Ever wondered how software companies like Intercom, Pipedrive and Basecamp create products that seem irresistible to their customers? The one thing they all have in common is that they use the Jobs To Be Done (JTBD) framework to really understand their customers and what they want.
In this interview Alan Klement and Eric White explain how the Jobs To Be Done (JTBD) framework can be used to create products your customers lust over and share their experience not only creating those products, but also intimately understanding the customers who use those products too.
Alan writes at jtbd.info, is the author of When Coffee & Kale Compete and you can follow him on Twitter @alanklement. Eric writes on Medium and his web site is EricMWhite.com. He currently works with with companies including Credit Sesame, Pipedrive and VWO and you can follow him on Twitter @ericmwhite.
Christie: Okay. So, welcome Alan and Eric to our little video series. We’re so excited to have you. Thank you for being here.
Eric: Good to be here.
Alan: Thanks for having us.
Christie: So, this Jobs To Be Done concept, well, I have found to be absolutely amazing and it’s not a new thing. New to me and probably new to a lot of people who maybe watching it today. As I understand it, it’s a different way of looking at product marketing because most of the time when people are marketing a product, they think of the demographics, they think of the product features, yada yada yada. But as customers, we don’t think like that. Now, we do think about features and benefits and things like that, but we’re definitely not thinking about our demographic or if we are the ideal customers for this particular product or all the different benchmarks that people feel like they have to hit when they’re marketing a product.
This Jobs To Be Done concept looks at a product as it has a job to do. There’s a job that needs to be done for the consumer and you in essence hire the product to do it. There was a great concept that someone … I can’t remember the person who wrote it, oh darn, but they talked about the milkshake theory. Like, people hire a smoothie or a milkshake for breakfast. What is the job? To feed me, I’m hungry. And the product to do that job is the breakfast sandwich or the milkshake or the smoothie or whatever you purchase. So, I guess the idea is for the company providing that to make sure that they are getting the maximum job done. Like, okay, so a smoothie can be thought of as a meal. That’s the concept. You’re getting a drink and food in one fell swoop. Is that pretty much safe to say that? I kind of summed up the idea of what this concept.
I think Jobs To Be Done as a movement, that’s why I called it a movement, is that. You just look up. You Google Jobs To Be Done and there is a ridiculous amount of information on this concept and how to apply it and things like that. So, it’s not a new thing, but it is new in the way that companies are now trying to adopt or hopefully … Or you guys are … That’s what you’re here to do is to hopefully impress upon companies to use this concept. So, this Fieldboom series is all about understanding the or how to build the customer-obsessed company. And nothing sounds more customer-obsessed than the Jobs To Be Done concept.
So, take in from your backgrounds or what you’re doing now, how did you … Let’s start with you, Alan. What did you do on your entrepreneurial journey that led you to adopt the Jobs To Be Done concept? We can maybe shorten it and just say what the acronym JTBD, “Jibbid.” How did you put it to your own business and then decide that, “Hey, this is something that I want to help others do”?
Alan: So, I would say it began when I … Let’s see here. I had my first business around 2000 and that was a combination of a photo studio. Then I built out a retouching company wing of it. So, I built out a software product for it and created another product to expand out the services that I could offer to my customers. And then, sold it off because it was growing too much as far as employees and I realised I was managing employees more than actually making things and I didn’t like that. Then I thought, “Oh, this starting business thing is easy. Anyone can do it.” So, I started another product and it just bombed horribly. I got some people to sign up for it, but no one was paying for it or expressed interest in paying for it. That was like, I don’t know, four or five months of my life just evaporated away into nothing.
So, I thought, okay, well, maybe there’s a better way to go about this. Then I landed up on some work prompted by people like Rick Pedi and Bob Moesta who were preaching this idea of Jobs To Be Done. Hooked up with them, started working with them, and recognised, “Wow. There’s actually some really powerful concepts here that might help me when I go onto my next entrepreneurial adventure.” So, I did that and that’s why I created this marketplace product called Aim, which connected mortgage bankers with real estate brokers. I was able to very quickly build a profitable product with my co-founder. I was doing that, applying this Jobs thinking. That’s when I recognised, “Wow. That was tremendously easier than how I’ve built products in the past either for myself or …” I did a brief stint when I was a product manager. It was a much better way, as a product manager too to develop products, so that’s when I thought, “You know what? I think others could benefit from what I’ve learned and the experience I’ve gone through.” So, that’s how I decided to develop Jobs thinking more and to work with other people to develop it themselves.
Christie: I think that’s good for people to know because if you’re not already an entrepreneur, and maybe you’re thinking about doing that and learning through people like yourself who are successful, that success wasn’t an easy road. Hearing you say that you had a product that just went toilet diving immediately.
Alan: Pretty much, yeah. Pretty much.
Christie: Sorry. Kind of opened that gaping wound.
Alan: Thanks for reminding me.
Christie: Right? Opened that gaping wound. Poured a little lemon juice and salt in it. Yeah. But it’s good to hear that you obviously learned some things from that experience and got back up and did your thing. Or did something different or looked outside the box definitely learning from that experience that, okay, maybe that wasn’t the right time, that wasn’t the right product. But there’s still work to be done. There still needs to be questions to be answered, so that’s great.
And what about you, Eric? How did you come to embrace this concept for yourself and then for the customers that you have?
Eric: So, the real brief background for me is I’ve been in enterprise software for decades, a couple of decades now. I started out as a developer and I moved into design and management. When I was doing enterprise software, for me it was always fascinating because there’s a lot of different people who you have to please in order for a project to be successful.
Eric: There are executives who are paying for the software. There are users who are going to use this software and in enterprise, you’ve got a lot of different users. For example, if I was developing software for a trucking company, I had dispatchers who are going to use the software. I had truckers who are going to use the software. And then I also had a group of managers who are going to make management decisions based upon data in the software and they are going to provide instructions to people in the software. For a software implementation to be successful, there were just a lot of different people with competing motivations that I had to please. I struggled to do that. I was good enough to have a career in it, but I never felt like I was able to … I never felt like I had the tools that enabled me to develop language and really understand how I can motivate different groups of people and then align their motivations.
