To plot a new value curve, there are essentially four key questions that must be answered that can challenge a profession's strategic logic and business model:

Which competitive product/service offering that the profession takes for granted should be eliminated? This might be as simple as a budget review. It would not be eliminated from the services, but perhaps it could be done the same way it is done by most practitioners.

Which competitive product/service offering should be reduced in significance as a professional standard? The answer to this question might lie in what is least appreciated or used by your clients.

Which product/service offering should be raised in significance? Often, a financial advisor might identify something he/she does for clients that is "above and beyond the call of duty."

Which product/service offering should be created that the profession has never offered before?

The answers to the first three questions should lead to the fourth question's answer. However, that fourth question is the hard one, because it demands differentiation-the underlying principle of the Blue Ocean Strategy at its core. It is difficult, because if a firm is solely concerned with creating product/service offerings and it ignores the cost factors, it will have accomplished nothing. Often, those companies who embark on a path of blind innovation without regard to value, cost or client appeal find themselves losing rather than gaining.

For example, a firm might produce a comprehensive quarterly report for its clients with fancy charts, graphs, tables of figures, comparisons to indexes and lengthy commentary without first determining if such a report is warranted or even desired by the client.

Differentiation is about acquiring new business and not just strengthening existing client relationships. If, in the course of doing business, a firm finds that it works well with a certain group of clients, it could explore a brand identification that targets that particular group. This focus on specialization is a form of differentiation. Another way is to identify the specific characteristics of the firm's principal personnel (such as their experience, education, special certifications, etc.) and build a brand structure based on this as the case for differentiation. The key is to find that certain unique aspect of the profession that can be solely owned or used by the firm.

Presenting yourself to the public as "an advisor who serves the needs of families with estate issues" is not a sufficient display of differentiation.         There are probably 50,000 firms that do the exact same thing. On the other hand, presenting yourself as "an advisor who serves the unique needs of families with special-needs children and their estate planning issues" would be a step in the direction of the blue ocean. Building systems, procedures and deliverables that meet the needs of such a practice efficiently and profitably, while at the same time correctly targeting the client group with a compelling brand awareness that captivates those potential clients, would mean you have fully embraced the blue ocean strategy.   

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