Know your real competition to uncover growth opportunities

1:1 switch interview practice workshop
1:1 ‘switch interview’ practice during our Berlin Jobs to be Done workshop

One of the exercises we do in our 1-day Jobs to be Done workshop is to help participants think differently about competition in order to identify growth opportunities for a business. This is a challenge because we are used to (or told to) keeping a close eye on companies, products and services that are in the same category and industry as ours. The promise is, by closely following our direct competitors, we can quickly respond to their actions and prevent existing customers from switching to our competitors or prevent prospective customers from signing up to competing products and services.

This way of thinking about competition isn’t helpful. In fact, it stops you from identifying potential revenue growth opportunities for your business.

Jobs to be Done theory (#JTBD) takes a different view of competition:

“Competition is defined in the minds of customers, and they use progress as their criterion [to help them choose a solution].”

Adapted from Alan Klement, author of When Coffee and Kale Compete

The above is one of the principles of JTBD theory. Customers do not think about competition in terms of product categories, industries or the functionality or physical appearance of a product. Instead, they use whatever solution helps them make progress against their job to be done.*

To help us with identifying the real competition for a product or service, we conduct live “switch interviews” with our workshop participants about their recent product or service purchase. This method reveals their actual behaviour and the solutions they used in the past and present or considered using to solve for their job to be done. For example, in our most recent workshop in Berlin, we interviewed a participant who had bought some high-end, noise cancelling wireless headphones 2 months ago. Using the timeline tool, we recreated the events and actual behaviour of the participant that led up to the purchase of the headphones, the moment of purchase and the usage afterwards.

Timeline drawing workshop
Timeline notes from a workshop participant

From the interview data collected, we then described one of the high-level jobs to be done that the participant hired the headphones for as “help me to shut myself out from the stressful environment I am in, so that I can focus on my work and still have the energy to enjoy my life”. Solutions that the participant considered hiring for solving against this job to be done were, of course, headphones from other manufacturers, however, the participant also tried to change their work desks to an area in the office that was less noisy and even changing jobs altogether. Amongst the solutions that were fired after the headphone purchase was watching comedy shows on Netflix in the evening to “relax”. All these solutions were directly competing with the headphones.

Equipped with the description of the participant’s job to be done and the data about the real competition, we could now explore growth opportunities for the headphones manufacturer: for example, in order to acquire more new customers, the marketing messaging could be changed from simply listing out the various features of the headphones, e.g. noise cancelling, wireless, bluetooth 4.0 etc., to describing how wearing the headphones at work during the day enables you to preserve your energy so that you can still enjoy your life after work, e.g. exercising or reading a book — which the participant was too tired for previously. Workshop participants had plenty of ideas for product and design improvements, e.g. adding a red “do not disturb” light to signal colleagues that one does not want to be interrupted. However, real growth opportunities for the headphones manufacturer were seen by the participants in creating service offerings to complement the headphones product, such as partnerships with wellness and spa centres, educating organisations about how to create “healthy”, noise-free work environments through workshops, videos and ‘how-to’ guides or designing office space materials that would help absorb sound.

In order to find growth opportunities, it is important to first understand what business your company is really in. For the headphone manufacturer, they ought to understand that they are not in the business of making and selling headphones only. They are in the business of helping us become better humans, e.g. employees who can focus on their work and retain energy so that they can enjoy life after work. No matter how well the headphones function, if customers can’t use them to make progress against their job(s) to be done, the headphones are worthless.

These are just some insights that participants gain from our Jobs to be Done workshops. If you want to learn hands-on how to uncover growth opportunities for businesses, join us in London on Thursday, 31 May 2018. For event details and registration, visit our event page.

If you prefer a more private setting for you and your team only, you can book a private workshop for up to 10 participants at your premises in London on Friday, 1 June 2018. In one day, we can set up your team to conduct Jobs to be Done research themselves and use the results. Contact me if you would like to discuss or book the private workshop.

* What is Job to be Done theory and a ‘job to be done’?

Jobs to be Done is a theory of customer demand and motivation that is used by successful companies such as Basecamp, Intercom, Pipedrive and others. It is a new way to understand what customers want and why they want it. A ‘job to be done’ is a desire someone has to make their life better. Once customers have an idea of how their life could be improved, they go through a process to make their desired experiences possible. This is what drives them to shop and ultimately buy products and services, to make trade-offs, to decide which features matter and to determine what they are willing to pay. In the workshop, you will learn hands-on how to find out what customers want and how they form their jobs to be done. These insights will prove invaluable for finding growth opportunities for your product or service. Learn more about Jobs to be Done theory here.

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