And so, I went out on my own. I worked with a consulting firm for most of that 20 years. And then about four years ago, I went on out on my own. As I was out on my own, I started to want to specialise on something. Rather than building enterprise software, I wanted to focus on being a consultant and helping people be successful in that. I listened to an interview. It was on a podcast and it was Bob Moesta, who Alan referred to, was interviewing someone. As I listened to the interview, he was digging into this customer’s story and he was asking questions in a way that I was hearing the questions and thinking they were very invasive. I was thinking that surely the customer is going to be or surely this person being interviewed is going to be offended and become frustrated with [crosstalk 00:09:05].
Christie: An example. What kind of question would be …
Eric: He would drill down into a lot of detail and Bob would say things like, “Well, tell me about when you opened the door and what did the door feel like?” And “When you close the door, as you’re [crosstalk 00:09:17] it, what experience do you feel like?” He would say things like, “I don’t understand. You said a few minutes ago that your wife …” Bob was interviewing someone who has recently purchased a Porsche. Obviously, for a big decision like that the family is very involved. So, Bob was asking very personal questions about, “Tell me about this conversation that you had with your wife. Was she supportive? Was she nervous? What was that like?”
I kept thinking, again, that the person who’s being interviewed, I thought he’s going to shut down at some point. But he did just the opposite. It seemed to invigorate him and he opened up. It was almost as if they were both … It was like an archaeological dig where neither of them understood the truth of what was happening. It was only through that conversation that it became clear. At the time, I thought, whatever this interviewer is doing, I need to develop that skill.
Eric: Bob was one of the people that was very early Jobs To Be Done thinkers. I got connected with Bob and then through my connection with Bob, I got connected with Alan. It happened to be when Alan was writing the book. We had a good rapport where we would have these long conversations. We would argue about different ideas. I mean, I say argue in the most positive sense.
Christie: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Eric: It was very enjoyable and it was really benefiting me and the work that I was doing. I think it was helping Alan get the book done. That was how I came to it. At the time, when I first discovered it, there was … You were talking about there being a lot of material out there about Jobs To Be Done.
Eric: At the time, there was nothing. So, I had this huge appetite for learning more about it and learning how to put it into practise. That’s kind of my background about how I got to Jobs.
Christie: That’s really cool. Listening to what you’re saying about that podcast that you were listening to and how that particular person got so … It was almost like … This is so funny, I equate everything to movies, but it was sort of like the whole “wax on wax off” concept, how Mr. Miyagi did all that stuff or for you young’uns, Jackie Chan did it to Jaden Smith. But for us old people, when Mr. Miyagi was making Daniel do all those crazy things, but it had a purpose. At the time, he didn’t understand, but it helped him understand the concept and even helped Mr. Miyagi understand Daniel’s drive, Daniel’s perseverance. Is he tough enough to do this? Because it’s like, “If you can’t paint this fence or wax my car, how the heck are you gonna knock somebody’s block off in the rain?” It’s almost that same thing is asking the …
I don’t even think companies are brave enough to go that deep with their customers. When customers actually … Like you said, this particular guy got invigorated by those questions, got excited by those questions. But would other consumers – I guess it depends on the products as well – would they actually be receptive to having those type of very personal questions coming on. I mean, of course, like I said, it varies on the product or whatever. But you’re right. A decision like a Porsche, getting down to how your family operates, conversations with your wife. I mean, that is going to make how this Porsche is either amazing or mediocre.
Alan: Yeah. It’s actually interesting you mentioned that about these interviews and what Eric touched on about potentially being invasive. During our workshops that Eric and I do with clients, we always tell our clients, but also when we’re interacting with customers on the calls, we always discover that … It’s almost – this is the right word – cathartic. It’s like, these conversations that are with customers, we so often, maybe I would say 25% of the time or maybe half percent of the time, customers thank us for the call. They thank us. Like, “Thank you for listening to my story.”
Christie: And I think that’s really what is the core of customer services is that a lot of times people just want to be heard and acknowledged and that “You are taking care of my problem of my needs.” That’s really cool that they’re coming back to you. Be like “Thank you. Thank you for taking the time to listen to me.” Even if it’s something … I mean, just take in for me. Obviously, I am a customer of somebody. Actually, this past week alone, I have had my share of customer service run-ins. The best ones were, even if they were like, “I can’t help you,” it was more of not treating me like I was a moron because they couldn’t help me. I had a legitimate question. I’m fine with whatever the answer is and hopefully you can help me or maybe you can point me in the direction to where I can find the answer. If you can’t, I’d rather you be honest with me, than sort of sending me on a wild goose chase or something like that.
Alan: I was going to mention that that’s why, what you’re describing is … If you’re able to connect with the customers at that level, they will be indebted to you so much. That’s what’s so powerful and attractive about Jobs thinking is that Jobs thinking, really, it touches on just what our intrinsic motivation as people, as humans to evolve, to become better. I’m always wanting to … I don’t want to be just Alan doing the same thing over and over for the rest of my life. I want to have new experiences, I want to become more. I want to be better today than I was a year ago or 10 years ago. So, I constantly want to evolve myself and improve myself. So, I look to markets, I look to innovators, I look to family for me. There’s just a myriad of sources out there that I look to attach experiences or attach things in my life, so I can improve myself. So, that’s where we call the Jobs To Be Done, is this desire to become more than I was before.
Christie: Wow. That makes it seem so big. It seems like this is easy or easier for a smaller company to embrace and adopt than, say, a larger company. Okay, so, my questions are a little all over the place and kind of two-fold. So, work with me.
Okay, so, my first thought in listening to both of you is, yes, this seems like a startup could do this. A startup or a small business could do this. An entrepreneur could do this. Be very, very customer-obsessed, be very willing to take the time that it takes to do that. A larger company because they’ve got bigger shoes to fill, bigger stores to fill, they’ve got thousands of employees all over the country. They probably outsource a lot of their customer service or automate it a lot, which can work in some instances. But then, there are questions that people have that cannot be answered by a prompt on a screen. So, how would, I guess … what are the differences?
I’m trying to think how I’m asking this where it makes sense for everybody involved. I can almost see how it’s easy for the smaller company. How would a larger company or how can a larger company, who really is looking at the bottom-line, who’s looking at the demographics, who’s marketing more of in a traditional way, maybe adopting some of the newer concepts like social media and things like that, how would a larger company be able to say … Let’s think real big. Like a Target. Although, Target’s not a good … because they sell multiple products, so let me think of something that would sell … Could it work for a place like Target?
