In 2005, the Harvard Business Review published the influential article “Marketing Malpractice: The Cause and the Cure.” Its authors—Clayton M. Christensen, Scott Cook and Taddy Hall—argued that we often set ourselves up for failure by focusing on customer types rather than customer needs.
“To develop and promote products that make headway in crowded markets—or even expand markets—companies should focus on the ‘job’ that customers want accomplished,” explains Kathryn Roy at MarketingProfs. “Their article expands on the legendary observation made by Harvard Business School marketing professor Ted Levitt: People don’t want a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”
To illustrate the point, consider what McDonald’s learned when it investigated the “job” performed by a milkshake: A surprisingly large number of shake sales happened during breakfast hours. Why? Customers with long commutes wanted something to occupy their attention during a boring drive and keep them full until lunch. “In other words,” notes Roy, “these customers bought the shakes to perform a specific job: to satisfy their hunger and allay their boredom while being quick and convenient to purchase and easy to consume behind the wheel.”
By slicing and dicing customers into segments, McDonald’s had missed a cluster of customers united by the “job.” And there’s a good chance your company does the same thing.
“It’s scary to narrow your focus to a smaller set of prospects,” notes Roy, “but if you address [a customer’s] needs—the ‘jobs’ they want done—before your competitors do, you can boost wins, revenues, and morale.”