Startup Strategy | Thinking Product & Service with Structure from the Customer's Point of View (Part 2)

November 07, 2018

Dr Reinhard Ematinger


Why do you need a good understanding of this? Why Your customers buy products or use services? The answer to this Why is, as experience shows, both a serious challenge and one of your most important assets. In my workshops and coaching sessions, I ask founders to recognise this Why in a few words, most of the answers are vague at best and have more to do with the What and the How than with a comprehensible "logic" of a future purchase decision.

Structured thinking 'from the customer's perspective' is just as little a fixed star as an organisation's business model, but must be constantly adapted to reality: Competitors are added, products that complement or replace your portfolio appear sooner or later, parts of your service offering may become obsolete, legal framework conditions change, potential partners offer new access to interested parties and customers and thus create new benefits and new revenue models.


The Customer Jobs Canvas developed and extensively tested by Sandra Schulze and myself has become a useful format since summer 2017. Feel free to download it as a pdf file for free use. Among other things, the canvas provides an overview of

  • the functional, emotional and social tasks of your prospects and customers
  • the spatial, temporal or organisational context in which these persons are located
  • the products and services competing with your offering that prospects and customers are currently using or have used
  • the forces that attract customers to a new offer or deter them from a new offer
  • the clear disadvantages (after all) of your offer and the benchmark for a good result, in each case from your customers' point of view

and thus makes the motivation of your most important customers to buy a product or service comprehensible.


The Customer Jobs Canvas is processed in the order shown below. We see these four thematic blocks to which the building blocks can be summarised:

  • Modules 1 to 3 provide space for a description of the selected customer segment, its view of the current situation and its intentions.
  • The central building blocks 4 to 7 represent the tasks of your customers and the respective context in which these tasks are currently taking place.
  • Compensatory behaviour on the part of your customers and the competing solutions from the customer's point of view can be found in modules 8 to 10.
  • Building blocks 11 to 14 list arguments in favour of and against switching to new offers, what disadvantages customers see and how they measure their success.

Let's start with the first block, based on the description of the selected customer segment, and with the building blocks 1 to 3. As the canvas is used in the English version in many workshops, I will give the English-language names of the building blocks in addition to the German-language names.




The role of the person being analysed is described here. The term "customer segment" always refers to one or more people who fulfil a role, never an organisation such as a department or a company. The actual activity is more useful than euphonious designations such as "Senior Vice President Executive Education Latin America": Is this person responsible for a budget for machines and systems, is he or she in charge of the "Design and Software Development" department, is he or she the "top" contact person for fleet customers?

The customer segments "purchasing manager", "teacher" and "workshop foreman" are good examples of this module.



This is used to record verbatim quotes from the customer segment in question, which are as current as possible and are made in dialogue with you or third parties. They represent your customers' view of the influences that determine them and have little to do with your offer. In order to make the best possible use of this treasure trove of information and to utilise it later on when communicating your offer, it makes sense to make a clear distinction between "perceiving neutrally" and "interpreting". Make a note of what you hear without allowing yourself to be influenced by your - certainly well-founded, but at this moment unhelpful - view.

Real examples of this building block are "We are not market-orientated enough", "I want to break new ground" and "No experiments - the business has to run".



This building block answers the question of what the positive intentions of the customer segment under consideration are. The 'big picture' is required here, not individual activities or the tasks of your customers to be described later. Similar to Building Block 2, this content will help you in your future communication if you formulate your customers' intentions as a question and your offer as an answer. When working with the Customer Jobs Canvas, the building block also helps you to 'return' to the topic if thoughts and discussions digress.

"Team cohesion is the most important thing", "I would like to have more time for my customers" and "I want to position my hotel well" are good examples of this.


We continue with the second block with building blocks 4 to 7 and the tasks of your prospects and customers and their context.




This describes the context in which your customers find themselves: Spatial (in the office or in the car), temporal (morning + rushed or evening + relaxed), financial (low or high income) or organisational (start-up or corporate) contexts. The perceived benefit of your offer is defined by the extent to which your offer supports him or her in the tasks to be completed (building blocks 5 to 7). However, only the context actually reveals this benefit: the same offer can be useful in different ways in different contexts.

Examples include "Competitive pressure is increasing", "We only deliver to customers in the B2B segment" and "I'm taking the underground now and have 10 minutes for news".



This answers the question about the observable tasks of the customer segment. Building blocks 5 to 7 are central to structured 'customer-centred' thinking and require your full attention to gain useful insights. It is enormously helpful for good results when working with the canvas to adopt the neutral position of an observer who - similar to the content of building blocks 2 and 3 - does not try to interpret what is happening, but answers the question, what with whom and like just happened.

"Foreman on the phone with customers", "Purchasing manager meets with her team for a strategy meeting" or "Teacher corrects homework" are examples of this.



The emotional tasks of the customer segment under consideration are described here, which - analogous to the social dimension of a task - can be significantly more important than the functional component. Taking a close look at the positive or negative feelings of a person in the respective context is not an excursion into the esoteric, but an essential part of the question, Why Interested parties and customers buy your products, do not buy them or, in case of doubt, do nothing.

Examples are "I find the NGO environment stressful", "I am looking forward to the meeting" or "I am frustrated with the management".



