Mistake #4 – Failing to Incorporate the “Voice of the Customer”

It’s surprising how frequently I have strategy-related conversations with business owners and CEOs and end up being the one to bring up their customers. You would think that when the conversation turns toward long-term aspirations, strategies for success, reaching the next level, being a market disruptor, etc. that customers would be top-of-mind. Often, that doesn’t seem to be the case. And I believe that’s a mistake.

Tools for Understanding Your Customers

Every strategic planning effort I get involved with features tools and techniques to incorporate as much information about customers into the process as possible. This often involves re-examining how a business segments its current customers and surfacing potential new customer groups.

Speaking of customer segmentation, most people overcomplicate and overthink this staple of every Marketing 101 class on the planet. It’s pretty simple. A group of customers forms a segment when those customers behave similarly to each other (and differently from other segments) vis-à-vis the product or service you’re selling. It’s not so much about demographics or even psychographics as it is about customer jobs-to-be-done, pains to be mitigated, or gains to be achieved FOR THEM through your product or service. And your real customer segments may or may not align with how you’re operationally organized to serve those customers. Just because you have a regionally-organized sales force, for example, doesn’t mean each region’s customers form a true segment.

To get at this with our strategic planning clients, I often use the Value Proposition Canvas tool developed by the folks at Strategyzer AG.

Customer jobs-to-be-done can be categorized in three ways:

  1. What functional job is your customer trying to get done? (e.g. perform or complete a specific task, solve a specific problem, etc.)
  2. What social job is your customer trying to get done? (e.g. trying to look good, gain power or status, etc.)
  3. What emotional job is your customer trying to get done? (e.g. aesthetics, feel good, security, …)

Customer pains describe negative emotions, undesired costs and situations, and risks that your customer experiences or could experience before, during, and after getting the job done. Important questions include:

  • What does your customer find too costly?
  • What risks do your customer fear?
  • How are current solutions underperforming for your customer?

Customer gains describe the benefits your customer expects, desires, or would find surprising. This includes functional utility, social gains, positive emotions, and cost savings. Important questions include:

  • What would make your customer’s job or life easier?
  • What do customers dream about?
  • How do current solutions delight your customer?

Food for Thought

One of the things I see time and again when incorporating the Value Proposition Canvas into strategic planning projects is that clients identify multiple new product or service ideas. Once a customer segment’s jobs-to-be-done, pains, and gains have been mapped, it often becomes clear that there are unmet customer needs that my client can satisfy. Give it a try! Your next new product or service innovation might be waiting for your discovery.