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About 95 percent of new products fail. The problem: outdated thinking about marketing. Clayton Christensen argues it’s time for companies to look at products like customers do–as a way to get a job done. Van den Steen, Eric J. It’s time for companies to look at products the way customers do: as a way to get a job done. When planning new products, companies often start by segmenting their markets and positioning their merchandise accordingly.
This segmentation involves either dividing the market into product categories, such as function or price, or dividing the customer base into target demographics, such as age, gender, education, or income level. Unfortunately, neither way works very well, according to Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, who notes that each year 30,000 new consumer products are launched—and 95 percent of them fail. The problem is that consumers usually don’t go about their shopping by conforming to particular segments. Rather, they take life as it comes. And when faced with a job that needs doing, they essentially “hire” a product to do that job. To that end, Christensen suggests that companies start segmenting their markets according to “jobs-to-be-done. It’s a concept that he has been honing with several colleagues for more than a decade.
The fact that you’re 18 to 35 years old with a college degree does not cause you to buy a product,” Christensen says. It may be correlated with the decision, but it doesn’t cause it. We developed this idea because we wanted to understand what causes us to buy a product, not what’s correlated with it. We realized that the causal mechanism behind a purchase is, ‘Oh, I’ve got a job to be done.
And it turns out that it’s really effective in allowing a company to build products that people want to buy. Christensen, who is planning to publish a book on the subject of jobs-to-be-done marketing, explains that there’s an important difference between determining a product’s function and its job. Looking at the market from the function of a product really originates from your competitors or your own employees deciding what you need,” he says. In his MBA course, Christensen shares the story of a fast-food restaurant chain that wanted to improve its milkshake sales. The would-be customers answered as honestly as they could, and the company responded to the feedback. But alas, milkshake sales did not improve. The company then enlisted the help of one of Christensen’s fellow researchers, who approached the situation by trying to deduce the “job” that customers were “hiring” a milkshake to do.
First, he spent a full day in one of the chain’s restaurants, carefully documenting who was buying milkshakes, when they bought them, and whether they drank them on the premises. He discovered that 40 percent of the milkshakes were purchased first thing in the morning, by commuters who ordered them to go. Christensen details the findings in a recent teaching note, “Integrating Around the Job to be Done. They faced a long, boring commute and needed something to keep that extra hand busy and to make the commute more interesting. They weren’t yet hungry, but knew that they’d be hungry by 10 a. The milkshake was hired in lieu of a bagel or doughnut because it was relatively tidy and appetite-quenching, and because trying to suck a thick liquid through a thin straw gave customers something to do with their boring commute.
In his MBA course, of course the other intractable issue is money, why did you not put in a drug eluting stent? But alas sometimes that’s the way it is: from what I read of the comments so far, no four vessel bypass when you’re over 90, is looking so strongly at another big government system! To see what they see, markets allocate or “ration” scare resources among unlimited demands. Better and better products, for those who suggest that a U.
The chain could also respond to a separate job that customers needed milkshakes to do: serve as a special treat for young children—without making the parents wait a half hour as the children tried to work the milkshake through a straw. In that case, a different, thinner milkshake was in order. Disney does the job of providing warm, safe, fantasy vacations for families. Gamble’s product success rate rose dramatically when the company started segmenting its markets according to a product’s job, Christensen says. He adds that this marketing paradigm comes with the additional benefit of being difficult to rip off. Christensen also cites the importance of “purpose branding”—building an entire brand around a particular job-to-be-done. Quite simply, purpose branding involves naming the product after the purpose it serves.
Sawzall, which does the job of helping consumers safely saw through pretty much anything. Its Hole-Hawg drills, which make big holes between studs and joists, are also quite popular. The company’s other tools, which rely on the Milwaukee brand, are not nearly as celebrated. The word ‘Milwaukee’ doesn’t give you any market whatsoever,” Christensen says. So, if jobs-to-be-done market segmentation is so effective, why aren’t more companies designing their products accordingly? For one thing, future product planning usually involves analyzing existing data, and most existing data is organized by customer demographics or product category. I’ve got a list of mistakes that God made in creating the world, and one of them is, dang it, he only made data available about the past!