitable attributes of both the circus and the theater.

For example, Cirque features no animal acts, which are by far the most expensive shows within the traditional circus. Instead they offer creative acts centered around a theme that appeals to a more grown up artistic taste.

Cirque also allowed the other circuses to compete in the red ocean of the children’s and family market. Their reasoning was that not only have these markets have already reached the upper limit of ticket prices, they are also shrinking markets as children have so many competing entertainment options.

The Blue Ocean Strategy’s authors suggest that we have only to look back 100 or even 30 years ago and ask what industries we take for granted now did not even exist then. And yet most business books, strategists and thinkers spend ALL their time focusing on how to compete in existing industries for existing markets. And this goes on regardless of whether those markets are stagnant or even shrinking.

So what does this have to do with the freelance copywriter whose job it is to write the ads, web content and other marketing materials? Seldom are we given the opportunity to guide marketing on a strategic level (perhaps I should say, never). But we are entrusted to craft creative selling appeals.

Recently I wrote an article called, Freelance Copywriter Secrets: 10 Steps to Writing a Powerful USP (Unique Selling Proposition), in which I explained how futile it is to compete with the big fish in the pond when instead you should be trying to create your own pond and become the only fish that occupies that pond. Translated into marketing jargon, that means to create your own category and OWN that category.

This is exactly how Cirque du Soleil went about doing business. They refused to compete against the traditional circuses for the same customer base of children and families. Instead they targeted a different audience of adults who were already accustomed to the comparatively higher ticket prices of theaters, and corporate clients who needed entertainment for a corporate event.

None of this is easy. It requires a tremendous amount of creative thinking to create a whole new category. But here are a few ideas that may help to trigger ideas:

  • What needs or customers are your competitors NOT serving? As in the Cirque du Soleil example, they brought a whole new target audience to the circus by reinventing the concept to appeal to that new audience.

  • What single benefit do you offer that you can build your brand identity upon? M&M Candy became famous for “melting in your mouth not in your hands.” They were not the only candy that could have made that claim, but once they made it no one else could very well have said, “we don’t melt in your hands either.” Likewise, Dominos Pizza was not the first pizza chain to offer fast delivery, but Dominos touted that single benefit over even the taste of their pizza and came to own the fast delivery category.

  • Can you focus the spotlight on what your competitors don’t do? When FedEx first came on the scene their slogan was, “when it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” They certainly weren’t the first parcel delivery company, but they created their own blue ocean by focusing on one concept, overnight delivery.

By no means is this list exhaustive, but it may take you a long way in your thinking. And hopefully you will soon be swimming alone in your own blue ocean. And your competitors will be irrelevant.

freelance copywriter, copywriting tips, white papers, rainmaking tips


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