What makes people buy the product?
How many products designed by big brands have flopped because they were not the right fit for the market? Product teams and marketers repeatedly ask themselves one question: “What makes people buy the product?”
Historically, we have witnessed many product fiascoes ranging from Sony Betamax, RJ Reynolds smokeless cigarettes to McDonald’s Arch Deluxe Burger. And as you want to
prevent your product from failure on the one hand and make it a resounding success on the other, you try to find a framework that would make a market fit achievable.
Even the best marketers and product designers aren’t fortune-tellers. They need tools to carefully analyze the needs and motivations of the(ir) customers.
The typical way most product and marketing teams approach the customer analysis process is through nailing personas. You might already be clear with who you are selling to. Personas consist of roles and attributes. And probably you have previously worked on a persona canvas designed by Alexander Osterwalder.
Why personas won’t work?
Let’s see how companies analyze personas.
You want to sell your social media analytics platform subscription to a tech-savvy Mike, aged 42. He is a CMO of a middle-sized company. Mike hates meetings in the morning and likes reading TechCrunch at lunchtime.
The fact is that it’s Mike who makes the decision to purchase at the end of the day, after an initial consultation with his CEO. Mike might ask his junior marketing manager to conduct research of multiple social media analytics platforms and report back to him on his findings.
As he wants to save time, he skims the report of the marketing manager and asks the Chief Technology Officer about the exact capabilities of the product. They strike the final deal together. The process of making a decision may look different in your organization but the common denominator — and truth — is that there are just plenty of people who may influence the final decision of a CMO. The bigger the company is, the more complicated the decision-making process gets.
Therefore, the definition of personas may just be too complex. You will end up with over five different personas in one organization for just one product. In terms of marketing communication, it wouldn’t be an easy task to target your message to each and every persona and attract their attention.
Often product teams and marketers spend too much time on defining unnecessary details of their personas thus making their profiles overcomplicated. In the case of Mike, the fact he reads TechCrunch in the afternoon may have no influence on his decision to purchase. In B2B marketing, personas may not work exactly the same way as in B2C, because there are many people involved in the decision-making process. Sometimes it is unclear who has the last say.
There may be people you didn’t take into account when crafting your personas. It might have been a junior marketing manager who was given the task to carry out some brief research. The CMO may base his decision on the findings of the manager’s research.
There are multiple timelines, people, and variables in the multidimensional B2B environment. Very often companies fail at drafting the differences among personas. As a consequence, it may prevent them from talking to the right person in the right language.
If you create and promote products to other businesses, excessive focus on attributes of multiple personas prevents you from understanding the customers, their needs, and motivations. By now it should come as no surprise that what really matters are the jobs clients buy your product for.
They “hire” your product
A better way to understand an intricate realm of B2B marketing and product management exists. It is not achieved through personas. Instead, you should know exactly why people need a product. You can improve the product accordingly to fit it to the needs of your customer so that more similar people buy your product.
But you can’t read your customers’ minds. Jobs To Be Done framework suggests that at the end of the day your customers need to make progress, resolve a painful problem, and ultimately aspire to achieve an ideal state.
If you want to read more on this and similar approaches, you may check the works of Alan Klement, Bob Moesta, Anthony Ulwick, and Clayton Christensen.
Before we go deeper into the concept, let’s have an example which Clayton Christensen, a lecturer at Harvard University, used in his book “Competing Against Luck.”
Christensen explains people “hire” a milkshake for some job when they drive to work in the morning.
For some it might be the right food for a few reasons:
- it’s convenient to eat on the go (bagels might be just too messy, especially if you drive);
- you won’t feel hungry for the next 3 hours or so;
- it makes your commute more entertaining as you can sip your milkshake for longer.
Other snacks may not serve the job as well as a milkshake for various reasons. For example, a donut or Snickers may just give a fast rush of energy, but it will soon fade away, and hunger will strike back. Other food items might make hands or clothes dirty.
How can this be translated into the jargon of B2B services or products?
In the case of CallPage, a tech solution enabling companies to achieve more sales calls from their respective webpages, we identify a few more jobs-to-be-done:
CallPage helps clients to:
- call people before they leave the website;
- facilitate immediate contact with a website visitor;
- engage their website visitors so that they stay on the page;
- be able to get data and analyze data from calls;
- and more!
But the end goal is to get more profit from more clients that didn’t dash to your faster-calling competitors.
What would be the case for your product? What jobs would YOUR clients hire you for? Such questions are the foundation of JTBD Framework.
From frustration to a happy end.
Looking at products through the lens of jobs brings about a job-centric approach. When thinking of how your product helps others achieve their goals, you look into motivations, create some shared values among roles scattered in a big organization, while personas artificially break audiences apart. Products match problems, not people.
Products take people from point A to point B.
