Understanding what will motivate a potential customer to buy your products or services is a critical prerequisite to developing an effective marketing strategy and creating compelling marketing communications. As thousands of marketers will attest, this isn’t a simple task.
As marketers, we develop customer value propositions and we create content we believe will resonate with our potential buyers. But too often, our marketing programs don’t produce the results we expect.
This lackluster performance frequently stems from the methods marketers typically use to define their market(s) and to determine and describe how their products or services will create value for customers.
Most B2B marketers define their market(s) based on a combination of product/service characteristics and the attributes of their potential customers (company size, industry vertical, etc.).
So, for example, a marketer might define his or her market in these terms: “We sell manufacturing execution system software to large enterprises that are engaged in both discrete and process manufacturing.”
Then, marketers use these definitions to guide the development of their customer value propositions.
The problem is, these conventional approaches to defining markets and identifying how products or services create value don’t help marketers pinpoint what actually motivates people to buy. Fortunately, there’s a proven way to solve this problem.
Understand What Customers Need to Get Done
The starting point for understanding what will motivate your potential customers to buy is to recognize that people don’t buy a product or service because they want the product or service itself. In most cases, what they really want is what the product or service will enable them to accomplish.
For example, most small business owners don’t really want a company brochure, or a direct mail campaign, or, for that matter, a website. But, many will invest in these things because they see them as effective tools for increasing sales.
Theodore Levitt, the legendary professor of marketing at the Harvard Business School, memorably expressed this idea when he often told his students, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”
In their 2003 book, The Innovator’s Solution, Clayton Christensen and co-author Michael Raynor built on Professor Levitt’s thinking to describe what is now widely known as the jobs-to-be-done framework (the “JTBD framework”). In 2005, Christensen and co-authors Scott Cook and Taddy Hall further described the importance and value of the JTBD framework in a landmark article published in the Harvard Business Review.
The basic idea of the JTBD framework is that when people identify a “job” they need or want to get done, they look for a product or service they can “hire” to perform the job.
Christensen and his co-authors argued that this is how customers “experience life.” Their thought process begins with an awareness that they need or want to get something done, and they seek to hire something or someone to do the job for them.
So, the presence and recognition of a job that needs to get done are what trigger and energize a potential customer’s motivation to buy. This makes the job – not product/service features or customer demographics/firmographics – the primary unit of analysis for marketers who hope to develop and execute high-performing marketing strategies and programs.
In the HBR article, Christensen and his co-authors put it this way:
“The marketer’s task is therefore to understand what jobs periodically arise in customers’ lives for which they might hire products the company could make. If the marketer can understand the job, design a product and associated experiences in purchase and use to do that job, and deliver it in a way that reinforces its intended use, then when customers find themselves needing to get that job done, they will hire that product.”
I’ve previously written about how the JTBD framework can be used to guide the development of marketing content. The point of this post is that the framework can also be a powerful tool for thinking about market definition, market segmentation, and value proposition development during your marketing planning process.
So, as you begin planning for 2024, take enough time to identify the jobs your potential customers are facing that your products or services can perform. This is the real key to understanding what will motivate your potential customers to buy.