Marketing is often described in terms of a product life cycle. The development, the launch, continued support, and finally, discontinuation all have specific marketing efforts associated with them. From social contests to reduced prices and giveaways, the emphasis is nearly always on the product or service provided. However, this does not take into account the way that customers actually search for and find products.
Consider the last time you purchased something. Every so often, aesthetics or “wow-factors ” play a role in the purchase, but not usually. Most people buy something because they have a need, or job, to be done. No one goes out and buys business software because they like filling in little squares with information; they do so to keep track of where, why and how their business is operating. They don’t pony up cash for consultants because they are lonely and want someone to talk to; they do so because they require assistance with a problem.
Recognizing the impetus that ultimately draws consumers to your product or service will greatly enhance your marketing and sales success. Instead of focusing on what your product brings to the table, you can focus on the pain points that drive customers to your product. If the marketing for a product speaks directly to a customer need, they are much more likely to buy. This is extremely powerful, and we all know this to be true. For instance, when you see an ad for an accounting program, you don’t care that it was developed with the latest in programming techniques, you just want it to accurately deal with financials and help you run your business more smoothly.
So how do you figure out what needs your product speaks to? If you have been in business for a little while and have delivered a product to the market, try to spark a dialogue and ask customers why they bought the product. If you are new to the market, think about what prompted the creation of the product in the first place (products and services are often born because someone had a problem and found no viable market solution available). Then ask yourself, how often do I have the problems that the product addresses?
Remember this simple truth: consumers buy products to complete jobs that need to be accomplished.
I had the opportunity to speak with Clayton Christensen  recently, Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School  and founder of Innosight Institute , a non-profit think tank. We chatted about two of his newest books, Disrupting Class  and The Innovator’s Prescription .
“We all have jobs in our lives that we must get done. We reach out and bring products into our lives to get these jobs done,” said Christensen. “Marketing is all about asking, ‘What job is the customer trying to accomplish?’”
By shifting the focus to the job that needs to be completed, a product’s life cycle becomes insignificant. “Most marketers think there’s a concept called a product life cycle. Once you realize that the world is organized by jobs that need to be done, you understand that product life cycles don’t exist.”
Pull out your pencils because here’s your formula: Always test your approach. You could be speaking to the wrong issues. Make sure you focus on the value of your product, not the features. Customers will respond more positively, and it will be much easier to sell. Go forth and sell!
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