Snickers and Milky Way

Snickers and Milky Way

Reframing our perspective is a powerful thinking tool. ‘Sleeping on it’ is reframing. Reading books is reframing. Comparing novel things is reframing. 

For a business owner, thinking of time of day, place in life, and what happened prior is reframing.

Bob Moesta notes “context creates value”. Time and place create more or less value. Birthday gifts have one value on birthdays and another value when it’s not. 

But we miss this because of average lies. Average computes easily, is sometimes helpful, but is a crude tool. Sometimes we NEED this one thing RIGHT NOW! 

Contrast Snickers and Milky Way. Graphically: 

Commercially (2011):

Snickers is a chewy pick-me-up energy bar. Milky Way is a treat-yo-self deep breath of sweetness. The context creates value

According to Bob Moesta, the context for eating Snickers is that I’m hungry and I want something filling, tasty, cheap, and fast. Applying average thinking, there’s not a constant demand. Find when customers consume a product reveals that product’s JTBD.

“Context creates value” fits well with Alchemy too. Channeling Rory Sutherland, it wasn’t that Snickers needed to be tastier, rather reframed. Alchemy is about solving problems with psychology rather than physics. Instead of making travel faster, make it more enjoyable with wifi, charge ports, booking flexibility, a table for tea, someplace for the kids to burn off energy, and so on. Faster is only better when the process sucks. 

Consumers and customers have untapped wants. They’re hiding behind time, place, averages. They’re served by JTBD & Alchemy. 

Fifteen minutes could…be the JTBD

The central point of JTBD is that innovators over index on what they can build and under index on progress the customers wants. Too often innovators ‘scratch their own itch.’

This doesn’t mean verbatim bequeaths . Do that, said Ford CEO Jim Farley, and you get The Homer.

No, successful JTBD innovation uses the customer’s language.

One mistake, writes Frank Lutz in his book Words that Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear, is explaining in actions rather than outcomes. Actions are what I can build whereas outcomes are the progress.

A business that offers same day responses resonates more with customers than one that has “agents standing by”. How a customer describes their issue outlines the progress a customer wants to make.

An example of customer language comes from GEICO’s advertising start. GEICO executives told their marketers that, on average, phone calls took eight minutes and customers saved about 18%. Good numbers.

But when the marketing staff listened to the customer language they found the numbers were too good. “Research pointed out,” said Ted Ward on NPR, “that ten minutes wasn’t long enough to talk about something like car insurance but fifteen minutes was, and twenty minutes was considered way too long.” Eighteen percent was too good too, hence the 15 minutes to save 15% or more.

Customer words are the breadcrumbs along the JTBD path. Innovators settle into metrics which may not be helpful but are familiar, easy to collect, and seem important. But those metrics aren’t how the customer sees the world. For instance:

  • Best Buy Geek Squad formerly shared the average wait time. That led to disappointed customers. They switched to 90th percentile waits and customers became a lot happier.
  • Netflix used to offer star ratings (3.2, 4.1, etc.). That didn’t resonate like sub-genres like my favorite, ‘one last job then I’m out’.
  • Temperature can be Celsius or Fahrenheit but each has different fidelity. Laymen like Fahrenheit whereas scientists subscribe to Celsius.
  • Canada gets avalanche descriptions. Americans describe a class three avalanche as medium ‘relative to the path’, whereas in Canada a class three ‘could bury a car, destroy a small building, or break trees.’
  • This same effect exists at Disney. Touring Plans creator Len Testa noted that if his app says a time that’s too far from the Disney estimate people won’t believe it.

Each of these is an example of Lutz’s subtitle: it’s not what you say it’s what people hear. When people heard 8 minutes they knew it wasn’t enough time to get a legitimate car insurance quote.

Don’t miss any of the Job to be Done posts.

Demand-Side Sales 101 (book review)

Demand-Side Sales 101 opens with a foreword from Jason Fried, from his time selling shoes: 

“I noticed that when people browsed shoes on a wall, they’d pick a few up and bounce them around in their hand to get a sense of the heft and feel. Shoes go on your feet, but people picked the shoe with their hands. If it didn’t feel good in the hand, it never made it to their foot.” 

Authors Bob Moesta and Greg Engle of the Rewired Group wrote this book to explain how sales fits under the JTBD umbrella. Rather than selling, Moesta (whose voice I read this in) wants sales staff to be more like a concierge

Sales isn’t about bringing the product to the person. 

