If you are a traditional B2B-company, chances are you are getting most of your input for product development from your customers. And with customers, I mean distributors, partners, retailers and others to whom you sell your products, and who then distribute and sell them to your end-users. So how do you know if your products are solving a job the end-user cares strongly about? And are you positioning and explaining the value you deliver to them in a way that is relevant to them?
A company I recently worked with, GCE Group, is developing a new product, which with the help of IoT, will bring them closer to the end-user than they have been so far. They might not want to sell to them, but they definitely want to communicate with them and turn them into advocates for their product. The end-users are patients with respiratory problems due to different diseases. The buyers, i.e. customers, however are hospitals. And they have completely different jobs, pains and gains.
The Jobs-to-be-done concept is based on the work of among others Tony Ulwick, and was made popular by the known Harvard professor Clayton Christensen with his research around what job a milkshake is hired to do. In short, the theory explains that a customer will hire a product or service to help them get a job done. The product or service hired is merely a tool or technology to help them solve a particular job, and is strongly influenced by the context of where and when the job is being performed. In the milkshake experiment mentioned above, it turned out that commuters were buying milkshakes when driving to work, mainly to have something to do. The milkshake fit well in one hand (the other being on the steering wheel) and was filling enough to keep them from getting hungry before lunch. Once the fast-food restaurant, who ordered the research, had understood the job the milkshake was hired to do, product development could be focused on making the milkshake thicker, chunkier and with a thinner straw. Thereby solving the job even better than the previous solution.
Back to GCE Group
As many other manufacturing B2B-companies, GCE was really proud of their new product with tons of nice features. The communication was based around these features, without actually taking into consideration the job that the recipient of the communication was actually trying to solve. Using the Value Proposition Canvas from Alexander Osterwalder’s toolbox, we looked closer at the jobs, pains and gains of the different target groups; the hospital who is the buyer (and from GCE perspective the customer), the patient who is the end-user and the clinician who is the prescriber.
The hospital’s main job is to provide care and to lower operational cost – so GCE needs to describe how their product can help lower operational cost while at the same time offering good treatment and care. Conveying this message by describing product features is maybe not the optimal way, but rather requires messaging explaining e.g. the total cost of ownership of the product compared to current solutions.
The patient is really just trying to live a normal life for as long as possible. Meaning being able to socialize with friends, maybe being able to continue working or taking small walks. Things we take for granted when we are not suffering from a disease. Hence the communication has to highlight which features of the product that helps the patient solve this job. And finally, looking at the clinician, he/she is focusing on delivering a treatment that will help their patient, but at the same time has to consider the number of patients he/she is able to see during for example an hour. As the IoT in the product makes it possible to give treatment remotely, the value that this feature delivers might be the most important to convey to the clinician.
Concluding, the same product can have several different value propositions depending on the target group and what job that specific person is trying to solve. By focusing on understanding your target group’s actual jobs, you can improve your sales just by being able to communicate the actual value you are already delivering to them. My experience so far has been that few B2B companies actually speak to end-users to truly understand what difference you can make for them. Are you among them?
Do you want to learn more about the work we have done with GCE Group, download our customer case from our web. Do you wish to have the customer case in English, contact me at email@example.com.