Changing your focus from delivering product features to delivering customer growth (progress) to increase revenues.
I recently conducted two Customer Jobs* research projects for companies selling SaaS products to small and large businesses. What I have come to realise – and want to advocate here – is: B2B companies are in the “Growth business”, i.e. they ought to be thinking about how they can help their customers and their employees(!) grow instead of just growing the product.
Understanding that you are in the Growth business rather than just selling your customers a software solution to their problem(s) can be challenging. This is particularly true for founders and CEOs who are used to believing they are providing a product, e.g. a SaaS platform, for businesses in an industry that uses outdated tools and processes, or who are convinced that their customers are buying their superior “all-in-one” product because of its rich feature set or its cheaper price. However:
Customers don’t want your product or what it does; they want help making themselves and their lives better, i.e. they want to make progress. [They want to grow].
– Adapted from Alan Klement
Your customers want to grow into a better version of themselves and they hope your product will enable them to do that. This (human) desire for self-betterment is what drives your customers to buy and use your product or abandon it – and what your Marketing should focus on.
Credit: Intercom (intercom.com) – taken from https://jtbd.info/2-what-is-jobs-to-be-done-jtbd-796b82081cca
In the above illustration, someone may buy a skateboard (a product) that has all the latest components (shiny features), however, what they are actually buying the product for is to help them become an awesome skateboarder who can master the “Ollie Flip” and perhaps impress their friends at the skate park. This better version of themselves is what they have in mind since they started looking for a skateboard.
How to focus on customer growth vs. product features
My clients are typically founders and/or CEOs of companies who feel stuck because their current growth tactics are not delivering the results they were hoping for, e.g. more paid subscriptions and thus more revenues. My work with my clients is focussed on helping them understand how they can generate more revenues. I am neither a “growth hacker” or “inside sales” specialist, nor do I use their tactics. I conduct customer research using Customer Jobs thinking. Together with my clients, we interview up to 15 of their customers who have recently signed up to or churned from my clients’ products. The insights gained from these conversations help my clients decide what changes they might want to make to their product(s), their marketing messaging, advertising campaigns and sales processes, so that they can acquire more customers, retain existing ones and maybe sell them another product to help them make further progress. In addition to that, the insights help the Founders and CEOs align their teams in their thinking and acting. **
In the interviews, I let customers describe specific events and struggling moments along a product purchase timeline that spans from the moment when they first thought they needed to change to the actual purchase of the product and its first usage. From those conversations, we can extract the progress the customers were seeking when they started looking around for solutions. For example, I recently interviewed buyers and end users of a B2B online learning platform who manage or work in Sales, HR and Customer Services departments. In the conversations I learnt that whilst their companies were growing (fast), the interviewees were struggling to keep up with the increasing demand to train and onboard new staff and customers. In addition to this, they often felt as if they were actually hindering the company’s growth because, given their small team size, they could not train new starters and customers fast enough. Growth was actually making things worse, not better for the interviewees. With my client’s online learning platform, they had found a solution that would help them grow: They regained time to deal with the issues and customers that really mattered to them because they could now direct new employees and customers to the online platform to help themselves. Furthermore, they felt they were able to contribute to the company’s growth, rather than slow it down because with the online platform they could onboard and train new starters and new customers faster.
With this new knowledge about what progress (growth) their customers are really seeking and the understanding how their product fits into their customers’ work lives, my client can now make more informed product, marketing and sales decisions that will help them attract more new customers who are experiencing the same struggles and enable their existing customers to make further progress. Instead of cobbling more product features and attributes together, they can now make changes to the product or create new ones that really resonate with their customers.
* In short, “Customer Jobs”, also known as “Jobs-to-be-Done”, “JTBD” and “Jobs theory”, is the theory of customer motivation. It helps you understand why customers buy products or stopped using them. For a great introduction to “Customer Jobs”, I recommend reading this excellent short post and the comprehensive book “When Coffee and Kale Compete” (available as free pdf download, eBook and hard copy).
** A Customer Jobs-based project includes several other steps such as: framing the questions the client is trying to answer, screening and recruiting 10-15 interviewees, conducting the interviews and thereafter, an analysis session with the client to determine the Jobs their customers are hiring the product to get done and how this new knowledge can be practically implemented.