Each time anyone buys a product Clayton says that we “hire” it to do a job for us. Perhaps you’ve hired a magazine to entertain or educate you while on the subway. If the product does the job well, we will hire it again when we are faced with the same problem. However, if the product doesn’t solve our problem or does a subpar job, we will “fire” it and look to hire another product to do the job and successfully solve our problem.
The growth and success of any company is driven by consumer behavior and consumer buying behavior. Companies know that purchasing behavior of customers form the basis of their sales and marketing. They know that to scale up and soar ahead of their competition they need to innovate and come up with products or services to address the needs of the customer.
Yet, companies rely too much on luck for their progress. The business and the entrepreneur, would benefit tremendously if they read this book, fully digest it and implement it.
A few more sentences from the introduction got me thinking - "How do leaders know how to grow? How can they create products that they are so sure customers want to buy and can innovation be more than a game of chance?" In this book, Clayton examines what causes growth, how to create it and how to analyze it.A contrasting look at this question can be answered in a different way in the book INFLUENCE.
The Milkshake Story is powerful and applicable to every single business across every industry.
Clayton was asked to conduct a research by his employer, a major fast food chain. The research was needed to figure out how to boost their milkshake sales. To do this, he sat in restaurants and took down notes on the characteristics of the consumers buying the milkshake. After they were done with their purchase, he would attempt to analyze their buying behavior.
Stopping patrons on their way out he asked them questions about why they liked the milkshake and what would they change about it. Many suggestions about making the straw thicker, lid tighter, adding more chunky bits to the shake, etc. poured in.
Based on post purchase behavior research, the company made all the requisite changes. They launched a big campaign announcing to their market, all the changes made and presenting their new and revamped milkshake…But nothing happened! The response was zero and nothing changed as far as sales went. This proved to be a defining moment for Clayton.
He understood then that he needed to ask the right questions and to develop a better understanding of consumer buying behavior. He then stumbled upon what he calls the ‘theory of the job to be done’.
Wiser and armed with a keener insight on the right question to ask, he goes back to his table in the restaurant. Now he's asking people “What job did you hire this milkshake to do for you?”.
He uses a quick example in Competing Against Luck to describe what he means by that. If you are waiting for a train you are going to board for a three-hour train ride and you decide to purchase a Newsweek magazine, you are not necessarily buying Newsweek magazine because you love the magazine. Most likely, you are buying Newsweek magazine because you want to read it to entertain yourself during the three hours on the train.
On asking people what job they hired the milkshake to do for them revealed many answers which had no relation to the characteristics of the milkshake.
People buying it in the morning gave reasons like it worked in lieu of breakfast and kept them feeling full for a longer time. It was a tall, chilled drink that lasted them well through their commute to work. It was a fun treat and helped them delay their lunch. In most cases, buyers compared it favorably against a protein bar or banana, which were gone far too fast and not nearly as fun to eat.
Research on weekend buyers coming in with children, revealed that they bought the milkshake as a small treat for their children. This treat being pocket friendly and not too overwhelming, eased their guilt and made them feel like good parents.
None of them focused on the attributes like yummy, chocolaty, caramelly, straw thickness, how tight the lid was, or if the amount of chunky bits in the shake were right.
Based on this research the company set up quick kiosks and buying experience where people could just pick up their milkshakes and swiftly exit. Guess what, sales shot up!!
This study was a revelation on addressing the right question – what job is the buyer of the product, hiring this product to do for them. It developed the theory of the whys of consumer behavior and customer buying behavior. Another book to be enjoyed with reframing your perspective on this is Blue Ocean Strategy.
Every company should adopt this evaluation practice for all of their products, brand or at least each product line. Many more examples are strewn through the entire contents of the book supporting this theory. A final book suggestion on standing out and being different than other brands would be Purple Cow.