Strategy Canvas: Visually Map Your Industry’s Competitive Factors

two women having a meeting inside glass panel office

The strategy canvas is a tool from the Blue Ocean Strategy that allows you to visually see the current strategic landscape of any industry, how your business fits in, and the future state you want to be in.

Like the buyer utility map, the strategy canvas also helps you see what the industry is focusing on and at what levels the key players are investing in but from a different perspective.

What Is the Strategy Canvas?

The strategy canvas is a graphic that shows you an industry’s or company’s strategy, what they focus on, and the value customers receive.

Strategy Canvas from The Blue Ocean Strategy
Strategy Canvas from The Blue Ocean Strategy

It is composed of two axes:

  1. The horizontal axis which captures the key factors an industry competes on and invests in; and,
  2. The vertical axis which captures the offering level that buyers receive across all the key competing factors

The line graph that you get after plotting out the competing factors and offering level is called the value curve or strategic profile.

In the example above, the red line represents the industry’s value curve. Companies in the industry generally follows the same strategic profile—they invest in the same competing factors, offer the same things, and customers get the same level of value from it.

The blue line represents a blue ocean strategic move. You’ll notice the value curve is completely different from the industry’s value curve. More on this below.

Benefits of the Strategy Canvas

There are many benefits from using the strategy canvas.

First, the strategy canvas helps you understand the strategy of the industry players. And if you add your own strategic profile, you can see if it is similar to your competitors or not. By visually plotting the strategies of the industry and your own, it makes it easier to understand your own strategy.

The strategy canvas also helps business leaders communicate its strategy to its employees and other key stakeholders. According to a research by the Harvard Business Review, 95% of a company’s employees are unaware of, or do not understand, its strategy.

If the employees who are closest to customers and who operate processes that create value are unaware of the strategy, they surely cannot help the organization implement it effectively.

—Harvard Business Review

Lastly, creating your current or as-is strategy canvas provides a baseline for change. If you and the major industry players all have the same strategies, this is a great opportunity to stand out. Instead of competing with each other, normally in form of price wars, you can look elsewhere to find more lucrative opportunities.

How to Use the Strategy Canvas

You can use the strategy canvas in two ways:

  1. Capture the current state of play in your industry —this is called the as-is strategy canvas
  2. Drive action to change and create a to-be strategy canvas

By capturing how you and your industry competes, you get to visualize how similar your approach is to one another. This is the first step you should not skip.

Oftentimes, when you try plotting out the industry’s strategy canvas, you’ll see two profiles that emerge—high-end and low-end players. The two curves will look similar. The only difference is the offering level.

Take a look at the strategy canvas for the wine industry. You’ll see that there are premium wines and budget wines. So, how do you stand out?

Strategy Canvas of Wine Industry
Strategy Canvas of Wine Industry

In most cases, businesses rely on one tactic—promos or discounts. This pushes everyone in the industry to compete solely on price. But unless you have a low-cost infrastructure in place, you won’t be able to compete as well as other brands. Think of the Walmarts and Amazons—they can command a low price in their offerings and still gain a profit because of economies of scale.

And as brands become more similar, people increasingly base purchase choices on price.

—Blue Ocean Strategy

After plotting out the industry’s value curve, you then layer in your own. If you are objective, you will find that you will fall on either the high-end or lower-end of the spectrum. Meaning, your strategies are similar to everyone else.

But that means you can no longer deny that you need to change your strategy if you want to succeed and become more profitable. And that’s the second way you can use the strategy canvas—plot your future state.

This visual graphic is a powerful tool in persuading leaders and other executives to stop their status quo thinking. Instead of competing for the same pie that just keeps getting smaller, why not make your own pie?

Instead of coming up with “clever” ways to get customers to buy from you, shift your thinking to whether or not you are actually adding exceptional value to your customers.

“By questioning conventional definitions of who can and should be the target buyer, companies can often see fundamentally new ways to unlock value.”

—W. Chan Kim, Blue Ocean Strategy

One way to achieve this is by applying the four actions framework.

Four Actions Framework Overview

The four actions framework is an accompanying tool to the strategy canvas. It’s a different way of thinking that challenges the assumptions you and everyone else is making about the industry and the customers.

