How to Help your Customers Solve their Job Problems- The Perfect Business Product Catalog

Is your business catalog product-oriented or service-oriented? Are you just selling products or are you helping people know how you can help them get their jobs done with perfect outcomes?


Being Job-Focused Will Increase Sales and Profits


I think I mentioned many issues ago about the plant nursery that said it didn’t sell plants, it sold holes. Not only the plant but the spade to dig the hole, fertilizer, the support stake, the watering system, the guidebook, the weeding tools, the kneeling mat, the gardening gloves, the sun hat. In other words, it catered to the complete job to be done. A design aid to planning the whole garden so you can identify many, many needed holes that will need repeat visits. Plus a companion sale of the seeds for the must-have vegetable and herb garden to be done next week, maybe…


If a yoga clothing shop is into helping its customers get the job done it doesn’t just sell tight pants and tops. There’s the yoga mat, the mat spay to kill germs, the mala beads, the educational and aspirational books and videos, posters, the whole range of after class wear, the adornment jewelry, hair systems, and so on.


You can see the significant opportunity here for sales and profit increases –


As you focus more on the job, you can see more and more options. If you want to expand your brand into other related categories.


A smart dress shop knows that a woman needs a complete wardrobe. Goes out of its way to offer advice and products and services that supply that integrated wardrobe (“This goes with that, at Suzanne” was a popular Australian jingle.) You thus ensuring multiple visits and additional opportunities to companion sell. But more importantly to help that customer get the complete job done more perfectly. A happy Heidi showers her friends with glowing referrals.


Staff and merchandising in these job-focused retail outlets are (or should be) aimed at helping Heidi understand the options and the relative benefits for each outcome in helping her get her job done. This is really critical – as more purchases move online your in-shop customer experience and conversion need to be even sharper.


And related items for a particular job are located next to each other. So what if that means a multi-use item is located in five different areas of your shop – are you into tidy layouts or improving profits?


Functional Types of Jobs are Easy to Catalog


Jobs to be done include functional jobs, emotional jobs, and social jobs. You could catalog your products by all three of these jobs.


If I’m selling brooms then it is quite easy to produce a catalog based on functional jobs to be done. You can talk about brooms for sweeping smooth surfaces and brooms for sweeping paths or rugs. You can talk about desired outcomes such as the width of the sweep, access to corners, smooth handle grips, slope of the handle and so on.


Same with fry pans – I can see a catalog of frypans by the types of jobs to be done – steak griddles, omelets, pancakes, stir-fry.


Just look at how the marketing of toothbrushes has changed over the past few years.


Once upon a time I just bought a toothbrush with soft bristles and maybe a color handle of my choice. Now I have options such as the thickness of the bristle (improved outcome of cleaning between teeth); different bristle angles (improved outcome of better cleaning); a bent handle (for better internal reach); a serrated handle (for better grip) and a rough back (associated job of cleaning tongue.) They are advertised on these outcomes.


Will I, do I pay more for better outcomes? You bet I do. Despite the huge price difference, I would never go back to a disposable single blade razor from my Mach 3, because the Mach 3 gives me a near perfect set of outcomes in getting my shaving job done.


Non-Functional Catalogs Could be Fun


Functional catalogs are relatively straightforward. But for emotional and social jobs, can you really be so straight-forward in practice?


Take the cosmetics industry as an example. Many people in the biz talk about this as the marketing of Hope. Sure there are all sorts of functional catalogs, but the personal and social jobs and related outcomes are far more subtly cataloged or not at all.


I have a number of clients in the jewelry business, and it raises some interesting questions about how to advertise their products in the retail market.


What jobs do women require from wearing jewelry? What outcomes are women looking for? The typical answers they put forward include:


  • because they make me feel good
  • a symbol of how I am feeling
  • just because I WANT TO
  • to complete an outfit
  • display social status
  • an appreciation for art
  • beautify my body
  • assert my style
  • because it’s fashionable
  • for sentimental reasons – reminds me of someone special, or a special occasion.


But when I look at product catalogs from these clients they don’t reflect these jobs, their catalogs are nearly all product-oriented. You can look up their offerings by type (eg rings or bracelets) or by collections. But very few have any reference to a job to be done, be it functional, emotional or social.


Business Exceptions


In the jewelry business the few exceptions I can find mostly come down to Lurv. There are special sections for engagement rings, wedding rings and shared love lockets, and these are recognized as legitimately spoken-about jobs for a piece of jewelry.  But we have to be careful that we don’t become crass and catalog other desired outcomes from jobs to be done – for example, adornment for the purpose of accentuating desirable mating features: earrings for erogenous ears, brooches and pendants for heaving bosoms, anklets for a pretty pair of feet, or necklaces to offset a delicate neck. (Let’s skip over body piercing for the moment.)


Cataloging social demonstrations of wealth are equally tricky – sections of pieces that declare “I’m a really rich bitch” or “I’m an up-and-coming rich bitch” or “I couldn’t care less and love bling.”


You are probably on the much safer ground if you are working with jewelry pieces that are more designed to work as an accessory, to complete an outfit or a look. Can you categorize the metal and stones, skins and fabrics in terms of their effectiveness in accenting skins colors, skin textures, and hair colors? On how they accent or diminish ear shapes or thickness of fingers?  Oops! There we go again!


Researching Required Outcomes is Key


It intrigues me (professionally of course) how women learn what works and what doesn’t with jewelry? Definitely secret women’s business. Is it passed on from mother to daughter? From peers? From stupid, hopefully, never-repeated mistakes? Is it something to do with women being so good at detecting subtle signals (gagging, appreciation, desire, lust, etc) that they are quick studies in learning what works and what doesn’t, for them.


On the other hand, is there an opportunity for someone to go radical with a catalog that actually educates younger women to give them a flying start? To help them avoid embarrassing social blunders and help them avoid spending on bad choices? Would that be a useful service?


A decent customer survey might help answer these questions. How did you learn what works for you, to give you the outcomes you were looking for?


BizFact #17

US  End 2013 – mobile traffic 48 percent of all online traffic.  mobile sales 29 percent of online holiday sales. (IBM)


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