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Exploring 3m’s Blue Ocean Strategy

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    It is important, as a part of any companies’ Blue Ocean Strategy, to explore the three tiers of non-customers, the buyers’ utility map and experience cycle, and uncover the blocks to buyers’ utility. As companies explore the three tiers of their non-customers they may be able to uncover an untapped potential for customers. The three tiers of non-customers identifies what customers are not purchasing a product or service you offer, as well as why they may not be part of your current consumer group.

    The buyers’ utility map and experience cycle basically examines the buyers experience with your product or service from start to finish, or from the purchase of the item to the disposal of the item. The buyers’ utility map and experience cycle highlights six different utility levers within each phase of the buyers’ experience cycle. Uncovering a particular block in the buyers’ experience cycle requires a company to examine at which phase or utility lever the company does not perform at its best or meet the consumers’ needs and/or demands.

    There are three tiers of non-customers that can be indentified and brought in as customers. Each tier is different and displays a comparative distance from the desired market. 3M has a broad spectrum of product but they are most notably known for their office organization products. A company that examines the similarities among non-customers and existing customers can identify how expand their consumer base. To say that the first tier has the highest potential for bringing the consumer back in whereas the third tier of non-customers may take the most effort and money to bring in as a customer would be inaccurate.

    The best way to bring in more customers is to explore the commonalties among the three tiers rather than to assume that the first tier is the most marketable rather than the third tier. “The first tier of non-customers is closest to your market. They sit on the edge of the market, and are buyers who minimally purchase these products out of necessity, but are mentally non-customers of the industry” (Kim, 2005 p. 103).

    Those who may be perceived as being in this tier are those who use this product because it is preferred by the order of office products for the business. These non-customers may be consumers of this product but not by choice and in their personal life may choose a different brand other than 3M. “The second tier of non-customers is people who refuse to use your products. These are buyers who have seen your products as an option to fulfill their needs, but have voted against them” (Kim, 2005 p. 103). These non-customers may be those who are brand defiant.

    They may feel that a specific brand of labels or post-its may not be worth the additional cost and therefore either choose to do without the specific functions the office products 3M offer or rather they chose a generic brand instead. They could also choose not to purchase a 3M product because they feel that it is too expensive for a brand name product but are actually unaware of the affordability of 3M’s product line. “The third tier of non-customers is farthest from your market, and are non-customers who have never thought of your products as an option” (Kim, 2005 p. 03). These non-customers may be identified of those who are simply unaware of the functionality of the 3M products that are offered or even perhaps they have never had the buying power to choose the products before. This may be young adults coming into a career field, new college students, or a new purchaser of office supplies for a business. One commonality among all three tiers of non-customers that exists among the 3M brand may suggest that 3M product marketing could emphasize more, the benefits of the products they offer. Ms buyer utility and experience cycle is relatively user-friendly and simplistic and therefore can appeal to a large demographic.

    “Buyer Utility Map is a tool that helps managers test whether their business or product/service offers a leap in value to buyers. It also helps managers test whether their business or product/service unwittingly blocks buyer utility across the totality of the buyer’s experience” (Kim 2011). Figure 1-1 demonstrates the areas that 3M currently markets and offers to customers as well as the potential Blue Ocean for 3M. By applying the buyer utility map, managers: 1) gain initial insights into the unquestioned assumptions that their industry is based on that detract from value and can be reversed; 2) can test the exceptional utility of their offering by checking whether their business or product/service removes the biggest blocks to utility across the experience cycle; 3) can uncover what assumptions increase costs without significantly raising buyer utility” (Kim 2011). M products come with ease of use directions, they offer both bold statement products that are fun to use as well as plain and simple products used for a professional and clean appearance. 3M offers recycled products in addition to encouraging recycling of their products. Purchases can be made in office supply stores or retail stores like Wal-Mart or Target. Finding a 3M product does not require a great deal of effort.

    One block to buyer utility that may be experienced by 3M customers is maintenance. Although many of 3M products are disposable, they do offer products that can be refilled, portions reused. It can be less convenient to continually refill or restock certain products because of the vast product line that is offered and it could be easy to order or purchase the incorrect size for restocking or refilling the reusable products.

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