There are many possible customers; buyers, users, influencers, administrators, and distributors. So who is your customer? When looking through a jobs-to-be-done lens, we see that they are all trying to get a job done, but not the same job. Of course, companies want to help any and all potential customers get their unique jobs done better, earning their loyalty. The key to success, however, is knowing who the primary customer is and the hierarchy to follow to optimize value creation and profits.
When asked who is your customer, companies often tell us that they serve many customers. This customer selection includes internal and external customers, distributors, buyers, influencers, employees, and so on. Calling them all “customers” is common, even acceptable. But it perpetuates a myth that misleads. They are not all customers in the true sense of the word. Companies are making a mistake when they give all these constituents an equal or greater priority than they give their primary customer. This leads to focusing time and energy in the wrong places, inhibiting a company’s ability to create value and grow.
So companies get the job done for "everyone" or address customers in vague terms instead of speaking directly to their target customers.
Concluding that the distributor, the purchasing department, or the buyer is the primary customer is almost always a mistake. Products and services exist to help someone get a job done, not so someone can distribute, buy, or install them. Of course, companies have to make sure its distributors, buyers, contractors, sales team, and employees are all happy, but they are not the reason the company exists. When deciding who is the customer, the focus should always be on the people using the product. They are the ones for whom value is being created and the reason why the market and the product exists.
This can be a little tricky when a company sells its product as a component in another company’s product. In this case, the primary customer is the designer of that product. The designer is hiring the product to help deliver a specific function. It should be noted, however, that more value could potentially be created for these designers if the company knew more about their customer. Knowing more about the end users’ job reveals an avenue for growth that is often worth pursuing when it comes to customer selection.
It’s hard to conceive that the people you sell to, collect revenue from, and talk to every day of the week are not your primary customers. IBM thought ComputerLand was its primary customer, not the computer user. But then Dell and Apple created offerings that took the distributor out of the equation. The result? ComputerLand went the way of the dinosaur, and IBM eventually got out of the PC business. But computer users didn’t disappear. They were, and are still today, the primary customer.
The first step in profiting from the customer is knowing who they are. We work through the confusion and the resistance to make the right choices, so value can be created. This is part of our innovation process, Outcome-Driven Innovation (ODI).
Outcome-Driven Innovation (ODI) brings clarity by expounding on a customer's need and finding solutions to address those unmet needs. Here are some of the strategies used to win over the target market.
Drop the notion that the innovation process starts with an idea. On the contrary, an idea is the output of the innovation process. This helps businesses construct the best solution to help their ideal customer get the job done faster and more cheaply.
From a Job-to-be-Done perspective, asses how efficiently a product or service is helping ideal customers get the job done. Identify how to measure value and offer a better product or service than the competitor. It's no longer about a technical comparison of your product to your competitor; it starts and ends with creating value for your existing customers.
A product or service should effectively communicate to attract customers who find value. ODI informs marketing messages to communicate value and how to do the job better than other competing solutions.
Understand the methods customers use to measure if the product gets the job done. Focus on the feedback to understand your target market's opinions and attitudes toward your brand. Remember, happy customers whose jobs have successfully been executed will likely return.
Learn more about our growth strategy consulting services.
Turn Customer Input into Innovation
In this timeless 2002 Harvard Business Review article, Tony Ulwick first introduces the concept of Outcome-Driven Innovation to HBR readers. He explains how Cordis Corporation (now a division of Johnson & Johnson) used ODI to increase its angioplasty balloon market share from 1 to 20 percent by knowing who its customer was and helping that customer get the job done better.
The Customer-Centered Innovation Map
In this groundbreaking 2008 Harvard Business Review article, Tony Ulwick and Lance Bettencourt reveal an important discovery they made while turning jobs-to-be-done innovation theory into practice: job mapping. Recognizing just who is your customer, a job map breaks down the job the customer is trying to get done in a way that enables us to discover all the customer’s needs.
What is Outcome-Driven Innovation?
Outcome-Driven Innovation is the most effective innovation process in existence today. This white paper, by Strategyn founder and ODI inventor Tony Ulwick, explains why innovation has historically been an ineffective process, the discoveries he made that led to ODI, and how we use it to identify just who is your customer and accelerate company growth. Download the white paper
Download the Whitepaper
What Customers Want
What Customers Want, the best seller by innovation thought leader Tony Ulwick, explains what Outcome-Driven Innovation (ODI) is and why it works. Ulwick, who pioneered jobs-to-be-done thinking and invented ODI, details how ODI transforms jobs-to-be-done theory into a practical method for understanding just who is your customer and an effective process for innovation and growth.
Choose from a dozen case studies with companies such as Microsoft, Ingersoll Rand, Bosch, and others, and learn how we apply our ODI methodology to identify just who is your customer and help companies grow.
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