After plotting out the strategy canvas, you ask yourself these questions:

  1. Eliminate—which factors that the industry takes for granted should be eliminated?
  2. Reduce—Which factors should be reduced well below the industry’s standard?
  3. Raise—Which factors should be raised well above the industry’s standard?
  4. Create—Which factors should be created that the industry has never offered?
Four Actions Framework from Blue Ocean Strategy
Four Actions Framework from Blue Ocean Strategy

Strategy Canvas Case Study: How [yellow tail] Entered the Mature Wine Industry

Here’s a great case study of using the strategy canvas and applying the four actions framework. Watch this video for a quick overview.

Crafting Winning Strategies in a Mature Market: The US Wine Industry in 2001

In July 2001, Australia’s Casella Winery introduced [yellow tail] into this highly competitive US market. Small and unknown, they had expected to sell 25,000 cases in their first year. In fact, they had sold nine times that amount. By the end of 2005, [yellow tail]’s cumulative sales were tracking at 25 million cases. [yellow tail] soon emerged as the overall best selling 750ml red wine, outstripping Californian, French and Italian brands. This case examines the strategic move executed by [yellow tail] that made it the number one imported wine and the fastest growing brand in the history of the US and Australian wine industries.

Strategy Canvas Example: Wine Industry

Strategy Canvas of Wine Industry

Let’s go back to the strategy canvas of the wine industry. You’ll notice two value curves: premium and budget wines. They all compete on the same factors but buyers receive different levels of value.

Remember, this was back in the early 2000s.

Premium wines have higher prices, use more fancy language, and pride themselves in their history and Appellation d’origine contrôlée. Budget wines communicate the same way but offer “less” in the same factors.

Strategy Canvas of [yellow tail]

Now, let’s take a look at [yellow tail]’s strategy canvas

[yellow tail] strategy canvas
[yellow tail] strategy canvas

The first thing you’d notice is the strategic profile of [yellow tail] is completely different from the industry players. Here’s what they did through the lens of the four actions framework:

  • They eliminated certain factors like using fancy wine terms, marketing, and aging. This helped reduce the costs normally associated with it.
  • They reduced investments on some factors such as their vineyard prestige, wine complexity, and offerings.
  • They also raised their prices above budget wines
  • Lastly, they created several factors to reach a bigger market

Doing these things simplified the wine selection for many consumers which contributed greatly to their success.

Historically, the industry has proudly promoted wine as a refined beverage with a long history and tradition. This has alienated a large portion of consumers who have viewed wine as intimidating and pretentious. Alternatives — beer, spirits and ready-to-drink cocktails — have captured three times as many U.S. consumer-alcohol sales.


Instead of competing directly with the industry players and blindly taking for granted the value consumers get, they created a new space. They made their competition irrelevant.

3 Characteristics of a Good Strategy

Since we’re talking about strategy, let’s look at three characteristics of a good strategy according to the authors of the Blue Ocean Strategy.

  1. Focus
  2. Divergence
  3. Compelling Tagline

You’d see how [yellow tail]’s strategy met those three criteria. They are focused on providing simple, uncomplicated wine selections to the mass of alcohol drinkers. They’re also not competing on the same factors as others.

Let’s take a look at another example: Southwest Airlines.

Sample Strategy Canvas of Southwest Airlines
Sample Strategy Canvas of Southwest Airlines

As you can see above, Southwest Airlines’ strategy has an extreme focus on customer needs such as friendliness and speed. They also created a new factor that was previously non-existent.

They realized that people traveling needed to go from point A to point B fast. And that’s what they delivered. They reduced and eliminated other factors like lounges and seating classes. They simply focused on getting their passengers to where they wanted to go.

Over to You

For most people, strategy seems to be something not tangible. For some, it’s a document with slides and spreadsheets that you just visit once a year. But if you want to succeed, your strategy needs to be clear and communicated throughout your entire organization.

At its simplest definition, a strategy is how you achieve your goal. Using the strategy canvas helps you document your strategy in one graph.

Plot out your industry’s value curve then add your own. Compare them to see if they look similar or not. Oftentimes, you’ll realize that everyone is competing on the same things and the value the customers get are also the same.

If it’s similar, what factors can you eliminate, reduce, raise, or create? Don’t assume that these factors every other industry player invests on is what the consumer wants or needs.

How does your strategy compare to others? What does your strategy canvas look like?

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the strategy canvas?

The strategy canvas is a tool from the Blue Ocean Strategy that helps you visualize any industry’s strategy and develop your own as well. It’s composed of two axes: the factors the industry competes on and the level of value a buyer receives.

How can I use the strategy canvas?

There are two main ways to the strategy canvas: identify the current state-of-play in any industry and use it as a starting point to drive action to change.

