product strategy

How Apple’s Product Strategy Satisfies Needs Better Than Samsung’s

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Horace Dediu argues that in the mobile phone market, profit share is the key to creating shareholder value, not market share. This makes sense. You don’t want to just sell more product than your competitors (market share); you want to make more money doing it (profit share). For example, Apple sells fewer smartphones and has less market share than Samsung but Apple makes 90% of the profits in the market. It’s no surprise that Apple has the largest market cap in the world.

Samsung and Apple have similar products and operational models, but a huge disparity in profit. The Jobs-to-be-Done definition of product strategy highlights the differences between Apple and Samsung’s smartphone businesses and provides a rubric for choosing strategies that lead to gaining higher profit share than your competitors.

Here’s a traditional definition of strategy: “the set of coordinated actions that a company takes to achieve its goals.” Shobhit Chugh’s blog post and slideshare apply this definition to product management. This notion of strategy is closely related to Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter’s definition from his 1996 article What is Strategy: strategic success is based on “choosing a unique and valuable position rooted in systems of activities that are much more difficult to match.” (If you don’t subscribe to Harvard Business Review, contact us and we can get you a complimentary copy of the article.)

The focus in both of these definitions is activities. However, it’s very difficult to create a “unique and valuable position” based on activities, especially if they are operational in nature. (Porter even recognizes this in his article, stating “Constant improvement in operational effectiveness is necessary to achieve superior profitability. However, it is not usually sufficient. Few companies have competed successfully on the basis of operational effectiveness over an extended period, and staying ahead of rivals gets harder every day. The most obvious reason for that is the rapid diffusion of best practices.”) Operational activities are often straightforward enough to copy and therefore don’t lead to competitive differentiation over a long time horizon.

In fact, Samsung executes many of the same activities as Apple. Both companies manufacture hardware, sell direct to consumers, sell to retailers, conduct R&D, and market to the same customers via the same channels. Yet, Apple takes far more profit in the mobile phone market. Why?

With Jobs-to-be-Done, instead of defining strategy as a set of activities, we define it as a set of choices.

  1. Which job-to-be-done to target
  2. Which job executor to target
  3. Which platform to use to satisfy unmet needs in the job.

Here are a few examples of strategies using this definition:

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Now, let’s look at Apple’s strategy vs Samsung’s strategy. Smartphones serve many, many jobs, but for the purpose of this example, let’s zoom out and look at just three of them.

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What do you notice?

The platform choice in Apple’s product strategy has two major differences: a proprietary operating system (iOS) vs. an open source operating system (Android) and a proprietary app store vs a 3rd party app store.

Android has become a commodity. Any company can use Android to launch a mobile phone, which means it is very difficult to satisfy unmet needs in a job differently than the competition. In other words, it is very hard for Samsung to differentiate their Android phones from the competitors’ Android phones.

On the other hand, iOS is proprietary, unique, and specifically designed to work with Apple’s hardware and services. No other mobile phone company can use iOS, which makes it inherently differentiated, and there is a segment of customers willing to pay a premium for the satisfaction iOS delivers to them relative to Android.

Samsung’s commodity OS forces them to attempt to differentiate mostly on hardware. By enhancing the hardware alone Samsung cannot add as much value to the needs in the job as Apple can by improving their hardware and software together. Samsung’s investment in Tizen, an “operating system built from the ground up to address the needs of all stakeholders of the mobile and connected device ecosystem” is evidence that they too believe their platform choice is holding them back – not from market share, but from profit share.

By looking at Apple’s Product Strategy choices through the lens of Jobs-to-be-Done, you see how they set themselves apart beyond simply choosing a different set of “activities.”

The JTBD definition of product strategy can keep product teams focused on delivering results for the customer. It’s clear, it’s specific and it’s easy to put on the wall and rally your team around it.

The Jobs-to-be-Done method helps you choose the strategy that will deliver higher profit share than your competitors. Here’s what you do:

  1. Define your customer’s job-to-be-done
  2. Identify the Customer Needs in the job-to-be-done
  3. Quantify the importance and satisfaction of the Customer Needs
  4. Segment the job executors based on unmet needs
  5. Analyze how well the competition satisfies the customer needs
  6. Make choices about product strategy using the following criteria:

Choose the job-to-be-done that has the most under-served needs for your customer.

Choose the job executor who will generate the highest value market based on their willingness to pay to get the job done and the number of job executors.

Choose the platform that can satisfy the unmet needs for your chosen job executor with the lowest amount of risk. The cost and risk of getting the job done for this job executor are critical. If it’s too expensive and too risky, it’ll eat into your profit.

