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What Jobs Do Your Customers Need To Have Done?

A whopping 95% of new consumer products fail, including heavily advertised products. Products fail because companies use demographics and other unsuccessful methods to "understand customers, segment markets and build brands," says Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen (Note 1). Customers "hire products and services" to get specific jobs done. When companies have this view of their customers, they know what to sell, to which segment, and how to approach the segment, concludes Christensen.

What Are the Components of the Job To Be Done?

Fifty years ago Vance Packard defined cars as covert sex symbols. Now, cars often serve as mobile offices, according to Christensen. However, car manufacturers don't respond to this need. To grasp what jobs your customers need to do, you must understand:

  • The "basic problem" confronting the customer and the desired result.
  • What the customer wants to experience when "purchasing, using, and living with the product."
  • How the company must integrate these experiences into the purchase process.

Four Ways To Identify Jobs To Be Done

The most effective software developers are former users, Christensen says. To gain familiarity with the jobs your customers want done, you should:

  • Find out how your current customers actually use your products. Customers often use products for different jobs than you anticipate. If several non-profit organizations are using your lead generation software for businesses, you could develop a new version tailored for non-profits.
  • Study users of competitors' products. Your competitors' customers are potentially your customers. Differences between their products and yours could represent opportunities for your company. Define competitors broadly. Competitors of e-books are PCs, as well as printed books.
  • Observe customers at work. How do customers compensate for short-comings in your products? If many users of your presentation software are embedding videos created with another product, you could embed your own video software in your presentation software.
  • Identify the "why beyond the why" and address the job and the real reason for the job. Ultimately, users might need time-saving tools when embedding videos in presentations! Often people create presentations in the last minute because they had to wait for input from colleagues.

Companies often conduct product concept tests after they have developed a new product or prototype. Too often they are surprised to find that customers have little interest in the product. If you develop products that do a job that customers want to have done, you are more likely to launch successful new products. We can help you identify what those jobs are.

Next month: Questions to ask to identify the jobs to be done.

Note 1: Clayton M. Christensen, "Integrating Around the Job to Be Done," Harvard Business School, Module Note 9-611-004; 2010. Cited by Paul Regensburg of RainCastle, April 13, 2012. Regensburg blog.

Copyright 8/12 Ruth Winett. All rights reserved.

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