What do I do if my strategy looks the same as my competitors?

When your strategy looks similar like everyone else, apply the four actions framework to break away from what everybody else in the industry is competing and investing on.

How I Make a Living as a Full-time Freelancer

woman sitting on the floor using a laptop

Ten years ago, I earned $66.23 in my first freelancing gig. It was a data entry job for some real estate company.

I can’t exactly remember why I tried Odesk then, or how I got there. But one thing that I can still clearly remember is the feeling I had when I opened my bank account and saw my earnings there—this can work.

Today, I’m still using the same platform but it’s now called Upwork. It still makes up the majority of my income but for the past few months, I’ve been building different income streams so I don’t depend on one income source alone.

Regardless of which stage you are in your freelancing journey, let me say one thing: you can make a career out of freelancing.

You’ll make mistakes along the way. You’ll experience a lot of ups and downs. It might take a while to replace your full-time income or the goal you set for yourself, but you’ll get there eventually.

Why I Started Freelancing

As with most freelancers, I started because I wanted to earn extra money. I didn’t have a goal back then nor have any plans. All I know is that I wanted to earn more so I can buy the things I want.

I worked in our family business straight out of college. In the morning, I helped out with admin stuff and some basic project management. At nights, I logged hours in Upwork.

After a while, I stopped hustling. Life happened. It was also during this time that I left the family business and worked in corporate.

I poured myself into my day work more, or hung out with friends instead of pursuing my side gig. Another factor that contributed greatly is my average commute time takes about 2 hours back and forth. By the time I get home, I’m drained physically.

Why I Still Freelance Today

In 2016, I was fired from my job. This was a few weeks before my wedding. Talk about bad timing, right?

But I didn’t panic. I have a fallback plan. Freelancing.

Since I “know” I’m good at what I do and have the results to back it up from my corporate jobs, I know I can quickly get some clients.

The next day, I started sending out proposal in Upwork to make up for my lost income.

I never looked back.

Today, there is one primary reason why I focus on freelancing: to enjoy the freedom that comes with it. I want to control:

  1. Where I work
  2. When I work
  3. What I work on
  4. Who to work with

Personally, it’s the ‘who’ that matters more to me right now. I had some terrible experiences with bosses and clients over the years. And it has affected me greatly. That’s why I don’t want to go through that again.

And because I learned from my past mistakes, I have the luxury to not accept any project that comes along my way. I don’t have to force myself to work people whose values aren’t aligned with mine.

What Full-Time Freelancing Looks Like

For the past 12 months, my average monthly income is around $2500. This is solely coming from direct freelancing work—actively trading my time for work.

I’m still building my “passive” income streams so I don’t have much to share there yet. But what I’m exploring are real estate, affiliate sites, paid newsletters, and writing on Medium.

Here’s What My Average Day Looks Like

I work 7 days a week. 10 hours on weekdays and 5 hours on weekends. That’s a mix of client work and personal projects.

7-8 AM: Morning routine—waking up, brewing coffee, a little bit of exercise and stretching

8-11 AM: Personal projects—depending on the day, it’s either working on my affiliate site, own website, or other stuff. Generally, this is the time I use for writing or researching to move the needle on the projects I’m working on.

11-12 PM: Planning and prioritizing client work—I check email, my Trello board, and other messaging apps to assess which ones I need to work on for the day.

12-1 PM: Lunch and afternoon coffee; maybe take a short nap or do some other admin stuff

1-6 PM: Client work and/or meetings—this is spread out on multiple projects and clients.

Not every day looks like this but generally this is how my weekday looks like. Sometimes I switch client work with personal projects or allot the entire day for clients. But that’s rare. Sometimes I also work beyond 6PM. This is mainly to accommodate time zone differences for my clients.

On weekends, I use it for personal projects or for catching up on some client work if I didn’t get to finish some during the week.

I limit myself to working in the mornings only during weekends. That way, I have the afternoon off to rest and spend time with my wife.

On Priorities

If you noticed, I spend the majority of my work day on client work. They are my priority for my freelancing business.

Creating customers (and keeping them) is the reason why businesses exist. And as a freelancer, adding value to them is the most important thing you can do.

If you don’t prioritize them, sooner or later, you’ll find yourself stuck in the vicious cycle of feast and famine that a lot of freelancers face.

But, you also don’t want to solely focus on your clients’ businesses. You need to build your own business as well. That’s the reason why I try to move the needle every single day.

