Have you heard of the Blue Ocean Strategy?
Thinking about blue oceans is one of the keys to teacher-author success.
W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne wrote Blue Ocean Strategy for corporations and governments. Analyzing a variety of markets, they discovered that success requires getting out of the “bloody red ocean of rivals fighting over a shrinking” pool of customers, and instead creating ‘blue oceans’―untapped new market spaces ripe for growth.”
Now, I don’t really see teacher authors as sharks at each other’s throats (YMMV). One of the unique elements of successful teacher marketplaces is they embrace the philosophy that cooperation lifts all boats. Gentle competition is accepted, but cutthroat competition is socially discouraged. Nonetheless, creating a blue ocean will increase your chances of long-term success as a teacher-author. You create a blue ocean by offering something new and different.
Questioning Your Way to a Blue Ocean
Think about what makes your items unique and how they fulfill an unmet need among teachers. Is it a new product category? Is it the artwork? The functionality? Use of self-grading tools? Is it a newer and more effective way of addressing a standard? Is it your methodology for teaching the subject? Your time-saving tips? You student engagement success?
Consider how you can invite your teacher users to explore alternatives they may not have imagined and shift them to using resources and tools they may not have known about.
When thinking about what to create, ask yourself,
- What elements can I add or change to make my product stand out from what is typically available?
- Is there something that I can offer that wasn’t available before?
- What aspects of what teachers do now can I help them simplify or eliminate?
- Is there something my teacher users do now that they should stop doing?
Explore the market as it stands today. Using the Blue Ocean Strategy’s Buyer Utility Map as a starting point, ask your self what needs are currently satisfied, and what is unsatisfied?
Let’s take for example task cards. In this sample analysis, the red dots show what needs downloadable, printed-on-paper task cards satisfy. The blue dots show how offering you task cards as Boom Cards satisfies more customer needs, expanding the range of teacher buyers the teacher-author can reach.
Finding Commonalities Among Your Customers and Non-Customers (aka soon to be customers)
Another interesting aspect of creating a blue ocean strategy is to think not just about your current customers, but also about your “non-customers”. Let’s say your current customers are downloadable, printed-on-paper task card users. Your first tier of “non-customer” would be teachers who don’t yet but may soon purchase your resources. The second tier of “non-customer” is teachers who have seen what you offer and decided against purchasing your resources. The third tier is teachers who’ve never considered your resource as an option. When you identify commonalities among these teachers you identify ways to reach more teachers. For example, if a commonality is that schools are urging them all to print less, you can reach them by offering digital online resources.
Setting a Price
Price setting is always a conundrum. When setting a price, Kim and Mauborgne recommend that you first identify the price range that attracts the most buyers. You want to look at products similar to yours and alternatives to yours. (For example, if you make task cards, look at task cards and worksheets). Then identify the high, middle, and low end of that range.
If your materials primarily use purchased clip art and are easy to imitate, you would price on the lower end of the range. If your materials use purchased clip art, but combine them in unique and creative ways that are harder to imitate, then you would choose the middle of the range. If you create your own art and use it in ways not available to others, you can price at the higher end of the range.
How will you turn the ocean of available teacher resources blue?