Sales is about helping the person make progress. 

Investors get this. An investor is only able to maneuver to the extent their limited partners allow. An educational endowment may not invest in companies whose business is distasteful to their staff, students, alumni, etc. Other investors can take advantage of this restricted action section. In the words of Seth Klarman: I want partners who cash checks when I write them and write checks when I ask for them

Consumer good businesses get this too. It makes no sense to ‘sell to’ people who don’t want the product. Moesta wants to take this spirit and distill it: move past selling to helping. 

Products that help have to start with what the customer actually needs. This is demand side (rather than supply side) innovation. Supply side tends to be features a business can create. Demand side tends to be the progress a user needs. 

This orientation may lead to novel solutions. Channeling Theodore Levitt, Moesta writes: 

““I need a drill, because I want a hole.” “I need a hole, because I want a plug.” “I need a plug, because I want a lamp.” “Why do you want a lamp?” “Because it’s hard to see, and I want to read better.” Now, we are beginning to understand the customer. They don’t need a drill at all; they need a Kindle.”

Think of your product, Moesta and Engle explain in their Circuit Breaker podcast, as the mustard on a sandwich. That’s how important whatever it is you do. The iPhone is the greatest product created, but it too is just the mustard. The elemental arrangement (a book about that) of sand and plastic is great – but only because it allows progress like emailing, photo taking, and reading Bob’s book. 

There are four forces that affect change: Push of current situation, Pull of the new solution, Anxiety of the new solution, Habit of the current situation. 

Moesta is dyslexic and sees these four aspects as an equation. Customers act when [Push of old + Pull of new] > [Habit + Anxiety]. A lot of copywriting works this way. ‘New’ and ‘Best’ are aspects of pull while money-back-guarantee is an aspect of anxiety.  

Diet can be seen this way. The way we look at the scale is the push of the current and the pull of the new is the vogue diet of the moment. Anxiety is fear of failure and the ambiguity aversion of the unknown. Habit is what mindlessly eat. 

Oh, and a wedding is coming up. 

Understanding the four forces isn’t quite enough to make sales. Customers travel through time, and six stages: 

  1. First thought. In a competitive market it helps when there is no name for a thing because names mean competition. Meanwhile a business has to create the question that leads to progress. “Questions are places in your mind where answers fit. If you haven’t asked the question, the answer has nowhere to go. It hits your mind and bounces right off.”
  2. Passive looking. Buyers consider actions. Push and Pull don’t yet outweigh Habit and Anxiety. 
  3. Active looking. Something happens. I’ve had it
  4. Deciding. What do people really value? Everything has trade-offs. Successful organizations sync their strengths with the customers’ wants. 
  5. Onboarding. A sale occurs.
  6. Using. How well something performs (relative to their(!!!!) expectations). This is 100% subjective. It’s not what you can build, it’s what they want to do. 

The 2011 Betty White Snickers commercial is how Mars used demand side sales to sell more Snickers. 

“When Snickers reframed their product from competing with Milky Way—supply-side selling—to solving the customer’s struggling moment—demand-side selling—they created pull for their product by helping people make progress.”

Milky Way is a treat and competes with glasses of wine and Oreo. Snickers is a snack and competes with Red Bull or Clif Bar. 

“But great salespeople don’t sell; they help. They listen, understand what you want to achieve, and help you achieve it. A better title would be “concierge.””

Netflix DVD JTBD

If I listened to my customers, Henry Ford lamented, they’d have asked for a faster horse. Let’s peel back this meme.

Superficially, Ford noted, customers do not know what they want. It takes visionary God-given insight to make things for people. Maybe.

What’s happening is that customers share a suggested solution. Ask the right questions to find the problem.

Prior to streaming in 2007, Netflix mailed DVDs. The business worked better than Blockbuster because movies came right to the customer, who returned them whenever they pleased. Life was good.

Mostly. People told Netflix they wanted new releases faster. That was the suggested solution. Instead, Netflix asked questions. If some customers got their newly released movies right away and others did not, would customer churn differ between the two groups?

And it did!

But not by much. At least not by enough to justify the extra cost of 2004’s The Machinist.*

But people wanted more new movies. Right?

Here Netflix got into the problem part of Ford’s words. Customers ask for one thing but what do they really want?

