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What Customers Want

"With few exceptions, every job people need or want to do has a social, a functional, and an emotional dimension.

If marketers understand each of these dimensions, then they can design a product that's precisely targeted to the job. In other words, the job, not the customer, is the fundamental unit of analysis for a marketer who hopes to develop products that customers will buy."

This is the opening of an article by Clayton M. Christensen in Harvard Business School Working Knowledge. Christensen provides a delicious example of how understanding what job(s) the product needs to do leads to improving its performance and thus stickiness. He talks about milk shakes, but he could be talking about any product.

It’s important to understand the difference between a job-defined market and a product-defined market. Think about it, especially in a long-tail world, your competitors may be solving the same problem in completely different ways - and taking your customers with them.

As marketers we have this desire to connect with what customers want. There is way too much of everything, how do you stand out? How do you and your product become front and center?

Instead of focusing on the customer’s needs and requirements, you should focus on the job your customer is trying to get done and understand how customers measure value.

Anthony Ulwick provides the framework of outcome-driven innovation in his book and methodology.  His principles may be considered common sense, but then again, common sense is not that common. Tell me if these resonate (from the book):

- As customers we have a hard time articulating what it is we want. When someone can help guide us, we are very good at articulating what we want to get done.

- As humans, we can't help but measure how successfully we were able to complete a task, even mundane ones. We do this using between 50-150 different criteria. These criteria are the "outcomes" we want from the task. A skilled interviewer can help customers articulate these outcomes.

- The responsibility to develop new features should belong to your experts, not your customers.

- Your experts deserve two vital pieces of information: (1) a list of exactly what tasks your customers are trying to get done, and (2) a list of the 50-150 outcomes customers use to measure how well a product or service helps them complete those tasks. This is where the service that has value comes from.

- A product or service has maximum value when it’s free of unneeded features and empowers customers to complete a task 100% successfully.

When you ask what do customers want? Go one question further and inquire what is the job that needs to get done?

Valeria Maltoni | Conversation Agent

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