“We know what our customers want” is different from “we have what our customer needs when they want it.” It’s a slight twist, but it’s the difference between a company who has decided what they want to sell and one who has positioned themselves to listen. The professional implications are massive – do we see our clients more as population averages or idiosyncratic individuals?
The jobs-to-be-done framework emerged as a helpful way to look at customer motivations in business settings. Conventional marketing techniques teach us to frame customers by attributes—using age ranges, race, marital status, and other categories that ultimately create products and entire categories too focused on what companies want to sell, rather than on what customers actually need.
A jobs-to-be-done framework is a tool for evaluating the circumstances that arise in customers’ lives. Customers rarely make buying decisions around what the “average” customer in their category may do—but they often buy things because they find themselves with a problem they would like to solve. With an understanding of the “job” for which customers find themselves “hiring” a product or service, companies can more accurately develop and market products well-tailored to what customers are already trying to do.
We only find out the problem people would like to solve if we listen to them. It may be true that our products and services have multiple uses, providing multiple answers in multiple settings. It’s also true that a suit off of the rack fits OK, while the same suit, once tailored, fits even better. The more we recognize the individual use and the individual need, the more special our products and services – even if they are first off of the rack – become.
Listen, before answering, for the individual’s job-to-be-done. How we are seen by our clients depends on how our clients see us. Do we have all of the products and services to sell, or do we have all of the products and services they’ll want when they need them?