What the Netflix customers really wanted was any movie faster. To address this JTBD Netflix did two things.

First, they built more shipping centers so more movies were geographically closer to more people. During this expansion, Netflix went from ~20 centers to ~100.

Second, they changed the website so ‘local’ movies were presented on the homepage. A customer might log in to see Shrek 2 rather than The Incredibles.

Customers said they wanted newer movies, but what they wanted was faster movies.

*That’s another Netflix find. We tend to like Adam Sandler movies more than Drama/Thriller

The economics of iPhone cases

I tried, and failed, to get a photo of this issue.

For Christmas my youngest daughter got an iPhone. It was BOGO when you add a line, so I got a new iPhone too. For simplicity sake I ordered us Apple cases with the phones. And my case sucks. The silicon marigold iPhone 13 case is the worst I’ve ever owned.

But why?

Apple products are good. The computer I’m typing this on is an Apple product. If it’s read on a phone odds are one-in-three it’s an iPhone. Apple is one of the most valuable companies in the world – and has been for many years. What’s going on?

Well first, value is relative. If something is bad, it’s bad relative to what? My previous Smartish and Speck ($12 & $8 respectively) cases were more durable and provided prolonged protection on earlier inferior designed products. I think Apple cases are bad because they lack competition.

Apple, like Aldi, competes in a special way. Both are A+ companies and both compete outside the store. The goal is to get people inside, and if customers come in, they’ve got them. So Apple doesn’t convince me to buy the silicon marigold case rather than the leather case. No, Apple just wants me to buy Apple.

Aldi cereal is a visual example of this model, the boxes are bland (here in B&W) because they don’t have to grab the customer’s attention in the store. Contrast this with Walmart or Amazon where the competition is both inside and outside.

Smartish or Speck compete in the bedlam of Amazon. These cases have to throw sharp elbows in the arena of good, fast, and cheap. I found the Smartish case via a Wirecutter review, so it has to stand out as well. Ditto for Speck.

That said, I don’t know if the Apple case should even be good. Apple’s advantage is packaged hardware and software, not being best in class on accessories. Apple doesn’t sell a great phone case, instead the JTBD is ease and brand.

How to write great copy

Neville Medhora writes great copy because Neville Medhora made copywriting easy. Let me give you his steps.

But first, a warning. Copywriting can work too well. There are many scammy producers who use copywriting to sell scammy products. Copywriting joins JTBD and negotiations and Alchemy as selling tools to be used ethically.

Copywriting has two huge benefits. First it filters your listeners. I never have hecklers at my comedy shows said John Cleese because the people who come are all people who know what I’m going to say! Copywriting influences the stakeholders, who allow a certain freedom of movement – or not.

The second power of good copywriting is the magic of customer-acquisition-cost. With the right CAC, all business models work. Pirate Booty has good copywriting, informing parents that it’s “great for lunches”.

Copywriting can seem difficult because we start at the BLANK PAGE. But Neville Medhora created a system that makes copywriting easy. Anyone can write like Neville if they just follow his steps.

  1. No blank pages. Medhora maintains SwipeFile.com for inspiration. He also keeps a list of posts he’d like to write. Medhora is curious and one of his inspirations, Joseph Sugarman, wrote that the best copywriters “hunger for experience and knowledge and find other people interesting.” Like a chef with a well stocked kitchen, Neville never starts with nothing.
  2. Start writing – with a framework. Medhora likes the AIDA framework: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. He starts each piece with this outline and fills in each section. Remember, this is supposed to be easy.
  3. Find their thinking words. Amazon reviews are a “cheat sheet” for language. My research led to a book review which said this helped me have a healthy conversation with my spouse of 20+ years. Another review said it helped me maximize the time with my kids before they “flew the roost”. The book was about personal finance, but the language of the customer was “relationships”.
  4. Write the zero draft. It’ll be bad. It will look bad. Whatever.
  5. Let the draft marinate. Let your subconscious work. While you wait write 25 headlines – this is advice from Neville’s buddy Sam Parr.
  6. Edit your draft
    1. Does every line “earn it’s pixels”?
    2. Words or pictures? If your product/feature must be described, use words. If your product should be seen (like software), use gifs.
    3. Can you describe aspects the customer doesn’t appreciate but exist nonetheless? Our furniture is kiln dried for 72 hours…. a furniture website might say. Maybe everyone does this, or it’s not special within the industry but it’s not well known outside it.
    4. Do you need to punch it up? Add a cheat sheet, a rating system, embed a picture gallery, or make a cost breakdown.
    5. The more your reader knows the less you need to communicate. And vice versa.