Alan: Sure. Yeah, absolutely.
Christie: And then my other part of that is, okay, a service industry where … For instance, you guys are consultants. So, your product is not really a product, it’s a service. So, how do you apply the Jobs To Be Done to a service? I’m thinking maybe a lot of people who are watching this are like, “Well, this doesn’t apply to me because I don’t have a product. I don’t have anything tangible that I’m selling to where I can have this product …” Like, we’re talking about, the product fulfils the need. The Jobs To Be Done is this and the product does that job. How does it do? Let’s start with the first part about the larger company and then maybe [crosstalk 00:18:42].
Eric: [crosstalk 00:18:42] to start.
Alan: I was going to invite you, Eric, to [crosstalk 00:18:46].
Christie: Eric, it’s your turn.
Eric: Here’s what’s important is that customers just buy things to help them make progress. If it’s a product, it’s a product. If it’s a service, it’s a service. There’s a video that we play in our workshop and it’s Steve Jobs and he’s talking about products being packages of emphasis. And customers pay us to make choices on their behalf. So, let me give you an example of maybe a big company. Spirit Airlines is a great example.
Eric: Spirit Airlines who, if you were to run a net promoter score, it would be 0000 “I’ll see you the next time I need a flight.”
Christie: I think I am the only person I know on the planet that actually had a good experience on Spirit.
Eric: That’s true. Here’s what’s interesting, though, is that everyone-
Christie: I’ve only flown them once, but my one time is actually really good.
Eric: You should let them know.
Christie: I did, I did. And let me tell you, they were practically kissing the ground I walked on. I’m like, “Am I the only person who’s ever said anything nice to you?” It was great.
Eric: So, Spirit Airlines understands … You talk about this obsession with customers. They’re obsessed enough with customers that they understand what’s important to a customer. What’s important to a customer for them is … There’s price. I mean, I’ve never actually flown on them, but I hear people complain about them all the time. And then I know that people go back and fly on their airline again. And so, part of the obsession is understanding the trade-offs that customers are willing to make and how it is that they’re trying to make progress. When you understand that, it makes it so you do not over-engineer your service. If Spirit Airlines spent another $5 per person on the flight to provide drinks and peanuts and things like that, it wouldn’t help them sell more tickets.
Eric: So, they’re able to understand what’s actually motivating their customers. That’s a very important place to start that customers pay us to make decisions on their behalf. So, to answer your first question about a big company versus a small company. We’ve worked with both, right Alan?
Eric: We’ve worked with companies that are gigantic, that are very recognisable brands, that make billions of dollars. And then we work with companies that are in very early stages in getting started up. Really, all it is though the difficulty of anybody understanding how to apply Jobs To Be Done is just simply that it’s a different sort of mindset than we usually think of. And we try to create experiences. The best way to do it is not to talk about what Jobs To Be Done is. It’s actually just to get in there and do the research and then apply the research to your thinking. So, a Target can understand why is someone … Well, I would just [inaudible 00:21:33]. Would you add anything, Al?
Alan: So, with jobs and large organisations question. Ooh. Yeah, I guess it depends on which direction that you want to go in. Maybe I’ll offer a different way of answering that question and that would be: I would say actually that Jobs thinking is … Well, first of all, I would say that, especially from a product marketing point of view, they’ve been thinking Jobs thinking since almost the beginning actually. I feel like that marketers usually are the ones who first within an organisation are the ones who first get into Jobs thinking. A perfect example of jobs thinking, and then I would use this … I think I use this as an example in the book as well, is from Charles Revson who founded Revlon, where he said, “In the drugstores, we sell cos-” I’m sorry. “In the factories, we make cosmetics, but in the drugstores we sell hope.”
Christie: I saw that. I saw that quote. That actually is pretty deep.
Alan: Yeah, it is. So, I think that’s actually that kind of a … I think if you went to Revlon, if you’re a CEO of Revlon and you say that to your 5000 employees, all of them will get that.
Alan: Just that one line. If your employees are looking to you and they’re trying to like, “What business are we in? What business are we in? I’m not really sure.” And you go out there, you’re CEO, and you say, “Oh, we help apply lipstick better” or “We help make a better this” or whatever. But if we say, “Actually, we’re in the business of giving people hope.” Like, oh, wow, that’s interesting. Of course, you can dig a little deeper into that, hoping with context.
Christie: Well, yeah. It makes people want to dig into, I think, and figure out how are we going to sell this hope. So, maybe that’s a big key in the jobs thinking that you take what you’re selling, the focus of what you’re selling, off of the product itself and put it back on the consumers. Is that fair to say?
Alan: Yes. Absolutely.
Eric: So, for you, maybe to help you, as you described some of the language is, the way that we always think of it is that the product doesn’t do a job, the customer does.
Christie: Ah. Okay.
Eric: And when you step back and look at it, what that means is that the customer, again, is trying to make some sort of progress in their life. A lot of times, you can distil type of progress down to a very simple word like “hope” or “control.” What becomes very important is how do you describe control to this particular segment of customers? Or how do you describe hope to … So, it’s not so much just getting down to defining it as hope, but it’s, what does that hope actually mean? What does that progress actually look like? What is that hope?
Alan: Yup, yup.
Christie: Right. That is so cool. So, you’re making my wheels turn now. I’m probably going to analyse commercials more than I already do.
Alan: Yup, yup. Well, that’s really great. That’s actually … I encourage everyone listening this or watching this to think about this, when you’re watching a TV commercial, you can get which ads or which companies are getting the job and which are not. I just saw a commercial on YouTube for Android, for the new version of Android. And it was just this animation of this guy flying around. “More protection” more faster this and better that. It’s interesting. It’s entirely describing the product. But it’s not describing, “Well, here’s how you’re better with our product.” I think that you have that lens on your eye of you’re watching advertising, you’ll get it.
We do this sometimes too or often is we show those recent Snickers commercials. Like, we show an old Snickers commercial from the ’80s and you can YouTube this.
Christie: I don’t even remember the Snickers commercial.