This module contains the social tasks of your customers. While the emotional tasks are exclusively concerned with a person's feelings when solving the functional task, the view of others on this person is central here. The important question here is how the person under consideration is perceived or wants to be perceived by others in their respective role. This could be customers, partners, competitors, important friends, suppliers or social media.

"I've got the shop under control", "I'm the decision-maker (and the whole family knows that)" and "I want to be seen as forward-thinking" are good examples of this.


The third block focuses on the compensatory behaviour of customers and the competing solutions with building blocks 8 to 10.




This outlines the compensatory behaviour of the customer segment in question: Customers are doing something that they at least suspect will not be satisfactory - and you are competing with an invisible and unfair 'competitor' as a result. Whenever you perceive compensatory behaviour from your most important customers or their self-made stopgap solutions, this is a clear signal of untapped potential. If customers are working with great effort on a rather mediocre solution with little benefit in their respective context, your offer will be all the more welcome.

Real examples are "I concentrate on the day-to-day business and don't plan", "We buy in poor but available quality" and "I send countless emails".



This building block describes the solutions competing with your offering that the most important customers are currently using, whether product or service. Even more important is the 'question behind the question', Why your (future) customers use these solutions. At first glance, building blocks 8 to 10 are so similar that it is worth taking a look at how you can obtain useful results: Building block 8 (compensating behaviour) emphasises behaviour independent of products used, and building blocks 9 and 10 look at the products or services currently or previously used.

"Credit card with mileage collection function", "reliable retailer around the corner" and "business simulation on 15 Windows laptops" are good real-life examples.



This is where the products or services that your target group used in the past but recently removed are mentioned. Even more important here is the 'question behind the question', Whythey threw out these solutions. The contents of Building Blocks 8 and 9 (similar to Building Blocks 2 and 3) support you in entering into dialogue with important prospects and customers: Knowing which solutions are in use - or Why are no longer in use - provides enormous advantages in the communication of your 'customer-centred' offer.

Real examples of this are "QR codes on cards (hardly used by guests)", "flipchart stands (not robust enough)" and "SAP Enterprise Support (too expensive)".


The fourth and final block, modules 11 to 14, describes the arguments in favour of and against switching to new offers.




This building block describes the influencing factors that move customers in the direction of a new offer through a combination of 'push' and 'pull': 'push', for example through a situation perceived as unpleasant, and 'pull' through an attractive new offer. An offer that is conceived and designed 'from the customer's perspective' utilises the interplay of these forces; the 'push' and 'pull' forces need each other. If customers do not have sufficient drive to change something, or if you do not promise a satisfying solution in a credible and exciting enough way, customers will not accept your offer.

"Increasing productivity targets 'from the top'", "Easy to implement and operate" and "Greater flexibility in supplier selection" are good examples of this.



This module describes the influencing factors that prevent customers from making a new offer. Here, too, two forces dominate: on the one hand, habits ensure that decisions are not made, and on the other hand, fear of making the wrong decision. The forces working against a purchase of your offer are often taken less seriously than the supporting forces - which I think is an omission: These forces are your competitors, just like competing products or services. The result for you is the same - whether customers don't buy or buy from a competitor.

Real examples of this are "Effort due to additional interfaces", "Bad experiences with consultants" and "Guests may not understand the product".



This outlines the clear disadvantages of your offer from the customer segment's point of view. 'Disadvantage' does not mean a somewhat unfavourable cost-benefit ratio or a minor detail that can be tolerated, but serious disadvantages that cannot be discussed. The contents of this building block will support you in your decision to work on product-based disadvantages, to add components to services or to seek dialogue with the customer segments that are important to you in order to develop an even better understanding of their perception of the advantages and disadvantages.

"The processes will not run smoothly for at least three months", "Massive unrest in the organisation" and "Minimum order quantity of 10,000 units" are good examples here.



This module describes how the customer segment you are looking at measures its success, answers the question of what is 'better for your customers afterwards than before' and supports you in communicating your offer. The question of what your target group understands by 'success' or 'good result' is an invitation to change your perspective: from an internal, financially orientated view to an external, customer benefit orientated view. We know that the key figures for this are not very easy to define.

Real examples are "The availability of consumables is 98%", "Less tedious discussions" and "Number of feedbacks from guests increases".



With the following questions, I invite you to take the first steps towards creating a transfer to your current work. It's less about the perfectly thought-out answer and more about quickly collecting your thoughts.

  • Which customer segment do you want to look at first?
  • What is your motivation for choosing precisely this customer segment?
  • What opportunities do you see for direct contact with these customers?
  • Who or what can support you in contacting these customers?
  • If direct contact is not possible, who knows these customers particularly well?
  • What are at least the three most important functional tasks of this person?
  • What are at least the three most important emotional tasks of this person?
  • What are at least the three most important social tasks of this person?
  • What is missing to start working with the Customer Jobs Canvas?

More in part 3: How to get off to a good start


innoWerft guest article by Dr Reinhard Ematinger

Expert for business model innovation

Reinhard invites managers to "think" their products and services from the perspective of their customers. More than 100 semesters of lectures, several books and more than 20 years of experience in consulting, business development and corporate universities ensure the relevance of his work.