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Shifting Thinking

Understanding Customers to Create Value - Part 4

Dale Koerner
Published by: Dale Koerner

Why do customers do what they do?

Everything starts with our customers. Knowing who they are, their needs and preferences, the experiences that they have… how they think, feel, and key to our success. Uncovering insights into why our customers do what they do lets us shape our strategy, helping us to appeal to and connect with them.

However, customer motivations are often complex. Understanding some of the elements that affect their behaviour and how they perceive value can go a long way toward ensuring that we are meeting their needs.

Investigating our customers’ Jobs to Be Done is a great place to begin gathering these insights and building knowledge. However, customer behaviour has many different layers and underlying factors that can affect their decisions.


Identifying Key Drivers

In order to identify the ‘why’ behind our customers’ behaviour and identify their jobs to be done, we often have to dig deep to find and understand what they value. We have to pay attention to which jobs they prioritise and what trade-offs they are willing to make in order to make progress… at not only what job they are trying to do, but at the emotional and social elements that affect their decisions.

We need to look at all of the information we have gathered within the specific context of our customers’ circumstances.

What are the attitudes, personality traits, and social pressures that affect the jobs they are trying to do and what they decide to hire to do them? What is the long-term context of their struggle? What is their background – their geographic location, family situation, social station, or economic status? What are the near-term factors that can affect their decision? What elements of their immediate circumstances… environment, weather, time… affect not only the jobs that they are trying to do but what they choose to hire?

By correctly weighing these components and understanding the priority and importance they have we can design and position our solutions to perfectly meet our customers’ needs.

6 Elements that drive decision

As an example, Apple has developed a dedicated customer base over the years that is almost cult-like in their loyalty to their products and brand. Let’s take a look at some of the key elements that can influence customer motivation and how Apple has incorporated these into their positioning and approach to address their customers’ jobs to be done.


1. Identity

Everyone tends to make purchases that they feel fit with who they are, or with who they aspire to be, or even with how they want to be seen by others. By taking a hard look at who your customers actually are and who they want to be, you can solve the jobs that arise from their desire to stand out and improve the world that we live in.

‘Think Different’

Apple’s core positioning speaks to their ideal customers by feeding into their personal identity. Their positioning and the value they promise caters to people’s need to feel special and unique. It addresses the creative tendencies of their core market by recognising their emotional need for recognition. Apple’s messaging elevates their customers’ place in society to that of creative geniuses and drivers of change.



2. Value

Value is not always tied to price. It is often driven by personal factors and the trade-offs that our customers are willing to make to progress and accomplish their goals. Every customer values different things, for different reasons, and understanding their context lets you identify these differences. What matters to one person, or one group, won’t matter to everyone.

‘It just works.’

Apple’s customers are markedly different from customers who prefer other brands and so are their values. Instead of prizing low prices and a wide variety of software, Apple’s customers are willing to trade these things for a better customer experience – ease of use, stability, design aesthetics, and the sense of acceptance and worth that comes from supporting a brand whose values closely match their own.



3. Experience

It's easy to forget that customers don’t buy products and services; they buy experiences. If you consider the experiences that your customers are trying to create, and build solutions that do these jobs into your offerings, you are well on your way to securing their loyalty.

Apple is a great example of the power of product experience. They incorporate customer experiences into their message, from lofty goals – ‘The power to be your best’ – that feed our desire for personal growth to those day-to-day experiences that bring happiness to our lives… or that highlight the things that we wish we could experience more… the ones that help us achieve our ideal state of being.

They paint a picture that lets us become part of the experience… where we can share in those carefree moments that inspire both envy and joy… they encourage us to dance as if no one is watching.



4. Connectivity and Community

The desire to belong, to feel like you are part of something larger, can subtlety influence customer behaviour.

This desire to belong and be part of a group is a core part of our basic social and emotional needs. Additionally, we seek to pursue goals and contribute to movements that highlight the things that we value. We want to make a social impact and achieve positive change. These needs feed into our identity and how we want others to perceive us; they support our desire to pursue self-actualisation and transformation, the things that help us grow as individuals.

Because these drivers are tied to our emotional and social contexts - our need for a sense of belonging, acceptance, growth, and love – it can be difficult to pin down the jobs that these feelings create. The part of the brain that is dedicated to our emotions is separated from the part that we use to rationalise and translate our ideas into language.


"We believe that people with passion can change the world for the better… and that those people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who actually do.”
— Steve Jobs

Apple highlights these drivers; they frame their brand within the context of our need to be the champions of social change, to be part of an elite group, to explore the joy of possibility. They tap into our higher qualities such as creativity, imagination, and courage and feed our dreams of becoming our very best selves.



5. Quality

Quality is a primary driver in almost any situation. Everyone wants the highest quality available while sacrificing as little as possible. Cost and convenience are often casualties in our quest for quality. By understanding what your customers value and what jobs they are trying to complete you can identify the trade-offs that they are willing to make and where the tipping point lies.

There is an old marketing saying…
“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.” While this goes beyond product and features by looking at what people want to do, it still falls short as it doesn’t look at why they want to do them.

Someone who is looking to hang some pictures or shelving in their home “I want to make my home attractive or have a convenient place to put my stuff” has a very different job from someone who is a professional builder “I want a tool that is heavy-duty, long-lasting, and will enable me to do my job… one that is recognised for its quality so it will show my status to my customers and peers”. Someone who is looking for quality professional tools that they will use every day is much more likely to trade quality for cost than someone just looking to do some odd jobs around the house.

Apple has gained a reputation for the quality of their products. Since they have complete control over the hardware that they use, they can ensure quality while reducing the number of different components that they have to support, making their products more stable. Additionally, their brand appeals to creative professionals and those who express similar values, and their products represent a certain kind of exclusivity that their customers happily embrace as a status symbol.



6. Need

A wide variety of needs play an important role in customer behaviour and affect the decisions that they make. Connecting the dots between what you offer and what your customers actually need is where the heart of Jobs to Be Done theory shines, helping you to find your ideal customers.

Every customer need is valued differently and meeting some needs is a much higher priority than others. The higher a need sits on the pyramid of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the more trade-offs a customer is likely willing to make in order to satisfy it.

Look at the Elements of Value Pyramid shown below. How many of these needs does Apple address and how many levels of the pyramid do they touch? By looking at their customers’ values and their jobs to be done Apple has built a strong brand and has encouraged customer loyalty.


Want to explore these elements further? Check out how Apple has addressed many of these needs within the context of their customers’ jobs and values: Watch their full ‘Get a Mac’ campaign.


Up Next:

Understanding Customers to Create Value - Part 5
Pulling it All Together: Questions to Ask


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