When McDonald's first opened its doors, they had two items on the menu: burgers and fries. After surveying competitors, the founders saw that in order to stand out as a food company, they had to be different. Instead of offering a multitude of menu options, they decided to hyper-focus on the bestsellers, which catapulted their customer satisfaction.
What McDonalds' founders did was find white space opportunities in their industry. While other fast food restaurants at the time were offering a diverse menu but lacking in customer service — the McDonald's team decided to focus on two items so customer service would be at the forefront.
By surveying what was missing from the market, McDonald's was able to grow into a billion-dollar empire. The founders saw what customers were lacking and turned that industry gap into a success.
But what exactly are white space opportunities, and how can they be an asset to your company? Let's find out below.
What is a white space opportunity in business?
A white space is where the unspoken, unmet needs of customers are discovered in order to spark innovation. It's a business process used to uncover opportunities, like new audiences and product improvements.
Sometimes, consumers don't know what they need until, well, they need it, so it's up to companies to be proactive. White space opportunities help marketers uncover customer needs that haven't yet been met.
It's a useful tactic when identifying how to provide the most value to customers. But, because white space opportunities aren't as obvious as, say, keyword opportunities, it can be hard to know where to start.
Sounds pretty taboo, right? How can businesses uncover value customers are looking for when the customer themselves aren't sure what they want? However, you may already have the right tools and knowledge at hand — they just need to be shaped for white space opportunities.
Let's talk about what you can do to find white space for your company.
How to Find White Space Opportunities in Business
- Innovate upon what you offer customers.
- Target a different audience segment.
- Ask customers how they use your products.
- Find where your company is different.
1. Innovate upon what you offer customers.
One of the best places to start with finding white space is within what you currently offer customers. Think of Apple's iPod. Apple's team probably came up with the idea to add a music player to their product stack by looking at what they already produce. Then, they figured out what other forms of entertainment they can make accessible with their resources.
Consider identifying where, in your products, you can spot white space. Ask yourself where customer needs are and aren't being met. For example, if your blog team comes across a topic with high interest from your followers, but haven't written about it yet, that's white space.
Then, you can decide how to innovate: Are you going to write a series of posts about the topic, include subcategories for smaller posts, or turn the topic into an ebook?
2. Target a different audience segment.
If you're struggling to find where you can innovate for a certain audience, maybe it's time to shift your focus. Consider targeting a different part of your audience. For instance, if you're hyper-focused on providing value for your content marketing audience segment, consider the white space you might have for SEO audiences.
Let's say you're in charge of a social media marketing agency focused on B2B clients in the technology sphere. Well, there are plenty of those — and yours is getting lost in the shuffle. Time to find white space.
Instead of marketing your company as one focused on B2B clients in technology, you decide to shift your customer base to one that serves B2B developers. While this is still in the technology space, your focus on a different audience segment allows you to reach out to a market that's not as saturated in your industry.
3. Ask customers how they use your products.
Research how customers fit your offerings into their day-to-day. You might find white space you didn't know existed.
For instance, if you're part of a company that focuses on chatbot software, survey your customers and ask them for their stories. Ask them how your services fit into their companies and webpages.
Let's say you find that customers really enjoy using your chatbots for lead nurturing on ecommerce sites. That's an area you missed during the initial launch, but knowing this, your team can now work on making chatbots more online shopping-friendly. Maybe you add a way for your customers to demo their products and prices within the chat.
That white space will help you serve your customers and improve their selling strategy.
4. Find where your company is different.
Imagine you're in charge of an analytics software company. Aware that there's a countless number of those companies in the market, you're struggling to find white space.
In your business plan, you recognized that your company is going to be an easy-to-use, intuitive platform. That's the element that sets you apart from competitors. That's white space.
A lot of analytics and reporting software is hard to implement. Yours eliminates the struggle of turning numbers into results. Your company is going to be the one that's user-friendly — even a newbie can find success.
Additionally, you can use this discovery to find the most qualified leads. If your company is struggling to find white space, revisit your business plan. You may uncover the tactic you need to get back on track.
White space can be used to solidify your company's branding strategy. Maybe you're struggling to identify where your product fits in the market. If you find a space for innovation, you can use that to strengthen how your company is seen by others.
The McDonald's founders didn't have to look far for their opportunities, but things have changed since the 1950s. You might have to dig a little deeper and do some research, but ultimately, your business has something about it that's attractive to customers. Once you find it, you'll be able to keep delighting your clients, growing your company, and changing the industry.