Alan: Well, there’s the Snickers chocolate mountain song. Like, there’s a song about Snickers.
Christie: I think I remember.
Alan: (Singing). It’s like, oh great. Describe the product.
Christie: You should take that on tour there, Alan. I like it.
Eric: Hey, that’s a great idea.
Christie: I like it. I mean, he’s done everything else, right? Why not cut it out?
Alan: Yeah, why not? But then, if you watch the more recent Snickers commercials, it’s like, 99% of the commercial’s nothing to do with the product directly. It says, like …
Christie: Other than you turn into something else when you’re hungry.
Christie: Which speaks to people. You know? I turn into the Hulk when I haven’t had coffee. I understand completely.
Alan: Yup. Exactly. And then there’ll be this two second clip of “Here’s a snicker.” Show, that’s it. And then it cuts away to how you’ve changed or how things have evolved or become once you [inaudible 00:26:33] that product into your life. I think it’s a perfect example. Are they describing the customer actually improving and changing? Or are they just describing the product itself or maybe how the customer uses the product, which still is not describing the customer themselves, they’re still describing the product.
Christie: Right. Exactly.
Eric: This is a very exciting thing that you’ve hit on. So, another thing, another reason this is really important is because sometimes we come into situations with customers where there’s this assumption that the market is very static. People have a set of needs. They want this. We need to be able to give them exactly what they want better, cheaper, faster.
But the truth is: hope is so powerful that sometimes you can actually put an ad in front of someone or present them this new idea of something that they never thought was possible and you actually create hope where there was no need before. They all of a sudden realise, “Oh my God. This is a way that I can better my life and make progress and move on from where I was.” That’s why Jobs is really powerful. It’s not just the obsession about the customer, but it’s the obsession about a market and how hope can be created and how new ideas come into the mind of customers and how they change just what they want and need.
Christie: And then it becomes subliminal. It’s like, they now have this thought in their head, this hope, this “I can achieve this. I can be better. I can be a better version of myself.” In the back of their mind, they’re going to remember what brand stuffed that idea in their head. Maybe. I mean, that’s the idea.
Alan: Yup. That’s exactly what … This has been used to death, but it’s an example everyone can relate to. It perfectly illustrates the idea. Again, it’s when Apple introduced the iPhone. If we would go back in time, say 2005, and you were to talk with Blackberry owners about their Blackberries, they’ll say, “Oh, I love it. I love it.” How to make it better? “Oh, a better keyboard” or “Do this” or “I want to scroll faster.” They’ll give this whole litany of things that they see as deficiencies in the existing way of doing things and then they’ll ask you to overcome those deficiencies. Whereas, Apple came along and said, “You know, we have a better vision of how you can use technology in your life and we have a better way of what we believe this is what progress in life is to us and we think it’ll be progress in life for you as well.”
And so, they put it in front of people and at first, iPhone was not an overnight success. We like to collapse history in our brain a little bit, but I remember, they were like the first year, it was like, “Oh, I got so much shade.” It was just … All Blackberry owners-
Christie: “What the hell is this?”
Alan: Yeah. Blackberry owners are like, “Oh, no keyboard?”
Christie: Yeah. We were all Blackberry-obsessed. That was the new hotness back then.
Alan: It was like, “Playing games? Ugh.”
Christie: “What? What are we doing? What is Angry Birds?”
Alan: “Ugh. Who’s going to play Angry Birds?” You know? But then, as the product develops, people get more and more exposed to the what I call “new me” that the product helps create, they’re like, “Oh my gosh.”
Christie: And then the concept of apps. There was an app for every- there’s an app for that. That became a mantra. That became the new Q-tip and Band-Aid, you know? Where it’s like, you always say those things now. But it was Apple that put that in your head.
Christie: Even if your own [crosstalk 00:30:02] it’s an Android, Apple made you say it.
Alan: Right. Although, I think it’s great … How many people in 2005 were clamouring for apps?
Alan: How many people? I don’t know. I would say zero.
Christie: Not many. But by 2008, oh gosh.
Alan: Yeah, yeah. It was just like … In fact, people were choosing Apple over Blackberry’s platform or the Android platform because it had more apps.
Christie: Android was sort of slow on the uptake. I remember, I was a beta tester for that first big hunky chunky block of a Google phone, the G1. I don’t know if you remember that. Oh yeah. I just remember having it and thinking it was awesome because it was better than my Blackberry, but I kept saying, “I still want an iPhone.” But that was before Android had caught up, really caught up. They caught up fast too. I mean, now it’s like, six and one half dozen of the other, if you ask me, but it took them a minute because they didn’t have all the same apps that iOS had and iOS had better ones than they. It was weird for a while, but it didn’t take them long. It didn’t take them long to catch up.
But still. That whole concept of there’s an app for that originated with that one brand. So, kind of to keep it moving. How do customers … I mean, not customers. How do these brands … and thank you by the way for telling me how a bigger company can embrace this idea. I think it does start in the marketing department because these people are marketers, so they understand. I think it’s helping the people who are going to pay for that, the CEOs or whatever that aren’t doing, that aren’t in the trenches, that aren’t learning about these concepts, that aren’t understanding the marketing side of marketing, to sign off on it, to buy into it.
I think from what you guys are saying, what these owners – and this can be for the startups, for the entrepreneurs, for the smaller businesses too – is that as an owner, number one, listen to your marketing department because they are smart. Number two is of course you’re looking at the bottom-line. You want to know how many things you are going to sell and how much of a profit you’re going to make, but understanding that taking that time to, I don’t know, take that extra second to be more customer-focused, be more customer-obsessed and taking the focus off your product, selling something beyond your product. Or what can your product … Thinking, like you said, the Jobs method. What this product do for this person? That’s what we’re selling, not the actual product, so that was really good.
So, how does this get measured? I mean, of course, bottom-line obviously of how much you sell. But outside of that, how do you know it’s working? Is it in customer feedback? What are the other ways other than sales? Especially for people like you, for both of you, who are helping other people adopt this concept, return on investment, ROI is huge, especially when you’re dealing with something that you can’t hold in your hands. A foreign concept, i.e. social media at one time. I mean, that was the biggest thing. Where is the ROI on social media? Sometimes it’s second touch. Sometimes it’s just that awareness. And people are like, “Well, I can’t pay my bills with awareness.” But yeah, it pays off later. While social media is fast and instant, the payoff maybe a little bit down the line. So, for a concept like this, other than profits, other than sales, how do big or small companies measure the success of adopting the Jobs method?
