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Shifting Thinking

Identify Value by Exploring What Customers Want to Achieve

Roland Leemans
Published by: Roland Leemans

A value proposition is a clear, concise way to make sure that the value you provide to your customers is immediately apparent and understood. It forms the core of your business allowing you to connect with and attract your ideal customers. It acts as a central part of your positioning and marketing strategy, ensuring that you are aligning all aspects of your business around the value you offer your customers.


Getting started with Value Proposition Design

When designing your value proposition, looking at the ‘jobs’ your customers are trying to do, their ‘Jobs to Be Done’, is a great place to start. By looking at these jobs and how your offerings can solve their problems, helping them to progress (gains) or overcome obstacles (pains) along the way, you can identify the value you truly offer and incorporate this into the value proposition for your business.

Nailing down your value proposition can be a complex process. While your value might seem obvious to you, distilling the top features and benefits of your products or services into a value proposition is a common misstep. In order to discover your actual value proposition, you should start from the other side with your customers’ Jobs to Be Done, then using those insights to create features and benefits that complete those jobs.

It is easy to be blinded by entering into the value proposition discovery process with an internal focus, focussing on one side of the value map - what you have to offer and the perceived benefits to your customers. Fantastic, you now have a selling proposition. Unfortunately, it is easy to fall into the trap of confusing a selling proposition for a value proposition. While a selling proposition is important, it does not give a complete picture when seeking to define your value proposition… preferably one unique enough to set you apart in the market. So how do you turn the focus outward? Approach your value proposition design through the lens of Jobs to Be Done.

"More than 50 percent of newly launched products fall short of the company’s projected expectations"


Understanding why we do the things we do

Jobs to Be Done, when approached cleverly, gets to the core of what motivates people to behave the way that they do. Customer Jobs theory states that markets grow, evolve, and renew whenever customers have Jobs to Be Done, and then use a product, preferably your product to get that job done.

One of the simplest ways to understand Jobs to Be Done is to understand what jobs are not. Jobs are not just tasks or activities. For example, when a group of business travellers chooses to charter a helicopter their Job to Be Done is not chartering that helicopter. Instead, the decision maker’s Job to be Done could include:

  • Accommodate a tight business itinerary with faster transport
  • Impress a client with signs of company success
  • Appease the guilt from spending time away from family by arriving back home quickly

Incorrectly identifying the Job to Be Done can dramatically affect the course of your strategy, blinding you to the things that are actually competing with you for completing the given job.


Customer profile: Sales Manager Sam, an experienced business traveller

Job to Be Done


“Get from point A to B”

Rental car, taxi, a good pair of sneakers

“Appease guilt for time away from family”

An expensive piece of jewellery, book a holiday

“Showcase company success”

Bring an extravagant gift, pay for a nice dinner, buy an expensive suit

“Meet a tight business itinerary through faster transport”

Invest in scheduling software, hire more employees, charter a helicopter

When you look at the Job to Be Done without being influenced by your existing features and benefits, you let the playing field be defined by your customers’ needs. This creates an innovative foundation on which you can build a successful and unique value proposition.


From horse and carriage to electric cars

As Henry Ford reputedly said, “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” There are countless examples of organisations who focused too heavily on what consumers wanted as opposed to what they wanted to achieve. The video store that ignored streaming. The CD player manufacturer that thought all customers wanted was a smaller, more portable, CD player. The cargo vessels that were reluctant to use steam power. The list goes on…


Value proposition, innovation, and purpose... a match made in value


A recent survey found 66 per cent of business buyers surveyed actively seek to buy from the most innovative companies. However, innovation alone doesn’t provide value. Innovation, coupled with purpose, is a powerful thing. By finding a good value fit between the right customers and the right solution conversions increase.

Many organisations have yet to undertake the journey toward a purposeful value proposition. While they might know their business inside out they are unsure how to grow, scale, or build enough value to exit the business and they can’t see a clear path that gets them there. Being objective and peeling back the layers lets you get to the heart of the matter. What do your customers want to achieve? Not just “what do they want?” Avoid the trapdoors in Value Proposition Design to arrive at your true value proposition, one that is tested, iterated, and continually evolving. By looking at value proposition design through the lens of Jobs to Be Done you can deliver value to your customers.

Whether you are navigating this process internally or looking for external assistance, there are tools available to assist you with the discovery process. Get started with our 4-part series covering Jobs to Be Done in more depth, or hit up your favourite book dealer for Jobs to be Done: A Roadmap for Customer-Centered Innovation.


Jobs to be done is only the first piece of the puzzle


Customers are people too, they want to evolve, to become better versions of their current self. Your products and services can help them on this journey. When brainstorming your customer Jobs to Be Done, analyse the jobs you’ve found with these questions:

Can you visualise your customer acting this job out? If so, then it is probably an activity or task, not a Job to Be Done.

Are you describing something the customer doesn’t like about themselves? If so, you’re addressing the status quo, not innovating or providing solutions that help them evolve.

Are you describing a better version of the customer, something to aspire to? If so, well done, this is a customer job.

The jobs you have uncovered should be used to highlight the pains and gains your customer may have. Pains can help you uncover what frustrates your target customers and the things that they are desperate to solve. Gains can reveal the preferences of your customers, their hidden ambitions, their goals in life, and quite simply the things that make them happy.


From Bolts & Propellers to Propelling Solutions: The Airwork Case Study

The team within the Airwork helicopter leasing division are incredibly proud of their helicopter fleet and engineering expertise. They should be; their helicopters are fully customised for use in sectors like forestry, mining, and emergency services. They're reliable; they have unmatched repairs and maintenance service delivery; and they can be run at a lower cost of ownership. The engineers speak with vigour and enthusiasm about the fleet and what they do, which was represented in the company positioning statement as the value delivered.

However, this positioning did not translate into what their customers perceived as the value or the job that they needed done. Airwork needed to communicate their expertise and that they provided solutions to complex access problems in remote locations, rather than starting with the technical specifics of their aircraft. Any aviation operation is concerned with safety and security and needs a partner that understands the complexities of their industry - like providing essential emergency services where no one else can help. At the most basic level, their Job to Be Done is feeling secure in the fact that the machines will work all of the time so that they can focus on doing what they need to do without having to worry about safety or reliability in the process.

Consider these two positioning statements:

“We provide routine maintenance and support globally for our fleet”


“In the air, on the ground, we help you save lives”

One statement describes a task, while the other describes a path to betterment. One statement tells customers what to expect, the other explains why this is relevant to them.

Many organisations believe that their greatest asset is their people. Is this true for your organisation? Or is your greatest asset the people that you are aiming to help and advance… your customers? By putting your customers first and committing yourself to understanding their Jobs to Be Done, you will gain their trust and deliver genuine value.