These are the three choices that will lead you to a differentiated product strategy that can beat your competition. Of course, you’ll also need superb execution, but that’s another topic for another day.

Why not take a moment to ask your team what your product strategy is? Is your team using a definition based on operational activities or do you have a product strategy based on your customer’s job-to-be-done? If you find they aren’t aligned on what strategy to choose or even what a strategy is, get in touch with us here at thrv. We can help.

Posted by Jay Haynes in Jobs Theory Blog, Product Strategy, 2 comments

6 Steps for Product Managers to Handle the Pokemon Go Augmented Reality Craze

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Executive Summary:

With Pokemon Go’s explosive growth, product teams around the world are asking, “What are we going to do with Augmented Reality?” Jobs-to-be-Done provides a customer-centric framework for deciding if and how to invest resources in this new technology and ensure your efforts will create customer value.

  1. Don’t rush to build; be swift but purposeful. Flocking to new technology without a clear strategy can be counter-productive and increase your risk of failure.
  2. Define your customer’s job-to-be-done.
  3. Identify the unmet needs in the job-to-be-done.
  4. Answer these questions, “Can augmented reality help our customers meet these needs faster or more accurately? If so, how?”
  5. Measure if the new ideas will meet customer needs faster or more accurately than the existing solutions.
  6. Determine if you can integrate the ideas from Step 4 into your existing product or if you need to build something new.

If you’ve gone online in the past week, even for just a moment, you’ve no doubt heard about Pokemon Go, the Augmented Reality game that has men, women and children taking to the streets, parks and museums in a fevered effort to catch ’em all. The game’s success has sent Nintendo’s stock soaring and Product Managers across the country are being asked: What’s our AR strategy?

As recently as last year, Augmented Reality was firmly ensconced in the Trough of Disillusionment on the Gartner Hype Cycle. However, Pokemon Go’s success coupled with reports of it driving real in-store traffic and revenue, shows the technology is realizing its commercial potential. The distant, sci-fi promise of AR is here, now.

If you’re a Product Manager, you may have colleagues running rampant with “shiny new toy syndrome,” asking when you’ll have an AR solution ready to launch. Someone may have even written a press release already. The temptation to build first and ask questions later is strong, but it doesn’t feel right to you. Prioritizing your existing road map was agonizing and re-allocating resources to the dream of AR will take away from key projects already underway. But, you don’t want to appear staid, lacking in agility and dynamism, and, above all, you’re a team player. Shouting down your better angels, you say, “OK, let’s do a brainstorming session.”

Famous last words.

The company’s best minds are assembled. The room is full of energy. BD talks about partnerships. The UX team argues the finer points of distinguishing reality from augmentation. Someone’s telling a story about their neighbor’s nephew’s crazy antics hunting down Pokemons. Ideas flow like water from a firehose–plenty of volume, but little precision. Two hours later you’ve got four walls filled with sticky notes, divergent ideas, and a vague direction set by the HIPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion).

Back at your desk, trying to piece the ideas into a project plan, you wonder how you could’ve done things differently.

Here’s an idea: turn your generic brainstorming session into a Jobs-to-be-Done idea generation session. It focuses your team on the most important issue: how to address the unmet needs in our customer’s job-to-be-done. This approach ensures that what you do with Augmented Reality, if anything at all, will be of real value to your users and not just a transparent, rudderless attempt to ride the wave of a suddenly popular technology.

In the JTBD idea generation session you’ll focus on those unmet needs and continually ask, “would an AR solution help our customers accomplish their jobs-to-be-done faster or more accurately?”

Let’s walk through the process as if you’re a Product Manager in the field of medical imaging.

First, define your customer’s job-to-be-done through research and customer interviews. For our example, let’s say the JTBD is “Diagnose skin cancer.”

Next, interview your customers to determine the needs within the job and then survey them to identify which needs are unmet (important and unsatisfied). For the job of “Diagnose skin cancer” unmet needs may include:

  • Reduce the time it takes to detect a change in a patient’s skin condition e.g. a mole has grown in size or changed in color or texture.
  • Reduce the likelihood of missing a change on the patient’s skin.

NB: If you have already defined your customer’s JTBD and researched the needs, you don’t need to do it again just because there is new tech available. You can jump straight to idea generation, using the research you already have. Incidentally, thrv can help you execute these steps quickly.

Now, assemble the company’s great minds for an idea generation session. But, don’t guide the session with “How do we add Augmented Reality to our product?” Instead, ask “How can augmented reality help our customer reduce the time it takes to identify a change in a patient’s skin condition?”