Alan: Yup. Absolutely. Let’s instead of saying … I’ll maybe rephrase your question a little bit. I would say, how can we as an organisation measure a progress of our customers? So, this is where we start getting into thinking about, again, taking a customer’s perspective of how they interact with the product, but also what their Jobs To Be Done is, which is what’s their new me they’re hoping to become or create as a result of your product. And so, what we recommend and do ourselves is to recognise that, again, it’s not like … let’s not think of solving needs as if they’re a checklist of things that we need to check off. I don’t think customers really think that way. They don’t think in their brain, “Oh, here’s this six or seven needs in my brain that this product needs to do or I need to resolve.” Then they don’t just mentally go through the list and check it all off. Think about how they consume your product and the feedback that they’re looking for that, “Oh yes, actually, that picture in my brain of how I hoped things would change, am I getting closer to that?” I think that’s really important because that goes back to what you were just talking about.
So, let’s say I use Twitter or Facebook or Linkedin or whatever, you choose whatever social whatever you want, to help me build my brand for example. Now, I may have a vision in my mind of a million followers with so on and so forth. That’s the vision of myself I want to become and achieve, but I recognise that’s going to take time to do that. So, there’s a responsibility or a necessity, I believe, on the innovator side, on the producer’s side, to understand what are those feedback loops that customers are looking for that says, “Ah, I may not be that ideal self in my mind today, but I’m getting one step closer to that.” So, we look for those things. For example, that’s a big reason why … A huge thing was that Facebook like button. That was actually a tremendous innovation because that was providing feedback to the user that, “Ah, I am being … My sense of belonging as part of this social network is … I’m getting reinforced. People do care about me. People are listening to what I have to say.”
Christie: Well, luckily the like button has evolved because like could also mean dislike. And all those thumbs up … Working in social media marketing myself, I had to tell customers a lot of time. They get all excited. I mean, I would tell my customers all the time. They’ll get all excited because, “Oh, so many people liked my page.” I said, “Okay. That’s great. But let me just let you know that in order to write a negative thing about you or on your page, they have to like it.”
Alan: Yeah, right, exactly.
Christie: All those likes don’t necessarily translate into people actually liking, so they have to be another piece of that. Now that they’ve got the extra emojis on the likes, so you can have a frowny face or a crying face or something like that to actually see people’s true emotions about something that you’ve actually put out on social media, so to speak, beyond the thumbs up.
Alan: Yup. That’s another great example you’ve given of identifying the adequate feedback loops. For example, if I’m a user … Actually, I think Eric’s even talked about this where you’ve talked about how you don’t like the like or the love on Twitter. You’re like, “Well, sometimes I just use it to bookmark a tweet,” but I’m apprehensive about doing that because it shows up on people’s timeline and since I liked it. But I didn’t really like it. I just wanted it to save it for later, so I can complain about it or whatever, right? So, it’s important for you to recognise that, again, that there’s some progress I’m hoping to make. For example, in a social media context, I want to become brand superstar worth a million followers who all love me, so I want to make sure that I might not get there today, but I have to make sure I identify what that idea is like and I identify what behaviours, what feedback loops that we can create and bake into our product, so customers will know that, “Yes, okay. I am getting better. Today I had one like and one retweet. Six months from now if I’m still getting one like and one retweet from my tweet, then you know what, I’m not making progress. Why am I using this Twitter thing? This is a waste of my time.”
Christie: Good point.
Alan: Because I haven’t made progress. So, go ahead, Eric.
Eric: No, that’s so important. Two things I want to say to answer your question. First of all is that it’s really important that people realise that Jobs data isn’t something that you can create in your imagination. You have to go out and gather it. You can’t just think of it, so you have to go out and you have to find out. There are two things that we counsel people to look at to what Alan’s referring to, and we don’t have good language around this yet, so I’m going to be a little bit vague perhaps. One of them is the feedback loops. That is, how can we know inside of our product or what clues can we find inside of our product that might indicate that someone is making progress.
The other thing is what things exist in a person’s life that we may not have any visibility into that we’re making progress. For example, I see HPSC as the logo in your background, which I believe is a financial services company. I don’t know them.
Christie: I was like, who me? My Times Square backdrop.
Eric: Yes. If we just pretend that where we’re working with HSBC and, say, they’re trying to help people build wealth. I don’t know what that looks like. One thing that you might be able to see in your product, like Alan said, you can provide feedback loops to them to say, “Hey, did you know that you earned $10,000 in interest this year? Congratulations. First time ever.” That signals back to people that they’re making progress. They may not have even be thinking about but you give people feedback to help remind them that they’re making progress. They may not even have been thinking about it, but you can give people feedback to help remind them that they’re making progress in the way that they are hoping to when they signed up.
The other thing is that there are things that may happen to people’s lives that you don’t have any visibility into. So, perhaps if you’re trying to build wealth so that you can buy a vacation home or so that you can impress people, someone buy a car, these are events that may happen in a person’s life that helps them realise. The product to me, the business needs to start looking at what are these thing that people are using to tell themselves that they are making progress in a way. How can we either stimulate them to think about those things or how can we be aware to help them celebrate and understand? Also, once someone’s bought that vacation home, what’s next? So, I think that sometimes the job gets done and when the job gets done, there are new jobs that are created. No one ever says, “This is great. I just accumulated some wealth, so I’m done building wealth.” No. We build to a certain point and then we realise we can go farther than we ever imagined.
Christie: So, it’s like, the product job is never done almost.
Alan: Well, the customer’s job is never done.
Christie: This is true. This is true. As consumers, we’re constantly needing things and evolving and, like you said, trying to live our – I mean, especially this day and age – trying to live their best life, they’re trying to do things easier, trying to have a certain level of convenience in every aspect of their life. So, it’s like, how is everything out there achieving that? And I like the feedback loops that you were talking about. Of course, it’s making me think of the feedback loops that have come to me as a consumer and it almost … It’s interesting because I’m even looking at, like, it almost circumvents their need to come bug you about something. And then the customer feels like, “Oh, you care. You actually have built a nice, little algorithm that makes sure that you contact me on my birthday or 30 days after I’ve made a purchase” or something like that.
