7 Min Read

The BS LLC Approach: Part 4 of 6 – Research

7 Min Read

Let’s Start with a 4-Way Analysis

What’s 4-Way for, anyway?

The 4-Way Analysis is a comprehensive look at your business and the most immediate macroeconomic factors that affect it. It’s an extensive overview made of 4 specific areas.

1: Your Authority

First up, we analyze your brand “stance,” including your quantitative digital chops, how you’re ranked in published surveys, articles, etc., and the qualitative perceptions, how you’re described and talked about. It gives us a feeling of your brand persona. (If you’re not familiar with “brand personae,” try this little exercise. Describe your company or brand to someone you’ve never met as a person. What characteristics would you use?)

2: Your Competitors

Next, we evaluate your “relevant competitive set.” That first word in the phrase is vital because not all of the competition that immediately springs to mind in your industry segment may apply to your audience. (We learn which ones do with our JTBD lens.) By looking at your competitors and what they’re doing well — and not so well in competition with you and other brands, we can see where you “sit.”

3: Your Customers

While our JTBD point of view illuminates the “product hiring” activity of your customers (that is, what brand are they hiring to solve a particular problem they have?), this specific slice of the 4-Way looks at them in a more traditional demographic way: which roles at which companies are “hiring” other brands, who are their peers, what is their educational and work backgrounds for context, etc. When we blend it all, we accurately picture who engages with you and why.

4: Your Industry

The last quadrant is a survey of what’s going on in your industry, politics, geographical area, and economics that affect your business. It’s the “weather report” for your marketing because it affects everyone, including competitors and customers.

All Together Now

When all 4 of those areas are distilled, they provide a clear picture of Your Place in the World. (Does that make it a 5-Way?). For the strategy to offer up a direction for you to go, we first must understand precisely where you are. Here in the center of our 4-way intersection, we know.

Strategy is ultimately a way of summarizing the current operating environment and the steps you'll take to maintain or adjust that environment to your goals

Jobs-To-Be What?

Now it’s time to understand where your customers are.


Jobs To Be Done is our companion strategic tool to understand essential customer behaviors.


The late Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School authored a book entitled “Competing Against Luck,” where, among other ideas, he introduced the concept of Jobs To Be Done, a way of looking at how customers of all kinds “hire” products and services to complete jobs. He most famously used a case study from some of his associates of how McDonald’s benefitted from the approach to selling more milkshakes. It’s a fascinating story.


Instead of investing in making a better milkshake and then rolling that out to see how it sells, using this new view, you know what problem the customer is having and what they “hire” to solve it.


Clayton’s associates learned that morning commute boredom was the problem, and drive-through milkshakes were the self-selected solution. By implementing minor and ingenious tweaks to their existing product, sales rose a remarkable 30%.


At BS LLC, we have a penchant for the number 4; we’ve simplified the intricate Jobs To Be Done process into four research steps that we apply to customers to learn what their real problem is and what they do on their own to solve it. It’s not a brand deep dive; it’s a problem-solution deep dive.


Here are the steps:


1: Their Need

Listening to customers is challenging. Understanding what their real problems are is hard. Why? Because when you talk to them, they want to fit their conversation neatly into pre-established roles: You, the questioner, represent a brand or a solution. They think you want to hear about their perceptions and use of your solution.


But that’s not what we are after. We don’t just want to make a new version of the same widget. We’re trying to discover what’s genuinely driving them. Once we know that, we have something we can start to do to help them and build our businesses.


2: Their Prep

Knowing you have a problem and taking action to solve your problem are two different things. In this crucial phase, we observe how your customers prepare to take action, and this can yield significant insights. How do your customers research? What do they learn about others who are in the same circumstances? Where do they learn about products and techniques that can solve their problem? How do they vet those techniques?


3: Their Actions

Here, we watch your customer pull the proverbial trigger and take action on their job to be done. They may go DIY. They may hire a competitive product or service. Observing their steps can often reveal faps that you can profitably fill.


4: Their Conclusions

This is the afterglow. Will they repeat the action in the future? What will they “archive?” Will they tell their friends, family, or coworkers what they did? Will it become a “workflow?” Or will they swear never to do this set of actions again and reestablish a new definition of “need?”

Syn. Tha. Size.

Hopefully, you can understand how these two elegantly simple frameworks guide our desk research, our interviews, our surveys, and the way we look at online analytics.


But, harvesting these eight big data buckets doesn’t mean you magically have guidance.


That’s where the “art” of strategy enters.

Great strategy always does two things:


First, it defines “what’s going on right now.”


Second, it yields principled, transparent actions that minimize risk and loss and produce positive outcomes. You pay strategic research partners for the gold in that last step.


At BS LLC, you’re getting a blend of art and science from a team of life-long students of economics, branding, marketing, fine art, literature, design, spirituality, philosophy, and even metaphysics. Great discipline blended with a diverse background and a curator’s eye for detail.


Thanks for going along with this exposition of our strategic approach. We hope you’ll let us apply it to your next strategic need.