According to an article titled White Space Analysis: Avoiding the Commoditization Trap, they consider marketing to have “the same basic premise as football, judo, and hacking: find the opening and exploit it.”
Exploit is a bit of a strong word, so let’s use the word opportunity.
Marketers are always looking for opportunities to resonate with their target audience. At SKO, we look at what our client’s competitors are doing, not doing, or even doing poorly to pinpoint those opportunities. One tool to get the job done is white space mapping.
What is white space?
Simply put, white space refers to the gap between products or services your target customer is already vested in. The gap left by your competitors provides optimal space for you to move in to solve that specific pain point or fill a void in the market. Ideally, that gap would already be a product or service that your company has to offer or can easily accommodate.
To identify that gap or white space, you need to conduct a white space analysis, also referred to as white space mapping.
Avoid the commoditization trap.
The main benefit of white space mapping is avoiding the commoditization trap. Also known as the “fast follow,” the commoditization trap happens when a business sees its competitor experiencing success with a specific item or service and replicates it.
The trap: giving the customer the option to pick and choose between you and your competition.
When you provide a similar (if not the same) product or service as your competitor, your consumer has all the power. Now, you’re scrambling to offer a better price or deal, which could cost you more in the long run.
Instead, white space mapping allows you to find the customer spend that you aren’t receiving. So, while your competitor is making money doing Thing 1, ideally, you should focus on doing Thing 2.
As tempting as it is to replicate Thing 1, it may be beneficial to invest in new opportunities. That is why research is such an essential component of marketing, advertising, branding; you name it. By digging a little deeper, you can avoid the trap (among other things) and ensure your business is established as unique, authentic, and relevant within the marketplace.
Here is a simple example of a gap to be found from doing white space mapping for a restaurant that has options for families:
Your typical family-friendly restaurant will offer the standard kid’s menu and colouring books. Others cater to kids only by incorporating play areas, arcade games, and having a kid-focused menu. Both ways of doing business work and those restaurant owners have experienced success (e.g., Swiss Chalet, Chuck-E-Cheese). However, neither really balances out the two – the first leans more towards adults and the second towards kids.
Perhaps here you can find your opportunity. For example, could adding a small note on your menu offering to bring a child’s food precut to the table help a parent enjoy their more mature meal? Or rope off an area where smaller children can colour or play with a few toys to blow off steam.
Of course, this is a quick example, but it illustrates how white space mapping can help you pinpoint opportunities that will set you apart from your competitors.