If you’re a product person and you’re good at your job, you’re already listening to your customers. You might meet regularly with your sales team. Maybe you’ve even gotten a voice of the customer market research program implemented. But if you’re one of the 34% of product managers who frequently or always worries that you’re delivering features customers won’t use, you might need more granular customer input, like understanding customers’ jobs-to-be-done.
Build the Features that Matter
You need to build features that lead to customer loyalty. While voice of the customer data tells you what features customers think they want or which they currently use the most, jobs-to-be-done research tells you what business task customers need to accomplish with your product or service. And that’s a crucial difference that lends itself to a variety of key use cases.
1. You Need to Find Your Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
You’ve had the customer conversations. You’ve heard what features they claim they would pay for. But where do you start? Even in an iterative Agile process, you need to determine what to build first. So instead of trying to prioritize a laundry list of features that surfaced in customer conversations, jobs-to-be-done research empowers you to efficiently scope your MVP by building features that best address your customers’ job-to-be-done.
2. Churn’s Getting the Best of You
Some churn is inevitable. But if you’re having more difficulty than expected retaining customers, chances are the heat is on for the product team. Customers buy your product the first time because it’s shiny and the features sounded good. They’re confident it will make their work life easier.
Project management software is a great example. So many calendars! And checklists! And labels! But if all those features don’t add up to solving the problem customers needed solved, they stop using it.
To design products that earn loyalty, you must understand what customers actually need your solution to do for them.
3. I Know But You Don’t
Jobs-to-be-done research can help unify your teams around a common understanding of the customer. While it’s great to work cross-functionally, problems can arise when everyone thinks they know the customer best. An outside perspective and solid customer data allows you to prioritize without ruffling feathers.
4. Features that Flop
Jobs To Be Done Theory’s canonical example is milkshake marketing. A fast food chain wanted to improve their milkshake. So they surveyed customers on all of the characteristics of an ideal milkshake- texture, flavors, everything. Customers answered as well as they could, and the chain implemented their feedback. Sales didn’t improve.
But when a researcher camped out at the restaurant and asked customers what job they had bought the milkshake to accomplish, the picture changed. Turns out, customers needed something to occupy themselves during their commute. It needed to be easy to consume while driving and take up the time of the commute. A thick shake, easily managed with one hand, did the trick. Now the company had clear requirements to address. A healthy milkshake wasn’t the issue, nor was it a specific flavor, all that mattered was the amount of time it took to drink it.
So what does this $3 B2C purchase have to do with your failed feature? It’s a reminder that people are better at knowing what a solution should do than describing what they want that solution to be like. That means that even if customers asked for a specific feature, they might realize once they have it that it doesn’t accomplish what they thought it would. If you’re designing features for a clearly-defined job, you can dodge this pitfall.
5. Plummeting Sales
It’s frustrating when you’re getting demos but not purchases or website traffic but no leads. And falling sales can bring big heat to product teams- after all, you’re on the hook for building things people want to buy.
You might claim the problem is that your sales or marketing team’s messaging doesn’t connect with customers. But if messaging overhauls haven’t yielded results, the blame can end up back on the product…even if the product isn’t the problem.
Jobs-to-be-done research can make sure sales and marketing teams’ speak to your customers’ real business needs. Maybe sales is messaging to a job that doesn’t exist anymore, because it’s been automated or rendered obsolete. Maybe potential buyers have a new, more pressing job that your solution could address but it’s not on your radar yet. Make sure sales and marketing have the understanding they need to demonstrate the value of your solution.
What Job Do You Serve?
As Harvard marketing professor Theodore Leavitt famously said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!” You’ll serve your customers and prospects better if you understand what customers need to do, then help them get that job done faster.
With custom market research and marketing services, Cascade Insights helps companies seize opportunities in the B2B technology sector. We work with everyone from enterprise tech stalwarts to up-and-comers in FinTech, MarTech, Health Tech, and more.
Special thanks to CEO Sean Campbell for advising on this piece.
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