That’s it!

If you want more from Neville check out his podcast episode with Sam Parr or use ListenNotes.com to search for other interviews.

To Sell is Human (book review)

Dan Pink’s 2013 book, To Sell is Human is good – but you probably don’t need to read it. At least not now. That the book is ten years old helps explain why.

Prior to the explosion of online media, books used to be great vessels for knowledge, trends, connections, entertainment and more. The best example of this is Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008, Outliers, and specifically the 10,000 hour rule. Prior to Malcolm’s missive, few knew of deliberate practice. After the book everyone talked about it and it was all everyone talked about. It was a thing.

To Sell is Human kinda suffers from the same circumstances. At the time it was full of difficult to discover novel ideas. The book probably kicked off a lot of helpful conversations about where the world might head. That was almost a decade ago. Things change. Here are the big ideas.

  1. We are all in sales. Self-promotion and idea-promotion are now much more common. Some of this is too due to the shift from organizational connections to network connections.
  2. There’s no information asymmetry. For our family van and family home I knew more about the actual options than the salesperson. The Toyota salesman compared the Sienna to the 4Runner whereas I compared the Sienna to the Honda Odyssey.
  3. Find the job to be done. This last one was why To Sell is Human didn’t resonate. Because this is in my head.

The JTBD framework is the conclusion to To Sell is Human. It’s the next logical step. It’s like watching the sequel first, you kinda know what happens in the first.

So don’t read To Sell is Human, but do read Dan Pink. He’s trendy, in a good way.

On Amazon is my JTBD tour-de-force.

Pirate Booty JTBD

My eleven-year-old daughter requested “Pirate Booty” after having it at school. Those bright buccaneers put the JTBD right on the box. Parents buy these “lunch bags” to pack for their children. You’re not buying a snack. You’re buying being the parent who packs their kid’s lunch.

Pirate Booty also commandeered a clever CAC. They earn “bulk pricing” from the school pay and “retail pricing” when eleven-year-old daughters return home. If this is negative CAC, it joins Freight Waves, who use content subscriptions to sell data and American Pickers who also use content to sell t-shirts.

“Aviation porn”

Jobs-to-be-done is one of our favorite topics because the examples are just so much fun. Here is another.

“What we are trying to do is what I call ‘aviation porn’. The reason people subscribe to Flying (magazine) is because of the beautiful photography, the long form evergreen articles, and the fact that when their friends and family come over they see the aviation publication. It takes a lot of work and effort to become a pilot and the people that are pilots are super dedicated to it and want to show their friends.”

Craig Fuller, Think Like an Owner podcast

Fuller explained that when he took over the magazine there was a push to go more digital, and he did that, but not without forgetting the JTBD of the print magazine.

The invisible visible

In the beginning, we measured the world one way. Then another way came. This way offered different fidelity, and we used that. Sometimes the thing we measured was a fixed supply, and the new fidelity changed demand and prices. Then a new new way came. The first two examples are this. Sometimes there is is no supply constraint and no change in price. The second two examples are that.

Investing. There are at least two areas where the invisible became visible. One is quantitative. It’s in the numbers, not the stories, where good investments can be found. A second is in scale. It’s the size of the company where there’s information which is invisible at one scale but very clear at another.

Moneyball. Like quant investing, Moneyball is a way to use numbers to find patterns and to frame our thinking.

Personal. “You work with a lot of teams”, Shane Parrish prompted, “what have you learned about making good decisions?” Well, says Diana Chapman, “people don’t practice nearly enough candor.” The whole episode (#130) is basically about this, making the invisible visible in our collection of relationships. How? Through candor.

Jobs to be done. The JTBD framework is a way of articulating purchase decisions. People take action to change what? We’ve many examples of this: Leatherman tool, Headspace meditation, and Instagram stores.

One way to find the recently visible is in words. What was so great about Chapman’s podcast with Parrish was the embodiment of her ideas. Chapman is physical: use notecards, stand here, dress like this and act accordingly. We are a visual species. Today’s prompt then: What is invisible here?