Before you can unpack the process your First Line Customer goes through to solve their problem, you have to define it.
What problem does your customer actually have and how can your brand get “hired” as the perfect solution? Defining the job may not be as easy as it sounds. In a classic Jobs To Be Done theory example, a power tool manufacturer who makes, among other things, electric drills believes there is an opportunity to bring a new drill to market. But they’d be mistaken in believing that their customer’s primary job to be done is to “purchase a new and improved drill.” The customer may currently be without a drill, or has a work team that has grown and needs more drills, but a drill maker will need to understand the customer’s very specific problem to innovate and launch a successful new product.
After numerous interviews with skilled workers who depend upon power drills as part of their daily work, the job to be done was defined as:
Pay attention to how specific that JTBD is. The customer doesn’t need a drill, per se; they need to create holes. They must create holes with speed and clean edges in masonry materials (as opposed to metals, wood, or plastic) and in specific sizes of their choosing.
Getting to that level of detail will require a little dogged determination from you as an interviewer. Most of us have internalized the steps we take to complete our daily tasks; we don’t think about the details. Also, your interviewees will likely want to focus on the products they use, which isn’t the point of this marketing research. You’re not seeking for the customers to list competitive products or have them talk about product attributes; you want them to talk about their outcomes. At the end of your workday, when it comes to power drills (because that’s our context), what does success look like? That’s our Job To Be Done.
Can you see how, by narrowly defining your customers JTBD in this way, your marketing plan, marketing strategy, and even brand strategy can more effectively come to life?
With our JTBD contextualized and defined, we now want to learn how the customer — in fact, as many roles in the Customer’s team as you can — goes about completing their stated task.
That’s when the 9 Steps comes in.
It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to decide what to have for dinner tonight, preparing a new legal brief, or installing custom cabinets in a new kitchen, we all complete our tasks by going through a set of steps. We don’t go through all the steps every time, sometimes we eliminate or combine, and sometimes we skip steps. But the structure, as shown above, remains the same.
Your task as a marketer is to understand these steps in as much detail as you can. It will help immensely to have your client or customer’s team define these steps together during a live workshop. Why? Because with more stakeholders you’ll tend to get more detail; you’ll also watch and listen as the team collaborates and contradicts each other through the steps, giving you more insight to the process. If you take our example of the drill, who do you think we’d like to participate in the interview, if possible? The site foreman, the construction manager, the skilled workers, and whomever is responsible for the finances on this team would all contribute to complete this nine step grid.
Here’s the breakdown:
Strong brands will be able to speak to all of these steps in their marketing campaigns. Consequently, their brand promise will be exceptionally powerful because it directly supports what the customer wants and needs most. To get further in the weeds, a robust set of stakeholder interviews that cover all 9 steps in detail will supply your content marketing and social media teams with a solid supply of topics.
Finding the gaps between these nine steps is where the gold is.
Sorry, did I say nine steps? I meant eighteen.
At the end of each step, you want to find out, “What makes this step difficult or challenging?” Adding that little kicker question after the team has expressed everything they can about the step enables you to quickly learn how you might be able to step in with education, a new product, a new service, or an adjustment to their workflow.
Additionally, you’ll want to listen for where teams skip steps, hire an outside service, or invent a “workaround.” In each of these instances, your customers are letting you know where the market is underserved and needs a solution.
It should go without saying that you’ll want to talk with as many teams as possible within a given time frame or budget in order to really understand what’s happening in a particular market surrounding a particular job. If you’re taking excellent notes, patterns will soon rise to the surface enabling you to provide innovative solutions.
In our experience using this approach, we always get more than we bargained for—new ways of working, new sales approaches, ideas for new products, new angles for messaging and advertising, and more have come out of these engagements. We encourage you to try it or, if this article has made the approach interesting to you, contact us and get us started on a deep dive into an aspect of your business where you’d like to inject some innovation.