I’ve talked about the importance of creating your own market before. If you are willing to spend your working hours screaming and fighting, then you will find a home in an overcrowded market that embraces transactional behavior. But if you are an entrepreneur of value, you will create your very own blue ocean to swim in. From the book, Blue Ocean Strategy, a blue ocean exists when you create and own a new market, making competition irrelevant. This is precisely what David Heath, founder of Bombas, did with great focus.
David sells socks. But he doesn’t sell socks for the sake of selling socks. He has a unique understanding that entrepreneurs who are aware of their gift must share themselves with the world, and do good so that others can do better.
Bombas is committed to helping. They give away socks to those in need. If David had listened to financial advisors and market specialists, he would never have entered the sock market. There is too much competition. How can you honestly believe that you stand a chance next to giants like Walmart, Target, Uniqlo, H&M and JCPenney. You don’t. That ocean is filled with cutthroat competition, price wars and noise. Purpose and mission are not typically high on the priority list in red oceans.
David recognized that wellbeing, coziness, and even feeling human, begins with dry and warm feet. You can’t fully function and feel at ease if your feet are cold. Your feet are what connects you to the ground you walk on. If you begin with cold and discomfort, that has an effect on everything that follows.
And this is how David created his own market. A market where socks are the promise for feeling like a human being and customers are enablers of humanness. Walmart or Target could never do this because it is not part of their mission, and it wouldn’t be believable. People would reject it. Also, it is expensive and complicated to run a business like Bombas. It requires 24/7 commitment across all levels of the organization. It’s nearly impossible for the average warehouse or department store to fulfill that promise. But for a small, specialized organization like Bombas, it’s a no-brainer.
What can you expect from a specialized, value-oriented market? Higher prices. Yes, Bombas’ socks cost more than the average multipack next to H&M’s cash register. The higher price creates resistance in buyers that are just looking for socks. But it also creates distinction and desire in those who seek more. Those who understand the mission and positioning of Bombas don’t question the price because the transparency of the operation makes it clear to them where the money goes. If JCPenny tried to sell 2 pairs of socks for $20+, that experiment would end within a week. Their clientele isn’t interested.
David understands the rules of the value-entrepreneurship game. He is courageous and bold in his decisions and marketing because he knows about the value he is offering. He has full ownership of his market because he has created distance and separation from noisy markets. He is not afraid to let a human cause be the driver of his business (unlike some businesses that use causes strictly as a marketing ploy to increase revenue). In a recent interview with The Morning Brew, David said that if you do good to sell more, people see right through you. But if you do good because you want to do good, the right people will embrace it.
If you understand the lessons presented by Bombas and how they can impact your own work, you are ready to transform your business. Fair warning, you can’t implement a few changes to your marketing and product design and expect instant results. Doing business from a place of purpose, from a place that tackles everyday problems (and many everyday problems exist in all industries: insurance, real estate, financing, etc) requires real work and restructuring from the bottom up.
Why Story purpose index for Bombas: 95/100
Bottom line: even the most generic product can create a new market for you if your underlying mission is built on human value that is relatable. This creates distinction and distance from crowded markets and allows you to focus on your own specialized, premium market.