How to (really) understanding your customers.

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Many companies and brands don’t have insights into customers at a granular enough level to drive outcomes–what they truly value, what propositions to offer or what will move them to purchase. At Opptiv, we lean on the qualitative psychology and quantitative science of Needfinding to help answer “how do we understand our customers better”, “what are their unmet needs?”; and “what are their jobs-to-be-done?”  These are some of the many ambiguous questions that inhibit organizations from realizing their full potential.


Make the fuzzy front-end less fuzzy through Needfinding.

Drawing from the social sciences and working at the fuzzy front-end of commercial functions, “Needfinding” is a proven research method built on the idea of problem finding vs. problem solving. Differing from conventional market research or focus groups, we use Needfinding to uncover the sentiment, desired outcomes, competitive gaps, patterns and market dislocations that characterize needs. In the context of customer jobs-to-be-done, customer journeys and customer experiences, Needfinding promotes inquiry into problems independent of trying to solve them. This essential discipline helps our clients avoid prematurely constraining of potential solutions, leaving the full spectrum of ideas, options and choices open for consideration.

The three elements of Needfinding.

1.   Customer needs:  A cornerstone for relevance in a changing world.

In a marketplace that is noisier and more competitive than ever, companies and brands must cut through the noise. Simply put, this means being more relevant to customers. Our experience has shown that relevance comes from engaging at a human level to address the functional and emotional needs that customers truly value. Crucially, needs are more enduring than specific product or service solutions – smart phones come and go, but the need to communicate on the move endures – making them more reliable representations of commercial opportunity.

2.    Unmet customer needs:  Catalysts for authenticity, relevance and empathy.

Beyond simply addressing existing needs better, cheaper or faster, it is imperative that companies and brands look beyond the obvious to discover the unmet needs of their customers and prospects. While unmet needs take many forms, we characterize them as the “Five-Uns” — underlying, unarticulated, undervalued, unconsidered or unsatisfied needs. Orienting strategic and commercial processes around these unmet needs offer authentic opportunities to demonstrate customer empathy and serve as powerful catalyst or brand preference, loyalty and buying urgency.

3.    Jobs-to-be-done:  A consistent architecture for customer journeys and needs.

Customers can’t always express their needs adequately or in ways that are actionable. Following the thesis that “customers don’t buy products and services, they hire them to do a job”, emotional or functional needs and associated problems are best discovered using the jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) framework. In the context of a customer persona or segment within a customer journey or customer experience, expressing needs as JTBD statements allows companies and brands to systematically break down jobs into discrete steps and desired outcomes. Ultimately, we use the JTBD framework to provide a consistent architecture for customer needs and a common language across the growth, innovation and digital agenda.

Learn more about how we can help you understand your customers better here.

Author:  Wayne Simmons

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