12/05/2012 01:13 pm ET Updated Feb 04, 2013

Find Your Unique Niche in the Marketplace: 6 Steps to Creating Your Own 'Blue Ocean'

It is no secret that competition today has become increasingly intense. In fact, in today's highly competitive marketplace, the competition is so deadly fierce -- that the best and the brightest don't always succeed. Sometimes the best and brightest are annihilated by the competitors in the industry.

Whether you're starting a business, building a brand or trying to get that promotion at work, competition can do a couple of things. First, it can provide a false sense of what the industry is. That is, if you are trying to determine market needs, health, and trends by studying everything the competition is doing, how can you possibly expect to get an accurate picture about anything? What you're studying isn't industry truth; it's the competition's propaganda. There is no company that would portray themselves in a negative light on their website or in their marketing materials. So, in conducting much of the research into the health and strategies of your competitors, you might be getting a picture that's healthier than reality, you're gauging yourself against your competitors, it's difficult to get a realistic picture of what the market is really about.

So, how does one avoid these concerns? According to Kim and Mauborgne (2005), "...Instead of focusing on beating the competition, focus on making the competition irrelevant by creating a leap in value for buyers and your company, thereby opening up new and uncontested market space." In essence, "The only way to beat the competition is to stop trying to beat the competition." Create your own blue ocean. In considering these factors, the better strategy is to form and maintain your own unique standards, and determine what you will and won't do. In essence, stop thinking about simply trying to beat the competition and start thinking about enhancing yourself, your business, and your brand.

Consider the following steps when creating your own blue ocean:

1. Redirect your focus: focus on the Blue-Ocean Strategy.

The goal here is not to figure out how to fit into an established market. It's about creating an environment in which you are the only competitor, an environment in which you are the go-to person for your product or service. In essence, start thinking about yourself as the best and brightest. If you turn your focus inward, you'll be much more likely to become the next innovator that changes the market -- and who wouldn't want to be that next innovator?

For an entrepreneur, redirecting the focus means ignoring a competitor's predefined rules and values and starting to broaden your understanding of what your value is. Don't worry about what other people bring to the table for the customer; worry about what you bring to the table. Then, when you have clearly defined your strengths and all those things that make you who you are, you can begin to look at ways to accentuate that for your prospective customers.

For the traditional work environment, the task is to do things to make yourself more authentic. If you're competing with someone else, you only have to be better than that person. If you're competing with yourself, you're trying to improve yourself holistically. The latter leads to more positive momentum and longer-term personal gain.

2. Build a culture of improvement.

The best way to break free from the bonds of your natural competitive nature is to concentrate all your energy on improving yourself. No matter what you have done and no matter how much you have gained, you have to keep looking for ways to get better. You can't just rest on your accomplishments. You have to get up, keep moving, and keep improving!

3. Be okay with no.

If you're truly going to ignore what the competition is doing, you have to accept the fact that sometimes the competition will just be a better fit for certain people. You have to understand that "no's" are natural.

4. Don't compete and defeat.

The thing about business is that customers are going to go with their preference, no matter what you do. If you can figure out ways to bridge gaps with the competition--and even go so far as to do the unthinkable and work with the competition--you might find yourself in a better position to reach more customers than you ever could before. The same is true for the traditional work environment. Instead of trying to beat your competitor for that promotion, working with them might improve your chances of getting noticed by the managers that do the hiring.

5. Focus on the bigger picture.

The cookie cutter approach doesn't work for everything. What worked in the old environment might not necessarily work in the new. Your goal in focusing on the bigger picture should be to figure out how your authentic strengths and your authentic values might apply to a market that is far larger and much less refined than the one you left. Don't be afraid to do things differently. Don't be afraid to be yourself. Don't be afraid to accept clients from backgrounds you never could have anticipated.

6. Declare your independence.

The most promising factor that lies at the center of the Blue Ocean Strategy is independence. You're not just positioning yourself advantageously in the marketplace; you're freeing yourself from the bonds of competition and rules. Because you don't have the same rules as everyone else, don't be afraid to shake it up. Innovate wherever possible. Project your value onto the world. Never stop learning, growing, adapting, and evolving.

The bottom line when creating your own blue ocean is that, in order to succeed (in order to attract customers; in order to land that big promotion), you must always concentrate on delivering value. Always. The task here is that, while your competition continues to spend all their time and effort trying to figure out how to be better than you, you'll be trying to figure out how to maximize the value you bring to the table. Your competitor will be worried about your performance; you'll be worried only about how to better yourself. In the end, it will be this factor above all others -- your concentration on yourself and the value you have to offer -- that will lead to success.