Sep 10, 2013

Inside Outcomes

Outcome relevance

Successful outcome for Biff
Chip and Babs are pregnant. At 10 weeks, they will be preoccupied with prenatal health. At 40 weeks, they’ll be concerned about safe birth. Then they’ll be focussed on learning to wrangle diapers. Once the diaper routine is sorted out, their days will gradually come to revolve around the goal of sleep, theirs and the babies. As young Biff approaches three years old, the sleep issue will be resolved. Managing tantrums will be the main item on the family agenda. …and so it goes.

Knowing a customer’s goals gives you insight into what is relevant for them, namely anything that that moves them closer to, or further from, these goals. Issues that impact progress toward goals are outcome-relevant. For example, advice on infant sleep routines is outcome-relevant, and hence likely to be interesting and welcome to parents who want to get more sleep; A proposed interest-rate hike is outcome-relevant to a couple looking to buy their first home.

The goals of first-time parents are fairly predictable. Babycenter presents outcome-relevant information to its consumers by changing its content according to the age of the child, from conception to 9 years old.
Babycenter matches its content to parents concerns week by week. 

Outcome-relevance is related to “jobs-to-be-done” theory. As renowned marketing guru and ex Harvard Business Review editor Theodore Levitt famously observed, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!” (Christensen, Cook et al. 2005). In other words, outcomes are more relevant to your customer than products.

When thinking about the “jobs-to-be-done”, think beyond just the functional goals. Unless you are selling a pure commodity, your customer will also have important emotional and social goals. Chip might be happier with a drill that makes him feel like a competent handyman than one with precise speed control.

Dig down to the your customer’s most important motivations by asking why they would be interested in your proposition. Then ask why that motivation is important. Then ask why again. Follow the chain of motivations to the root cause. This method, known as The 5 Whys and used in Six Sigma, Lean Startup and IDEO methodologies, is useful to examine underlying reasons for customer behavior and attitudes. Understanding the root cause usually opens up new solution possibilities.

Bosch looks for relevance in the kitchen.

Bottom line

  • Connect your proposition to your customer’s goals.
  • The end (the outcome) is more important to your customer than the means (your product).
  • Ask why your customer would be interested in your proposition. Understanding the root cause opens up new solution possibilities.


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This post is part of a series on Design for Customer Engagement.

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