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Customers Don’t Want Holes in Their Walls

In the world of Marketing, there's a common saying that people aren’t interested in buying quarter inch drills; they desire quarter inch holes. However, I challenge this notion. Instead of viewing purchases as mere transactions for tools or holes, it's essential to recognize that buyers seek something deeper—transformation.

The Marketing drill analogy emphasizes that drills are not bought for their high-performance motors, sleek designs or advanced features like two-speed gearboxes, keyless chucks, LED lights, and spare lithium batteries. The focus, it's said, should be on the outcome: drilling holes in your walls. However, holes, in and of themselves, don't provide true benefit. The real value lies in the transformation of your environment and the peace of mind it brings. Failure to understand the jobs your customers hire your product to accomplish can lead to customers "firing" your solution in search of better ways to achieve their goals. Reduce risk by addressing customers' jobs in the first place.

Customers want to get jobs done.

When individuals face tasks they need to complete, they employ products as tools to accomplish those tasks. Instead of fixating on the features and benefits of your product, like the unique components of drills, consider the outcomes your users genuinely desire. This is where the Jobs to be Done (JTBD) theory comes into play—a powerful framework that drives innovation by understanding customer needs. JTBD theory revolves around the idea that customers "hire" products or services to solve specific challenges in their lives and work.

Clayton Christensen, a renowned Harvard Business School professor, introduced the JTBD theory with a focus on product development and innovation. For instance, when McDonald’s sought to innovate its milkshake product line, Christensen and his team delved into the various “jobs” customers hired milkshakes to do. This exploration revealed that people hire milkshakes for breakfast jobs, snack jobs, child entertainment jobs, and adult reward jobs. By uncovering the diverse roles milkshakes play in customers’ lives, McDonald’s realized the market for milkshakes was seven times larger than previously considered.

The Power of JBTD Theory

The milkshake case study exemplifies the power of JTBD theory in identifying the underlying reasons why customers use your products and services. Let’s return to the jobs a drill is hired to do. Imagine asking customers leaving your local hardware store about their intentions for the brand-new drill in their bags. You would likely discover the drill is meant to deliver outcomes like:  

  • Safety. Securing a bookshelf to the wall to prevent accidents

  • Beauty. Displaying cherished family photos on the wall

  • Stability. Ensuring a stable internet connection for seamless online meetings

Jobs to be done and Customer Success

'Jobs to be done' is often employed by Marketing and Product teams for innovation. It’s equally crucial for Customer Success, Onboarding, and Enablement teams to leverage this framework to make a more significant impact on customers. These teams often focus on product deployments and adoption, but true customer value goes beyond product usage metrics.

Consider this: high product usage may not equate to the transformation customers desire. High drill usage could mean making mistakes and ending up with a wall full of holes to repair, rather than the desired lovely environment. Instead of fixating on features and functions, emphasize the actual tasks or jobs your users want to accomplish.

Customers are loyal to their jobs, not you.

Failure to understand why companies and individuals hire your products puts you at risk of churn. Customers will seek alternative solutions if they find a better way to accomplish their essential tasks. In fact, I have worked with many companies where customers will revert to legacy systems, often simple spreadsheets, because sophisticated B2B SaaS tools don’t solve their important jobs. My colleagues and friends Matthew May and Pablo Dominguez emphasize in their book, What a Unicorn Knows, that customers are much more loyal to the jobs that they're doing than they are to your products. As a result, the moment they find something better, faster, simpler, or cheaper, they will “fire” your product and switch to that other solution, as long as the switching costs aren't too high or painful. 

Do you know your customers?

It's imperative to consider the jobs your customers are eager to complete. Just as the desired outcomes in a home have nothing to do with drill features, your customers' jobs may not correlate with your product's features. True value centers on the problems your customers are trying to solve, and only your customers can define the value your solution delivers. Engage in deeper conversations with your users rather than shipping off another survey. This will help you to understand what they truly aim to achieve with your solutions.

While capturing customer’s desired business outcomes in a success plan is essential, it’s equally crucial to address the jobs each persona or user type within the customer companies wants to accomplish. What do they hire your product to do? For instance, while the buyer or key stakeholder purchases an analytics platform to make better business decisions, the business user wants to easily create, update, and share accurate reports. Administrators hire products to add users, set permissions, and tailor fields and objects. Understanding and enabling users on these myriad of jobs drives transformation, not just product usage. I see this transformation when helping companies move away from basic product-based customer onboarding and enablement to delivering the right content to the right user at the right time in order to drive the right behavior that delivers meaningful value.   

Unlock the true potential of Customer Success

Understanding the jobs customers hire your product to do is the key to unlocking true customer success and innovation. By embracing the Jobs to be Done theory, you can revolutionize your approach to Customer Onboarding, Enablement, and Success. Remember, it's not merely about features and functions; it's about the transformation your customers desire, which can then drive business transformation for your company -- increased savings, higher customer loyalty, retention, and growth.

Now, it's time to take action. Start implementing JTBD theory in your organization today. Evolve your approach and see the positive impact on customer loyalty and business growth. Let me know how I can help you.

DONNA WEBER is the world’s leading expert in customer onboarding. For more than two decades, she has helped high-growth startups and established enterprises turn new and existing customers into loyal champions. Her award-winning book is Onboarding Matters: How Successful Companies Transform New Customers Into Loyal Champions. Learn more at



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