After collecting ideas on how augmented reality can serve this unmet need, judge the ideas based on how well they meet the need. In other words, which solution will identify skin changes fastest? Think through the process of using the new AR solution and consider if it’s actually faster than the existing solutions your customers use. If the AR solution is faster, it will create value and drive growth. If it’s not, don’t bother investing it.

Finally, if your idea does meet the needs in the job faster or more accurately, determine if you can integrate it into your existing product or if you need to make a new one.

Explosive growth is exciting. When it happens with a new technology or platform, it’s natural for someone to catch a case of GMOOT (Give Me One Of Those). It’s easy to start with the ideation process, usually in the form of an unfocused brainstorming session. Instead start with asking the right questions–what’s our customers’ job-to-be-done and how can the technology can help them get it done better?

Posted by Jay Haynes in Idea Generation, Innovation, Jobs Theory Blog, Product Strategy, 0 comments

JTBD Product Management: An Education Market Example, Part 2. Generating Ideas, Pricing, & Revenue Projection

Today, we continue our exploration of how Jobs-to-be-Done helps product managers think different, drive innovation, and develop new products and features based on the needs of the customer. In our first two posts, we gave you a Jobs-to-be-Done Cheat Sheet and used the example of an educational publisher to look at defining your market with the customer’s job-to-be-done. Let’s dig deeper into this example, looking at generating ideas, pricing, and market sizing.

Generate Ideas

We’ve all been in those meetings where “no idea is a bad idea” and the goal is to come up with as many ideas as possible. Brainstorming is the best way to generate ideas, right? Well, often these sessions lead to long lists of features without clear criteria for prioritizing them. Not to mention some people are now excited enough about their creative efforts, they are willing to fall on a sword to see their ideas realized.

You don’t need a long list of ideas. You need to generate ideas that will lead to results for your customer and your bottom line. High impact features are more likely to come from asking a specific question: How do we serve our customers’ most important and least satisfied needs?

In the last post we discussed the need of a student to reduce the likelihood that they have a question which can’t be answered in the moment. Imagine you’re a Product Manager at an educational publishing incumbent like Macmillan or Pearson. It’s the late-90s and the internet is just beginning to reach a mass market. To serve this need, you could add more information to printed books or to a new CD-ROM product. Or you could notice that the internet enables students to connect with other people who could answer their questions. The customer need “reduce the likelihood of having a question which can’t be answered in the moment,” gives us clear criteria for knowing which solution is best. It’s the one that makes it most likely the student’s question can be answered immediately.

Pricing

The difference between paying for a product or getting the job done can seem subtle. Think of it this way: A person may only be willing to pay a one time purchase fee for a book (a product), but might pay a recurring monthly subscription to learn a language (see how DuoLingo gets the job done). Pricing by the customer’s willingness to pay to get the job done helps you avoid leaving money on the table and gives you a more accurate picture of your market size.

Market Sizing

There are two conventional methods of estimating the size of your market and your projected revenue: top down and bottom up. Top down is an estimate of the total revenue for some geography and industry (eg. dollars spent on education in the US) multiplied by an estimated percentage of that revenue you can obtain. The bottom up approach looks at how many people you can get to buy your product based on marketing and sales projections and multiplying that estimate times the price of your product. For instance, we project our marketing will reach 1 million people and we’ll convert 10%, so we’ll sell 100,000 books. Multiply 100,000 by $50 per book to get a $5 million market.

With Jobs-to-be-Done, the focus isn’t on the product because products change over time. The focus is on the customer’s job. The market size is based on the customer’s willingness-to-pay to get the job done and the number of job executors.

This approach helps you avoid market mistakes, which can be lethal. For example, Encyclopedia Britannica was a leader in education, the gold standard of information. Its business model was to sell books to consumers to help them and their children learn subjects. But just as there is no “iPod” market, there is no “encyclopedia” market. To size the market opportunity, instead of calculating the market size based on encyclopedias sold times price, education markets should be sized using the job executor (e.g. parents, students or teachers) times their willingness to pay to get a job (e.g. learn a language, learn a skill) done better.


 

That does it for this second installment of JTBD Product Management. Is your company still operating the old way? Could you benefit from implementing the thrv approach? If so, get in touch with us, we’d love to talk with you about how our products and services can help you launch high growth products. Next week will wrap it up by exploring how to approach the product roadmap, aligning your team and delivering an MVP.

Posted by Jared Ranere in Idea Generation, Jobs Theory Blog, Market Sizing, Pricing, 0 comments