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Five steps to gain a better customer focus

Thursday, 19 April 2012 | By Marc Peskett

feature-customer-focus-thumbWe all know that in order to establish a successful business you need to focus on delivering a solution to your target market.


A product or service that addresses a problem, enhances their experience, or enables them to feel good while identifying with the life they aspire to.


All too often though what starts out as a strong customer-centric focus, with a product or service solution being developed to meet that need, quickly evolves into a product or service centric focus, where understanding the customer is diluted by the need to label, generalise and categorise customers.


It’s the simplest and most obvious means we know to develop, market and grow the business and the typical steps are:

  1. Create a profile of your ideal customer.

  2. Devise a means to communicate with others that match that profile.

  3. Scope the features and differentiation points about your product or service and align those with your customer profile.

  4. Pour your efforts and marketing budget into creating brand awareness and trying to convince your target market that your product or service meet their needs better than your competitors can.

The expectation is that they’ll buy it, just like your existing customers did.


The reality is this approach takes a lot of time and expense to pursue and the outcome is a bit hit and miss.


Some of them will buy, and some of them won’t, because at the end of the day your strategy is based on a generalisation and one that’s probably not powerful enough to stand out among all the claims your customers have to sift through, process and evaluate.


After all, your competitors are basing their marketing on similar claims and generalisations to capture and maintain their portion of market share.


For start-ups, who have limited resources, this approach can be costly and more often than not doomed to failure.


There is a better and simpler way to look at this.


In their article Marketing Malpractice (Harvard Business Review, December 2005) Clayton M. Christensen, Scott Cook and Taddy Hall introduced the concept of customers hiring products and services to help them get “jobs” done.


For example, customers buy a drill to help them do the job of creating a hole. It is the need to complete a job that drives the buying decision.


The product or service is simply a means to achieve this. Jobs can be both tangible, like creating a hole or intangible, such as the need to feel good, look good or be perceived as successful.


High-end fashion brands are a good example of helping to perform these intangible jobs.


In my opinion, the concept of getting jobs done is more than a marketing strategy. It is a useful and simple tool that all start-ups should use when developing their business strategy.


The key advantages of this approach are:

  1. It allows you to design a product or service that helps customers satisfy their real needs to get the job done.

  2. Your marketing and advertising can be far more effectively targeted, therefore reducing cost and wasted effort.

  3. It provides a clarity of focus and aligns product development and innovation with marketing.

  4. It provides far greater insight as to who your real competition may be beyond those that have similar products and services.

Based on the principles outlined in the article I have set out my five steps for start-ups to use the “jobs done” concept in their business:

  1. Listen to your customers and observe them using either your product or service or your competitors’ product or services to understand exactly what jobs are they trying to get done.

    Don’t just focus on the tangible task itself, but also consider the associated “feeling jobs” the customer might experience at the same time, such as the need to look good, feel good or feel safe and secure.

  2. Look for opportunities, for example where you identify a job that isn’t currently being satisfied by the available products and services.

    There might be a niche market opportunity that has been overlooked.

  3. Segment your customers around what jobs they are looking to get done.

  4. Develop a value proposition that addresses the key jobs to be done for each segment.

  5. Design a targeted advertising and marketing campaign and brand strategy for each of these segments that focuses on the jobs to be done, i.e. selling the hole not the drill.

Focusing on the job allows you to identify opportunities for improvement that are better matched to your customer needs, which can be used to more successfully guide your business strategy, product or service development and marketing efforts.


For example, once the business has established a reputation and brand equity for delivering this job well, it can leverage this by introducing products and services that address similar needs.


Focusing on the job, means you’ll develop a solution and proposition that current customers want to buy, potential customers are likely to buy and provides a commercial and outcome oriented focus for your product or service development, and ultimately the growth of your business.


Marc Peskett is a director of MPR Group a Melbourne based business that provides business advisory, capital raising, grants services, as well as tax, outsourced accounting, finance lending and wealth management to fast growing small to medium enterprises. MPR Group is a member of the Proactive Accountants Network. You can follow Marc on Twitter @mpeskett