While we are behind the scenes kind of people, so we understand that, those folks who are not behind the scenes kind of people actually go, “Huh.” Or somebody might be annoyed by that. They’re like, “Damn. How did they figure that out?” But other people might be like, “You know what? I kinda needed that reminder. I didn’t know I needed that reminder, but yeah, I kinda needed that reminder.” So, yeah, that’s great. And I think more people are less annoyed by it and quietly appreciate it. While they might not call you up and say, “Hey, thanks for that email” that prompted them to make another purchase. So, in essence that’s a thank you.
Eric: Christie, you hear that all the time.
Christie: What, hearing that “Thank you for sending me that email”?
Alan: Oh, yeah. Yup.
Christie: That’s cool. So, how often do you guys send out feedback loops or how often do you guys touch your customers and say, “Hey, how are you doing? Are you all right? Do you need this?”
Alan: Okay. It’s interesting you say that. So, of course, we eat our own dog food, right? This is [inaudible 00:44:03] learned why our clients like working with us. It’s because they see that we are adaptive to them, so we’ve heard this. “Oh, we are interested in Jobs thinking. We interviewed you guys and we also interviewed these other two, three firms,” but then they chose us. And every time it’s because, well, after they talk to us, they learned that while we were adapting our product, our service, more to fit the progress that they were individually or their organisation was hoping to make. And we weren’t just templating some process through them and trying to get them to fit into us. We were adapting where we can. We kind of have this modular approach. The core’s maybe the same, but that some kind of a modular things that’ll change that we adapt to fit them. So, that’s like leading up to doing an engagement, but even while we’re working with our clients.
Like, for example, we don’t have a set schedule of how we’re doing engagement. We do this research sprints, but everyone is different. Every single research sprint is different because we’ll get maybe two or three days into it, and then the client’s like, “You know what? We’re struggling with this concept.” I’m like, okay, great. So, I will or maybe Eric will start something up and I’ll create a quick presentation around this new topic to help them understand and then we’ll zip it up and do that. It’s because it’s fitting to … We’re looking for feedback loops and engaging with our customers. This applies for any product, software or feedback or physical whatever. It’s recognising that everyone’s progress is slightly different. There’s definitely buckets they can put people into, but recognising it when people feel like they’re making progress and being aware of that. And also, being aware of people feel like they’re not making progress and then adapting yourself to benefit them.
Christie: Absolutely. So, I know I wanted to circle back to your book. Based on everything that we’ve talked about today, is that what in essence your book is about, the Jobs To Be Done concept, the Jobs story as it’s said in a lot of things that you have online. Why Kale And Coffee? How did you come to the title where coffee and kale compete? How did that happen? How do coffee and kale compete, I’d like to know that. And then, I’m assuming a lot of what’s in your book is a lot of what we’ve discussed today, but definitely give us an overview because I want folks to know about that.
Alan: Yeah. Absolutely. So, it’s interesting where I was working with a nurse. I was talking with her and she was telling me about how she had a very wonky schedule. She works night or sometimes she’ll be up all night and whatever, whatever. As we talked, I asked her, “Do you want some coffee?” She’s like, “No. I don’t drink coffee.” I’m like, “Oh, that’s interesting.” She’s like, “Actually, I drink kale-“
Christie: The kale juice.
Alan: “… green juices instead.” I’m like, “So, tell me about that.” For her, she’s like, “Well, I’m trying to create a work life for me that’s particular way and the problem with drinking coffee is that it gets me all jacked up sometimes. So, it gets me very hyper maybe or it happens it’s very difficult for me to fall asleep later on.” And so, she switched from drinking coffee to this kale because the kale drink was much better at enabling her in her job and her life situation to carry out her service as a nurse. So, she was really like, “It helped me create a better caregiving … It empowered me to continue giving a proper nurse-giving services.” I don’t even know how to quite word that. I didn’t really talk to her too much about it.
Christie: Yeah. That was caregiving services.
Alan: Yeah, that was it. For her, the green juice was a much better solution for her as opposed to a coffee drink, which actually was doing the opposite. It was actually regressing and detrimental to her services as a nurse.
Alan: [crosstalk 00:48:31].
Christie: No, that makes sense. That makes perfect sense. Although, I don’t exactly agree with it. Like, I have my coffee. But, no, I get it. Everybody’s got their own thing. And you have a lot of case studies in your book and lots of concepts on how this thing works. Those of you who are watching this and listening to this very fascinating conversation, I feel like the three of us could probably talk for two more hours about this concept because it’s very cool. But folks can definitely delve into the Jobs concept.
And you helped with this, correct, Eric? You gave him some stuff for the book a little bit.
Eric: Well, yeah. We talked through things. I’m sure there is my personal contribution to it. But it’s mostly Alan. This was Alan’s book. He wrote it.
Christie: Yeah. And you talked about the whole thing in the book and the challenges that companies face and stuff and things like that. And I have your website here. Alanklement.com. So, that’s A-L-A-N K-L-E-M-E-N-T dot com. Pretty much there’s a link to the book there, so anyone who’s watching this and listening to this, you can definitely go there to get a little bit more about the book and get a copy of it.
Eric: [inaudible 00:49:53].
Christie: Yeah. You have it in PDF? Oh, cool. That’s awesome. Then it’s downloadable. Read it at your leisure. Both of you have a site together, which is jtbd.org, is that correct?
Eric: Jtbd.info. It’s a correction on medium.
Christie: This didn’t work, sorry. I meant info. I meant info. And it’s a Medium collection, which awesome. I write on Medium as well. Great information. Also case studies on there as well, for anyone who wants to dive so much deeper into this because, I mean, this is huge. I feel like I’m tardy to the party and learning about it. I’m really hoping that anyone who’s watching this looks at this as what they can apply to their own businesses or what they’re trying to, whether they’re an employee of the business or they have their own business, and can apply this. But also, it really has opened my eyes at how to look at things as a consumer too. Like, is this company showing me what I need to know about this product? And not looking at it like it’s a tactic, but I think if any business is applying this concept, the Jobs concept, to their marketing, it means they actually do care about their customers. That’s what I’m gathering from learning what you guys are saying about it.
