No Bullsh*t Strategy

3 ways to find strategic whitespace

Good day to every unicorn in the entire galaxy.

I went to Magic Kingdom at Disney World this week and was shocked to revisit it through my adult eyes.

I realized that Disney World is just a mediocre amusement park with outrageous prices and insane lines.

So why do 57,000 people pay $150+ each day to wait in line for mediocre rides and $15 chicken tenders?

Because those mediocre rides are dressed in Disney brands like Dumbo, Buzz Lightyear and Star Wars.

Disney’s unique value isn’t the rides: it’s the proximity your children get to the imaginary and magical worlds of Disney’s legendary characters and stories.

Don’t believe me?

Here’s The Magic Carpets of Alladin: the carpet cars go up and down as it rotates in a circle.

As I sat on this very ride, rotating mechanically around a fixed center, I realized it was the same ride I’d ridden at countless mediocre carnivals and amusement parks.

Basic amusement ride

What’s my point?

Disney is Disney because of it’s unique value:

Unique value is:

Value that your customer can’t get from anywhere else.

Nowhere else in the world can your kids get on rides that are branded with the context of their favorite stories and topics of imagination.

That’s why people pay ridiculous prices to stand in obscene lines.

Only is better than best.

No matter how much better you think you are than the other brands around you, it’s nothing in comparison to being the only brand who does what you do.

Today’s growth strategy is based on Alex Smith’s book, No Bullsh*t Strategy.

Strategy is the unique value your business provides to the market.

How to Find Strategic Whitespace In Business

White space is the gap between customer needs and the products or services that are currently available to them.

Alex’s thesis is that great strategies exploit white space.

“Great strategies produce companies which have no competitors at all.”

Alex M H Smith

Alex Smith identifies three approaches to uncover white space for your business strategy:

Method 1 - Context Shift

Frame your value against a different category or set of competitors than what you’re currently doing.

Context shifting as a strategy

The example Smith offers is of a cereal bar brand that lost traction in recent years due to the influx of healthier snack bars on the market.

Instead of trying to compete with healthier snacks, they positioned themselves as the “unhealthy person’s health food”. In other words, healthier than candy bars.

Now they are the obvious choice in the candy aisle for someone who wants a sugary snack with less guilt attached.

One way to access this “context shift” is to think about who your true competitors are.

Many people mistake other products that look like them as their competitors.

But you’re really competing for someone’s attention and money with anything that could be an alternative.

For example, a movie doesn’t just compete with other movies, it competes with all other forms of entertainment.

Method 2 - Unexpected value

This approach requires seeing past the conventions of your category to find a new way to enhance the value of the product.

“What is a form of value that would make sense in this category, but which nobody has ever thought of delivering before because it seemed irrelevant?”

Alex Smith

Smith offers the example of Method, the cleaning product company. They noticed that cleaning products were almost universally packaged in ugly, severe containers to reflect their powerful cleaning properties.

Which meant that people usually kept them out of sight.

So Method began providing cleaning products in beautiful packaging, which which suggested “a more gentle and higher quality product”.

An elegant bottle of cleaning solution

Method 3 - Contrarian value

Smith believes that contrarian value is the most powerful strategic approach of all.

What typically happens in a crowded market is that the competitors begin to look more and more like each other and they compete for dwindling share of the same market.

Only by rejecting something fundamental to that category can you occupy space away from the cluster of copycat companies who are all competing to be “the best” at the same thing.

Remember, only is better than best.

Smith offers the example of Southwest Airlines.

They rejected the prevalent strategy among airlines to compete for business travelers.

In fact, they don’t even offer business class or first class at all.

Instead, Southwest pursued a no-frills, low-cost carrier model.

Economy class only.

Two free checked bags.

No hub-and-spoke system used by other airlines.

Third largest airline in America.

“This is contrarian value. When you decide to attack or neglect something in the category that everyone else cares about and in doing so unlock new territory.”

Alex Smith

Contrarian value strategy

No Bullsh*t Strategy Summary

Offer compelling value to your customers.

Which lots of them want.

Which they can’t get anywhere else.

Which your products deliver effectively.

And which your brand communicates memorably.

These 3 approaches can be powerful thought exercises to change how you view your business.

Take 15 minutes to think through how you might apply each one to your business.

That’s it for today.

I hope this helps you in your growth journey.