A digital agency provides video services to B2B companies wanting to build their social proof among corporate clients through their webpage. A typical client of a video agency is Company Z with a poor online presence. Its webpage doesn’t build much trust and is boring to read — it doesn’t have “a human touch” either. The company owner is frustrated as their analytics highlights a huge bounce rate. The disheartened client is at point A.
As the video agency takes interviews of happy customers who are talking about Company Z and starts embedding the videos on the page, conversion on the page skyrockets. The traffic entering the page doesn’t bounce back so fast. Videos managed to build visitors’ trust and more leads find their way to contact Company Z. Some of them become happy customers. Point B is reached. Once frustrated by low conversion and a low number of inbound leads, the company Z observes a growing number of calls attributed to the webpage.
Your product should show people a better future, reaching that aspiration point—their ideal state. That fits into the JTBD framework. In the case of the video agency, Company Z hired them to create videos that would convert visitors into paying customers. Company Z made progress in acquiring more clients and finding the solution to the low performance of their webpage in terms of lead generation.
The marketing team should craft statements which show potential customers what it means to be there — on the other side of the bridge, at point B. Your products should help customers achieve their desired state. That is the reason for “hiring” your products.
Competition is not so obvious.
Personas artificially constrain your market. Product and marketing teams should stop thinking in categories of market segments and focus on the job-centered approach. By doing some jobs better or faster, your competitors may attract a segment of your clients. In other words, they will outperform your product and take away a big chunk of the market you used to occupy. Those competitors won’t necessarily come from the same market segment.
Let’s look at Airbnb. No one predicted Airbnb could compete with the hotel industry. It wasn’t hard to notice that hotels had a different user profile from personas of Airbnb. But
years after it had entered the market, the service for booking local apartments became a widespread alternative to plain old hotel rooms.
Airbnb understood aspirations and frustrations of customers better—they wanted to get immersed into local culture, understand how the locals live and get some personal recommendations from their hosts. The impersonal nature of hotels no longer satisfied their wanderlust and hunger for understanding other cultures. People preferred to use Airbnb instead of hotels which, too late, got aware of the danger.
The question hotels should have asked is: “Who is competing for the same jobs we are being hired for?”
Activity vs. Progress in JTBD Framework
Theodore Levitt, American economist and professor, author of the book “The Marketing Imagination,” once wrote: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.” This means clients are urged to buy products to complete activities. They don’t buy the product for the sake of features, color, or size, etc., but because it should help them accomplish something. They see some significant applications for the product. This being said, customers have a “to-do” goal and make a Job-As-Activity.
Jobs-As-Activities are just a means to an end. In fact, people don’t want to engage in activities. They “hire” technologies to do the activities for them. Not wanting to scythe grass, people invented a grass mower. They went even further and invented a self-steering lawn-mower which no longer needs human engagement in keeping the grass neat and short.
People simply want to make progress (not activities), and they aspire to achieve “To-Be Goal.” To-Do goal is only transitional. Referring back to the example above, people would buy a drill to achieve the To-Do Goal that is drilling a hole in the wall. But ultimately they would strive to achieve a To-Be Goal which is hanging a new painting they may have bought on an auction and being proud of introducing art to their place. It’s always about the end goal—of who your clients want to be or become, what progress they want to make in relation to the problem your product solves.
Customers have a perception of what their ideal version of self should be like. When they buy cosmetics, it’s not only about applying it (activity). They want to:
- be more attractive;
- be more loved;
- seem younger;
- be an ideal girlfriend/wife etc.
That’s why marketers should consider focusing more on the goals the customers need to achieve and bring them from the point of the non-ideal self to the aspired place of the ideal version. This is a process of change that doesn’t happen overnight. In their current state, customers may have things keeping them back. The analysis a product team should strive for focuses on the job, not the client, their demographics, or behavior.
Have a look at a frequently used, but still good, example of IKEA and its way to design furniture people want to buy. In this instance, they don’t simply produce better furniture, the product team understands the jobs clients need to get done and why they want to do them.
For many families, having furniture is attached to emotional dimensions—it might be feeling comfortable at home, expressing individuality, or being organized. These goals are “BE” goals, not “DO goals.” For example, to achieve the goal of expressing individuality, IKEA enables clients to personalize furniture and enables them to assemble it on their own.
- Think of the jobs your customers “hire” your product for. In the multidimensional B2B realm personas are blurry. They take multiple roles varying from direct decision makers to influencers. Thinking of jobs helps you embrace your customers’ needs and understand their motivations of who they want to be.
- Lead customers from point A to point B (as in the JTBD framework). Analyze jobs-to-be-done for your product and share key points with your marketing team. Think of the state your customers may be in—what might frustrate them and how your product may take their frustrations away.
- Go beyond your direct competitors and think what companies may serve similar jobs to your customers.