I can definitely see the passion that you both have for it and how you’re trying to apply it to everything, apply it to the folks that you work with. You’re constantly evolving it with your own companies. But I think that’s what this will open up for anybody who’s learning about this for the first time or maybe they’ve heard it and not looked at it as some fleeting buzzword for the year. That it is actually a concept that will help you be a better business person, but even, a better consumer, you know? “Am I looking at this in the right way? Is this product actually going to do the job that I think it’s going to do?” And it’s making me think about a lot of commercials that I’ve seen recently and how I think marketers look to appeal to people in different ways. But I think in selling … and it may not always be hope, depending on the product of course and the service, but something that’s beyond the product. Something empowering. Like you said, people want to be better. They want to progress. They want to feel better. Even down to the … I think one of the finest commercials I’ve seen this year is the Liquid Plumr commercial. There’s a plumber in all of us. Have you all seen that?
Alan: No, but I like it.
Christie: Oh, let me tell you. It’s so funny. So, you don’t even know what it is at first. They’re just showing people from the back. And you see the crack of their butts. And they’re doing ordinary things, like, they’re at the mall or they’re in the garden or they’re changing their kid’s diaper, but they’re showing them from behind. There’s like a little crack. And you’re like, “Why are they showing the cracks of people’s butts?” And then, it’s like, “Liquid Plumr gets the job done, so you don’t have to think about it.” It makes me feel you empowered. There’s a plumber in you after all. You don’t have to call a plumber, you are a plumber. So, that was the slogan: “There’s a Plumr in all of us.” Of course, with the crack hills in the back. And I thought that was hysterical. From a marketing perspective, I was like, “That’s genius.”
So, really quick before you go. One final question, just as a comparison. Okay, so, in your minds, pick one company that sucks at being customer obsessed. And one company that is kicking much butt in customer success. Or that you feel like, in your personal opinion, going from you, maybe you’re approaching it as a consumer, maybe you’re approaching it as a business person or both. Give an example of … I don’t want to say suck. That sounds mean. How about a company who could do better at being more customer obsessed? And then a company that’s, in your mind, just killing it.
Alan: Do you want me to go first, Eric, or do you want to give a shot?
Eric: I’ve got a couple in mind, but do you need a minute to think?
Alan: I’m ready to go, but go for it, Eric.
Eric: Yeah. All right. I don’t want to name the company, but the company, and it’s [inaudible 00:54:47] where I live, and they were a startup and they got a little [inaudible 00:54:51] money investment. And what they wanted to do is create a microconsulting platform is what they called it. And so, microconsulting platform would be if there’s someone that wanted to, or a company that wanted to learn a little bit about Jobs To Be Done, did not want to do a full engagement, but maybe wanted to do a two-hour engagement. Their idea was that they would connect experts like us with businesses that might want to learn about something. And they were just terrible at it. They spent all this money developing a platform and all the technology and every time I’ll have an interaction with them, they’re like, “Look how good our video conferencing is” or “Look how good our invoicing process is.” I kept telling them, “I don’t need help with any of that. I used to help me understand how to sell these type of engagements.” I don’t know how to make revenue and build a business off of this and it would drive me crazy because they would call themselves a customer obsessed company, but any interaction with them was just about their product. Drove me nuts.
A company that does it really well. Well, Al, do you have one that … Maybe we can start with the negative.
Christie: Start with the negative and then go for the … Bad news first.
Alan: Well, actually, I’ll go with your positive because I need both to explain mine to do a compare and contrast.
Eric: Okay. My positive. How about … Boy, why don’t you go on ahead?
Alan: Yup. No problem.
Christie: Wow. Nobody is doing good out there. Let there be a lesson. All you companies and corporations out there.
Eric: [crosstalk 00:56:24] customers.
Christie: Oh no, not anybody you work with. Just period. In the marketplace, out there. I’ll give you an example of a company I think is … Well, not necessarily doing it well from a marketing perspective, but just in a product concept. When I was thinking about things that … because when I was reading about Jobs To Be Done, one thing I read was that the idea is for this particular product to be a one-stop shop if it can be because customers don’t want to have to piecemeal getting one job done. They’d like that one thing do one job. So, and I forget what article, I don’t know if it’s Harvard Business Review or something, that I read particular quote in, that I said, okay, the thing that comes to mind in me is the Keurig. The Keurig solves the whole coffee problem in one thing. The alternative is to use a traditional coffee-maker, which with the coffee-maker, you have to have the coffee, you have to have the filter, and you have the coffee-maker. With the Keurig, you just got the machine and the pod. You don’t need to buy filters, you don’t need to buy the extra coffee. The coffee and the filter all in one thing. You drop it in, you put a cup. You don’t even have to have a pot to wash out every single time. So, here I am and my coffee obsession.
But the Keurig is from a product perspective the job getting done. So, not from a marketing- And then they are constantly creating products. Some of them are dumb to me, but they’re constantly trying to improve upon that concept of one-stop shop, making coffee on the run. Even having ones that do to-go cups. But you don’t need that. I just put that underneath the regular one and same thing done. Not from a marketing perspective, but from a product perspective of getting the job done. Is that fair?
Christie: So, who’s doing it and who’s not?
Alan: For me? I would mention them together. It’s maybe cliché, but I think I can well articulate it. So, I would like to compare Google versus Apple.
Alan: I will say … It’s interesting. I’ll start with Apple. I believe that Steve Jobs was very customer obsessed, if we’re using that language here. Even though, he was a jerk. The guy was not a nice guy. He was a jerk. There was the whole cliché of “Oh, my iPhone hurts my hand holding it,” and he’s like, “You’re holding it wrong.” That whole brouhaha thing. But it’s interesting that Steve Jobs, again, he understood that … and something that Eric had alluded to earlier, was that customers are looking to Apple to make decisions for them. So, Apple is always … They’re not looking at customers and saying, “What do you need? What do you want? What do you need?” And responding to that. They were thinking, “You know what? How can we improve customer’s lives in ways that they don’t even know yet.” So, I think that’s to me this idea of, if we’re going to call it, customer obsession. That that’s the way it is. It’s like, how can we improve the lives and ways that they may not even be aware of yet because we’re the experts in technology. We can imagine possibilities that our customers aren’t even aware is technologically feasible yet.
