Your User Acquisition Funnel: Jobs To Be Done, and other considerations

Listen to this article “Your User Acquisition Funnel: Jobs To Be Done, and other considerations” by Ruchi Thukral

You’re sitting at your desk and you have a set goal of increasing the number of acquired users by 3x this quarter. It’s terrifying because you’ve already tried everything. You might have tapped out one channel and you have no clue how to find the right customers or how to appeal to them. This is clearly a problem. And the solution most definitely involves revamping your acquisition funnel.

It’s time to get to know your user.

Disclaimer: Every company is unique, and it’s important to define your own funnel according to your key metric. Your business model will define what the most relevant metric is, such as acquisition rates, engagement rates, and so on. For this article, we will be focusing on an acquisition-focused bottom line.

How to Get Up Close and Personal with Your Customer

Knowing your customers deepest desires and anxieties is paramount to acquisition success.

In the factory we make cosmetics, in the store we sell hope.
 — Charles Revson, Founder and CEO of Revlon

Think about this for a second. The customer is not buying cosmetics. The customer is buying hope in disguise. Revson understood that customers didn’t care about his products — they cared about their problems.

You want to understand your user’s core motivations, their anxieties, and what their picture of success looks like. In short, understand their job to be done.

No, really, you should get cozy:

What Is Jobs to Be Done?

A job to be done (JTBD) is when a potential customer struggles to complete a task, or job, and has no viable solution in sight. Their ultimate goal is to overcome this struggle and by doing so increase their quality of life. The ideal product helps customers accomplish this job successfully, in a cost-efficient and seamless manner. Your goal is to be that product.

To be clear, the motivations that drive a user’s decisions are rarely complex. The difficult part is for you and your team to figure out what they are. Once you dial into your customer’s emotions, honing your product to fit your user’s needs becomes a far easier process.

Clay Christensen’s study on jobs to be done for a fast food chain’s customers is a famous example. The chain wanted to boost milkshake sales and saw they received an unusually high volume of milkshake orders in the morning. They started asking customers why they wanted a milkshake so early in the day. All the customers had one thing in common: a long and boring commute ahead. They needed something to do during the drive — their job to be done.

The common solution was to occupy themselves with something to eat. The item in question needed to fit in one hand, stave off hunger for a few hours, and not be messy. The commuters had tried a few things already: donuts and Snickers made their hands sticky, bananas and the like were finished quickly and weren’t satisfying enough, and it was too early for a burger. A milkshake met all the requirements, so it was popular choice. Armed with this insight, the fast food chain was able to improve their milkshakes to better cater to their high-value audience.

What’s interesting is that the competitors for this milkshake were not other beverages, but the aforementioned donuts, Snickers, and fruit. Competition came from unexpected places because customers were willing to adopt a solution so long as it solved their problem.

The Forces that Push and Pull on a User

According to the JTBD framework, there are four forces at play as a user comes to your site and converts. Des Traynor from Intercom explains it well:

  1. The push of what is happening currently
  2. The pull of a new solution
  3. The anxiety of what could happen
  4. The attachment to, or habit of, what you currently have

The first two will bring a user closer to your product while the latter two will do the opposite:

From When Coffee and Kale Compete by Alan Klement

Let’s say, for example you want to buy a new laptop. In that context, your push and pulls would look like this:

JTBD Push Pull Anxiety and Attachment Scenario

These forces will affect a user throughout their journey. They account for many of the breaks and random twists that you’ll see users take as they find and interact with your site. They are the reason that you will, at times, have to run a reengagement email or paid campaign. And these forces are the ones to remember as your users go through your funnel.

The User’s Journey

Oftentimes, as marketers, we focus on the end goal (e.g. conversions) so much that we forget about the user and their journey. There are many turns and pivots a user takes before they even get to your doorstep.

Here’s a breakdown of the user journey thought process:

User Journey Map

Let’s go back to our laptop example. You’re getting dragged through the mall by your friends and you see the latest fully-loaded Macbook in the Apple store window. It looks nice, but you’re cranky and you don’t give it much thought (first look). A couple of weeks later, you remember that the MacBook looked pretty sleek. So, you go online and click through Amazon, maybe even the Apple website, but you get sidetracked and now you’re looking at a smartwatch (passive looking).

More time passes, and you notice that your current laptop is overheating an awful lot lately and it’s running annoyingly slow (event 1). You get back online and start looking more seriously at that MacBook and other laptops (active looking). But when you see the prices, you’re hesitant to go forward, so you clean up your hard drive and try to manage.

