I Didn’t Want to Buy a Shovel.

I Didn't Want to Buy a Shovel - Axiom Blog

I Didn’t Want to Buy a Shovel.

We’re often motivated to get things done because we have a stronger need for the result than we do our resistance toward doing the work itself. This month, I have a ton of work to do on my acreage. It got me thinking about the parallels between my desk-job in marketing and the jobs I need to get done at home. The thing is, I didn’t want to buy a shovel.

Around here, there’s a lot of digging to be done that I don’t want to do – setting two posts, transplanting a tree, planting four new trees and installing edging. I got to thinking about the best way to complete my construction and gardening jobs, and that brought me to a presentation a colleague and I gave last month.

In March, Rob Beachy and I taught a training session on strategy for the Minnesota Chapter of The Product Development and Management Association (PDMA). In a section of the training about strategy frameworks, we discussed famed Harvard Business School Professor, Clayton Christensen’s, Theory of Jobs to be Done.

I didn’t want to buy a shovel.

Christensen’s premise of Jobs To be Done is this: don’t sell customers your product or service; sell them the results. An example that’s often cited is a customer who doesn’t want a shovel; they want a hole dug. Christensen says, most companies market their products without a clear focus on the job to be done. Instead, they hope that they can appeal to as many people as possible. He also suggests that when a company communicates the job a product is designed to do, you are also communicating what jobs the product should not do.

When Marketers are clear about the job to be done, creativity and innovation are released from the finite features of a product – in this case a shovel – to focus on advantages and benefits tailored to what your customers actually want. At the same time, products that do a specific job well and are marketed to the precise target will command premium pricing. And, that brings me back to my desk chair overlooking our property. I just want some holes.

I went shopping for some holes.

I don’t want a shovel or more accurately, a spade. Plus I already have a round-point spade. I could do all my digging with that, but it doesn’t work great for transplanting trees. I have a couple of deep holes to dig for posts to build a treehouse. (Okay, I admit, in this case I want the treehouse more than the holes, but you have to start somewhere.) Using a spade for either would take me a long time and wouldn’t be much fun. So, I went shopping.

The Root Slayer transplant shovel is 5x the cost of the standard round-point spade. I could also buy a posthole digger which would make digging the post holes really fast. But it wouldn’t be much good for transplanting trees. It’s also expensive for the two holes I need to dig. However, if I had a lot of holes to dig or a lot of trees to transplant, like a professional landscaper might, I would gladly pay the premium for either of these hole-provider tools.

Im not your typical demographic.

Today we have more ways to find information and better access to customer data than ever before. It’s never been easier to know your customer, particularly their demographics. The problem is, knowing the facts – average age, income, location – doesn’t give you insight into their jobs to be done. Motivating people to act means knowing what your customer is trying to accomplish.    

According to all my demographic data, I am sure I would fall into a category of buyer that is more likely to hire a professional than buy a shovel. This means Radius Garden, Razo-Back, and Fiskars won’t be targeting me with programmatic ads. However, I enjoy working outdoors. It’s great exercise and gives me time to think.

Whats my “why”?

The problems customers are looking to solve are deep, multifaceted and rarely straightforward. Solutions have little to do with your customer’s demographic or your product attributes, features, functions or industry trends. It takes qualitative research to discover the why of a customer’s problem. Getting to know the value they place on convenience, money, time and other qualitative factors helps you understand why they make certain choices. Knowing the “why” will reframe your marketing to help customers choose your solution to complete their job and get what they really want.

My job to be done is I have a lot of different holes to dig. I don’t need specialist tools. I don’t plan on doing a lot of one thing. I’m not interested in the latest product features, nor do I want more tools cluttering my garage. My “why” for digging holes is because I enjoy doing the work myself and being outside, but I don’t want to spend all day digging with a round-point spade. I want holes for trees, posts and edging.

Christensen says customers make choices to bring a product into their lives not because they are dying to purchase something, but because they have a job to do.

Do you know what job your customers want done and how to best position your products to meet their “why”? We can help you find the answer. Email Craig at cdick@axiomcom.com.

Oh, for my jobs to be done, I bought a shovel – a heavy-duty Drain Spade. It will work well for transplanting trees, installing my edging, and digging a couple of post holes.

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