Christie: Jeff Bezos is the same way with Amazon.
Alan: Yup. Yup. Compare that with, say, a Google, which is they’ve publicly said this and I think is true. They are an engineering-driven culture. So, they are all about, like okay, what are your core needs? What are your problems and we’ll give you a product that will check off all those boxes? So, what they end up doing is basically just vomiting a whole bunch of features on you. “Here you go. [crosstalk 01:00:40].”
Christie: It’s like, I don’t even know if I need that.
Alan: Yeah, exactly.
Christie: Or want that.
Alan: Yeah, exactly. I think the Google Glass is a perfect example. They gave them a product that was just a collection of features. It was just a collection of features. They never asked, like, “Wait a minute. How is this actually help improve customer’s lives? How are people better once they bring Google Glass into their lives?” And they’re like, “Oh.” They never asked that question.
Christie: No, they just said, “Look at this. Isn’t this cool?”
Alan: Exactly. Exactly. They had this checklist of problems or need or whatever you want to call it, and like, “It does this, it does that, isn’t this great?” But now they’re kind of figuring that out and I’ll give you an example where you can correct yourself even with a product that may have been a flop. Google Glass has been finding success within the manufacturing industry.
Christie: Right. So, you just change your customer base.
Alan: Yeah. So, they’re like, “Well, actually, wait a minute. We’re not helping them gain focus. We’re in the business of helping someone become a better factory worker. That’s where our business is. So, how can we design to adjust Google Glass so it helps make you a better worker in the factory? And that helps give them focus. Okay, we probably don’t need GPS location on this thing, for example, you know? We just jettison these features or whatever and focus on that job be done of help me evolve or help our organisation evolve our workers.” And so, I think that’s how they can fix it. But that’s how I would give an example of someone really thinking about being customer obsessed in the sense of always thinking about improving customer’s lives and not just responding to things that they do or don’t like about the world of today, versus just like in the Google Glass technology example of, “Okay, where’s the checklist of features and things that I can make. And then just leave up to the customer to figure out how to use it.”
Christie: Right. That’s good.
Eric: One thing that I would add is that you said something earlier about you felt you’re really late to the game because you’re very early to the game.
Christie: Oh, really?
Eric: So few companies that are using this type of thinking to develop product and to help people make progress that you’re very, very, very early on in adopting this way of thinking. Part of the reason it’s difficult to come up with examples is because there just aren’t that many companies that have used-
Christie: That are actually doing it.
Eric: I share that because I want to use that as a source of encouragement, not only for you, but for your audience, that you are not late to the game on this. You’re early to the game. This is something that has been around for a long time. We’ve worked with people that have been using this since the ’80s, that came up with it in the ’80s to do things like make hotdogs. I mean, literally, it’s that recent. But there’s been sort of a renaissance of it and there’s newfound popularity over the last several years, but there’s a huge opportunity to latch onto this way of thinking and use it to make progress. I can almost guarantee you that anyone who’s watching this right now, your competitors are not using it.
Christie: Oh yeah.
Eric: And there’s huge competitive advantage by learning how to adopt this way of thinking and using it to create new products or to improve existing products.
Christie: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I’m telling you, you guys have completely opened my mind to a lot of things and how I can look at things differently. And again, also, as a consumer. I think that’s one thing that a lot of companies lose sight of, is actually pretend to be your customer. What would you want out of this experience? What do you want out of this? And that it is a customer experience. It is the user experience that drives anything. So, if you’re not thinking like your customer or trying to find out what your customer is thinking, then what is the point in doing all this?
Eric: I know we’re late, but I do want to encourage-
Christie: Oh no. This is great.
Eric: … people being nervous about talking to customers. Do not be nervous about it. Push them and never ask a customer why. “Why did you buy the product?” And then fold your arms and sit back and listen. They don’t know. They don’t know.
Christie: “Cos it was on sale that day.” I mean, it could be a plethora of reasons.
Eric: Yup. Who knows. But your job is, again, when you’re having these conversations … There’s a lot more to this theory of Jobs To Be Done than just interacting with customers, but a great way to start to understand the realities of the theory, which the thing I love the most, the thing that’s been most helpful for me about Alan’s book has been just simply the principle of Jobs To Be Done. Read the principles of Jobs To Be Done, go out and have open-ended conversations where you’re exploring things with the customer. You’re going to talk about, we’re going to work together to understand what happened. And then have this conversation and let it unfold, and you and the customer will be very surprised by all that went into just even a single purchase of something very simple. So, when you do that, you start to understand the things that are actually important to them, the way that they’re thinking of making progress in their language, which will be different than your language. It’s just so easy to go out and do this. There’s no reason to guess. there’s no reason to imagine what it is.
Turn the empathy thing on during the course of the interview, use that to have a good interview, and then shut it off, and just say what does the data say about these patterns. [inaudible 01:06:12] to have 10 conversations, you will start to see patterns that will emerge and you don’t have to use empathy. You can actually see from data what people are trying to accomplish, what trade-offs they’re willing to make, and you’ll start to see that there are very different ways of segmenting customers. You can actually segment customers by the progress they’re trying to make and get away from having to segment them based on unimportant things like geography or business size or things of that nature.
Christie: Yeah. No, that’s great. That’s great advice. I mean, man, I’ve learned so much today. It’s insane. So, I’m really glad that you both took the time to talk to us today and share this wealth of information. Again, anyone who is listening to this or watching this right now, you can learn more about Eric and Alan at jtbd … right?
Christie: Jtbd.info. On their site, there’s so many great articles and things that they both have written about this concept. Of course, you can go to alanklement.com and get Alan’s book and learn more about him. Where can I find you guys online? Are you guys … obviously on Twitter and things like that if anyone wants to follow you or get in contact with you on Twitter. Eric, what’s your …
Eric: I’m Eric M. White and Alan is just Alan Klement. A-L-A-N K-L-E-M-E-N-T.
Christie: Okay. Sounds great. Well, thank you, again. Once again, I’m Christie for Fieldboom. I hope you all have learned a lot today because I know I have. And I will see you next time. Thank you very much for joining us today and look forward to seeing you on the next one.