About Customers, Products, Markets, and JOBS.

Everyone knows that measurement and analysis of CUSTOMERS, PRODUCTS, and MARKETS are essential to get your strategy right! But let's start by setting the scene.

So what is a MARKET?

There are many definitions, and the definition depends on the discussion at the time, but simply put, a MARKET is a place (these days mostly a virtual space) in which products can be exchanged by buyers and sellers, either directly or through mediating agents or institutions. Of course, in later years, another party entered the fray, regulators whose job it is to keep the interplay between the other stakeholders fair!

When we talk about markets here, the exchanges have some commonalities. For example, they compete with other products in the market with similar features, or the consumers all belong to a particular industry.

The defined boundaries of the market (unless it is regulated), like beauty, are in the eye of the beholder!

There are obviously many other factors that can play a role in defining a market, and therefore just about everyone will have their own flavor or version. The problem with this is that if we want to use analysis tools (as discussed in another article about understanding innovation and the product lifecycle), we need to get a better definition that is less open to interpretation and remains constant over long analysis periods.

What our product is doing (features) and what customers are doing (industry segment) are imperfect units of analysis, and the following example best describes these.

Let’s start with a silly example, say you make pocket notebooks (the paper variety). You can define your market segment as ‘the notebook’ market or even the ‘the pocket notebook’ market because some features are common. It needs to be a book with paper, which one can write on, and will fit into a standard-sized pocket — these are all features, so it makes perfect sense.

The customer rarely buys what the business thinks it sells him. Peter Drucker

OK, now let me ask this question.

Do you think wire-spiral-bound notebooks are in the same market as, say, a Moleskin notebook?

If you said yes — I bet you, anyone who buys a Moleskin will beg to differ. So if the customer sees such a huge difference between a wire-bound pocket notebook and a Moleskin pocket notebook, is it wise to use this definition as a unit of measure?

So OK, let’s go the other route — we define markets based on what customers do. Buyers of Moleskin notebooks vary quite broadly, engineers, artists, writers, architects, and so the list goes on. So defining a market by what the customer is doing is also an imperfect measure.

Enters Clayton Christensen and Anthony Ulwick came up with some variance on the same theme (we will not discuss the subtleties now).

The concept is commonly referred to as Jobs-to-be-Done (JTDB for short). Their ideas of JTBD were most probably triggered by Theodore Levitt when he said your customer buys your product to get a job done, not because they want your product.

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.” — Theodore Levitt

The basic premise is simple, to understand your response to customer’s needs, you need to ask what outcomes the customer wants to achieve, and then what is the job (or part of the job) they buy or hire your product to do for them?

Understand how customers use your product to achieve their desired outcomes is a crucial insight we need. You need to do that for all your products and all your customers!

Now, these can be higher-level or very detailed, so the concept scales, and what’s more, it explains why people in different industries use your product. It will also give insight into how they use your product and which features are meaningful for them.

That means you can zero in and satisfy customer needs because you help them get a job done! Your product can evolve to help them get the whole job done if it currently only does so partially. Your product can help customers get the job done better, faster, and more cost-effectively, with better quality, but only if you truly understand the Job-to-be-Done!

Moleskine has pocket planners and calendars, notebooks with lines, grids, and plain pages catering for all the jobs one can have for a pocket-sized notebook. They also cater to emotional needs; the cover doesn’t need to be the traditional black. Instead, a Moleskin pocketbook can be any of several vibrant colors. With designs printed on the covers, the covers can even be personalized, and you can buy a Harry Potter-themed pocket notebook.

Some jobs are core jobs, some jobs are functional, some jobs are related jobs, and some jobs are emotional. There is value in helping customers to get all jobs done!

Who would have thought — a pocket notebook can be a fashion accessory, appeal to fantasy geeks (I’m also one, by the way), as well as being functional, well made, and long-lasting!

This article is part of a series exploring the use of Agile ADapT™, a Digital Transformation Method for incumbent organizations struggling to compete in the digital age.

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Johann Botha

Johann Botha

Johann Botha, a digital change provocateur & getITright® CEO. Transform & build organizational agility, & digital-age capabilities. Consultant, speaker & author