Depending on how you work, it may be different for you. For example, I know some freelancers who spend weekdays for client work and weekends for their personal projects. While that is another option, I tried it, and it doesn’t work for me.

On Side Hustles

It’s foolish to rely on one income stream. You’ve heard it over and over, wealthy people have 7 different sources of income.

I have 3 right now, but still in the early stages. My main source of income is direct freelancing work where it makes up around 90-95% of my total monthly income.

When the pandemic hit, that income got slashed by 70%. Since I spent the last few months building my emergency fund, I didn’t worry. Plus, I know there were several industries that weren’t affected as much as others. These were the ones I can target and find new clients.

That said, I still have a long way to go. But I’m putting in the time and effort to grow other incomes streams. And so should you.

Freelancing Is an Option

I know some people who were forced into freelancing because they lost their jobs. It may seem scary, but know that you can make a career out of freelancing.

No matter your reason, or stage in your freelancing journey, remember that you are not alone.

What side projects are you working on right now? Are you relying on one income source, or are you building several ones?

How I Squashed My 2019 Website Traffic in 99 Days

man viewing tablet

Last April, I broke a new personal record.

I surpassed last year’s website traffic in just 99 days of 2020. And for a freelancer like me, this is big because I’m reaching a wider audience. That means more opportunities for people to find my work, learn what I do, and potentially work with me.

Here’s a screenshot of my Google Analytics account showing the traffic for the entire 2019 and the first 99 days of 2020.

2019 Website Traffic in Google Analytics
2019 Website Traffic in Google Analytics
First 99 Days of 2020 Website Traffic in Google Analytics
First 99 Days of 2020 Website Traffic in Google Analytics

I’ve had my website since 2014. I started it because I thought it was cool to have my own website. Back then, I was still working in corporate. I didn’t think about branding or monetizing it. I just wanted to brag to my friends that I have my own website.

By the time I was freelancing in 2016, I only updated it once in a while. My priority back then was my clients. Looking back, that was a terrible decision.

Why You Need to Prioritize Your Own Business

If you are freelancing, you are a business. That means, you have to spend time to build it. You have to work on your business, rather than in it.

There is nothing wrong with prioritizing your clients. In fact, my work day is focused on client work. But if you prioritize your clients’ without thinking about how it will also help you, you’re doing it wrong. Trust me. I’ve had my fair share of famine periods because I didn’t take the time to grow my own business.

Most freelancers suffer from the vicious cycle of freelancing. It’s where you have certain periods of the year where you have projects, are busy, and have money. But after that project, all those go away. You’re left struggling to find new clients to work with.

Some refer to this as the feast and famine periods.To escape this vicious cycle, you need to put in the time and effort to grow your own business. For me, that was growing my website traffic through writing new articles and content.

Here are the 5 steps I took to grow my website traffic.

1. Decide and Commit Upfront

In 2018, I worked for a horrible client. It was the worst experience I had in my entire professional career. It was back then that I realized I needed to do something about my own freelancing business.

But as I’m sure you know, life happens. We all become busy and forget things.

After that experience, I had a chance to work with a great client. I was busy with work and life was good. Fast forward to mid-2019, this client suddenly stopped communicating for almost two weeks.


I couldn’t sleep well during this time and I scrambled to find a potential replacement for 90% of my income source. Thoughts about my previous experience came rushing back. I didn’t want to go through another famine period.

Then I remembered my decision a year before that I shouldn’t neglect my own business and solely focus on my clients. So, I started outlining a plan. In December, I announced publicly what I’m going to do. This forced me to work on what I planned on doing. And it helped out a lot.

Why It Works

This public announcement is called a forcing function. According to Dan Martell, it is “any task, activity or event that forces you to take action and produce a result.”

The concept is also similar to consistency—one of the principles of persuasion written by Robert Cialdini in his book, Influence. It also meets these three criteria:

  1. It’s an active commitment
  2. Also public
  3. And voluntary

Once you make a public commitment, you don’t want to appear inconsistent with yourself. That’s why you would want to do something about it.

2. Speed Up My Website

The first thing I did was improved the speed of my website. I shared the exact steps I did to achieve 90+ scores on Google PageSpeed Insights here.

Google PageSpeed Insights Showing 90+ Score
Google PageSpeed Insights Showing 90+ Score

In the SEO world, this was a highly contentious subject. Some experts believe it’s important, while some say it doesn’t matter.

