What Is Your Customer Really Buying?

Steve WunkerJune 1, 20232 min

“The customer rarely buys what the business thinks it sells him.” I often use this quote from the great Peter Drucker to help explain the concept of Jobs to be Done (I took it from Clay Christensen, who did the same). But the quote goes much further, and it relates to much more. Consider these examples:

– Is the Ford F-150 a popular pickup truck or a way of making a statement?
– Is Adobe a suite of SaaS products for creative professionals or a contingency plan for marketing?
– Is a private school selling education or parental reassurance?

Take the first example. Why can Ford make $10K in profit (or more) on an F-150 vs. very little on small cars? Because the truck is a statement that very few firms can compete against.

Knowing what the customer is really buying impacts:

– Your pricing
– Customer experience
– Ecosystem partners
– Business strategy
– Required capabilities
…Lots more

To get there, you need to know the Jobs to be Done. But you also need to deeply understand the purchase process, how competitors were evaluated (“competitors” very broadly defined), and the price points of the full range of options (including hidden costs like inconveniences).

It’s not just understanding the Jobs. It’s understanding what business you’re really in.

What companies can you think of that are in a very different business than standard industry definitions would suggest?

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Stephen Wunker, Managing Director of New Markets Advisors and author of Jobs to be Done: A Roadmap for Customer-Centered Innovation.

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