My decision was based on my users’ experience. This is a good principle to follow: when in doubt, focus on what would benefit your users more.

So, I asked myself this question, “Would my readers enjoy a faster website speed or not?”

Looking at it from my users perspective, the answer I got was a resounding yes.

Why It Works

There are several things at play here.

  1. The higher position you are on search engines, the more traffic you get. The #1 result in Google’s organic search results has an average click-through rate of 31.7%. It’s also 10x more likely to receive a click compared to the one in #10 spot.
  2. All things being equal, you need to be at the same playing field as other websites on page one. The average page loading speed for a first page result is 1.65 seconds. If your website loads 10x slower, you’ll have a hard time getting to page one.
  3. The faster your website, the less probability of people bouncing. Bounce rates affect your site rankings.

Bottom line: speed up your website. Aim for 2-3 seconds.

john mueller tweet website speed

3. Write New Content Frequently

Yup, it’s one of those tips that you always read about—write new posts frequently. Most suggest writing daily. But writing doesn’t mean anything. It’s just an activity. What matters more is publishing those posts.

It may seem small, but look at it from this perspective: all results are external. What this means is writing 1000 words daily won’t get you any results. It won’t help you grow your website traffic. It’s only when you hit publish where you can get results.

But I didn’t publish daily for the 99 days. In fact, I only published 31 posts in that period. What I did was a 30-day writing challenge. From January 1 to 30, I published one new post on my website and another one in March.

Why It Works

You’ve heard it several times before, 80% of success is showing up. Yet most people don’t want to put in the hard work. If you want to increase your website traffic, then it’s imperative you keep posting new content.

4. Update Old Blog Posts

Updating older articles is a quick way to generate more traffic to your site. It’s quick and easy to do.

Blog post traffic is compounding, which means it gains organic results over time. This is why updating posts are important. This gives you more reads, more recognition, and possibly, more fans.


Here’s a high-level overview of how to do it:

  1. Login to Google Search Console and find your website domain
  2. Search for the pages you want to improve
  3. Find the keywords/phrases that page is already ranking for
  4. Add those keywords/phrases to your blog post: create new sections if needed.
  5. Update screenshots and copy to reflect changes (i.e. Google Adwords to Google Ads).
  6. Re-publish your blog post

Since I have my website since 2014, I already have a bunch of posts. I aimed to update 2-3 articles a day. I prioritized this my looking at which posts are already getting the most traffic. That’s what I updated first then moved down my list.

If your site is new, then you don’t have to worry about this. A good rule of thumb is to repeat this process every 3-6 months. Look at which keywords that page is already ranking for, see if you can improve it further, the republish.

Why It Works

Updating old content is based on actual data. Using the tactic I shared above eliminates the guesswork out of search engine optimization.

The data you see in Google Search Console is the actual keywords or phrases people use to type in Google. When your website pages show up, it gets logged there. So, by using those keywords more, it sends a signal that this page is more relevant to users.

One word of caution: make sure you add them naturally. Don’t stuff keywords just because you want to rank higher and get more traffic. Only add them if it makes sense.

5. Distribute Your Content

Distributing your content is an important step you can’t neglect. Competition for people’s attention is very high these days. As I’m writing this, there are over 3.5 millions blog posts written on the WordPress platform alone. This doesn’t include other forms of content such as videos, snaps, stories, and tweets.

When people publish their content, they think that people will find their work organically on Google. Unfortunately, the statistics aren’t in your favor. 90.63% of content doesn’t get any traffic from Google.

This is why you have to distribute your content in any way you can. There are other channels such as email, social media, ads, and other websites.

I don’t have a big social media following nor have a big email list. I also didn’t want to pay for ads. So, what I did was participated in Quora. I answered questions related to my field then incorporated my articles along the way. I also published on Medium and LinkedIn.

Why It Works

You can’t rely on organic traffic alone. It takes a long time for a single blog post to gain traffic. In fact, only 5.7% of newly published pages rank in the top 10 within a year.

That’s why you have to spend the time distributing your content as well on as many channels as you can. All these little things add up to improve your website traffic.

Over to You

These are the 5 things I did that allowed me to blow past my entire 2019 website traffic in just 99 days. If you want to improve your website traffic, follow these steps:

  1. Make a decision and commit to it publicly
  2. Improve your website speed
  3. Publish frequently
  4. Update older posts
  5. Distribute your content

Did you learn something new? How does your website traffic look like? Do you think you’ll beat last year’s traffic or not? I’d love to know.