Many weeks after that day in the mall, your laptop starts unexpectedly shutting down every 30 minutes (event 2). As you reboot and run diagnostics, you’re looking at reviews on PCMag in depth and comparing prices and features. After you’ve narrowed down your options, you go back to the mall to take a look at your choices in person (consideration). You take a couple more days to mull over which laptop to invest in, and you finally place your order (purchase).

When you bring your new laptop home and take it for the first run, you’re hoping it’s worth your money. After a couple weeks have passed with no glitches, you’re happy.

As you can see, the journey can be initially passive and later become active or can be active right off the bat. The main difference between the two is that in the latter, the user has a JTBD, a set goal, from the very beginning, rather than one occurring to them or creating one down the line. With this understanding, we’re in good shape to create our funnel.

Presenting: Your User Acquisition Funnel

Taking from the main lessons of the user journey and JTBD frameworks, we begin to construct our funnel. At a high level, the progression is Segmentation, Targeting, Awareness, Information, Engagement, and Acquisition.

Your New Acquisition Funnel (by Ruchi Thukral)

This funnel can also be seen through the lens of 3 stages: seeing, thinking, and doing, loosely inspired by Avinash Kaushik’s framework. Kaushik refers to these as consideration stages that a user is in, which he uses to advise targeting strategy.

Here, these terms are used a bit differently to create a funnel. The seeing stage encompasses all parts of the funnel that lead to the user seeing your product. Thinking involves all stages where the user is thinking about your product. And the last stage, doing, involves the user converting.

So, let’s get to it.

Seeing: Segmentation, Targeting and Awareness

Before you even construct your funnel, you likely have a target user base in mind which you want to see your product. They will have certain attributes, and you will start by defining them loosely, such as millennials or mothers.

This is segmentation at a very high level, and many marketers will stop here. You want to go as deep as possible — segment whenever you can, as much as you can. Here’s how you do this.

Step 1: Find your users’ JTBD. How? Observe your users, or better yet, talk to them. Identify their pain points. What other solutions have they tried? What would they be using if your product didn’t exist? What works? What doesn’t? Link your findings by what they have in common and what they don’t.

Step 2: Find your user. You need to put yourself in your user’s shoes. Ask yourself which sites this person would be visiting at this point in time with the specific struggle they have. What newsletters would they have subscribed to? Where would they be discussing the issue they are encountering?

Step 3: Target your users. Whether it be through partnerships or content or a paid ad, make a beeline for where your users will be, with messaging that hits home, leading to awareness of your product.

Now your user should know who you are, which leads us to the next portion of our funnel.

Thinking: Information and Engagement

At this point, your potential customer is thinking about your product and wanting to find out if your product can solve their personal struggle. (Remember: they don’t care about your solution.) They will ask you if you’re solving for their goal. They will want to know if you understand their JTBD.

You want them to know that you do understand their struggle (because your goal is to be the product that the user chooses). You need to deliver value to your user as quickly as possible.

Step 1: Answer the why, how, and what of your product, in that order. Why does your company care? How are you solving the problem? What is your product? Many sites you see will go in the opposite order, which fails to evoke emotion and connection, because (surprise!) the user cares about their problem, not your solution. Simon Sinek’s famous “Start With Why” beautifully explains the impact of the order.

Now, you may be thinking: “How do I effectively answer these questions for every target user on my landing page?” Well, it depends.

Also step 1: Speak to the struggle of your user on your landing page. Your messaging should validate their core JTBD and align with them as quickly as possible. If you’re only able to have one landing page for all audiences, that’s fine. All your potential users have a similar JTBD. The difference is in what their goal is. If you’re running multiple paid acquisition campaigns, you have the chance to connect even deeper. Route each audience segment to a different landing page and speak specifically to their life and goals, in addition to their struggle.

Step 2: Engage your potential user. Ideally, your messaging will pique the user’s interest in your product and spark the desire to engage with it before purchase. This is another opportunity to deliver value to your user. Use this chance to show your audience once again that you understand their struggles and can solve them. If your business model supports a free trial, or free functionalities of your product, implement it. If not, find out how you can allow your potential users to interact with your product and benefit from that interaction for free.

Essentially, you are getting your users to experience how your product will empower them to lead their ideal life. If they can picture how your product will improve their life, they will be more inclined to convert.

Doing: Acquisition

Great news! Your user converted! Now what?

Step 1: As soon as a user converts, deliver. Helping your customer become successful in tackling the struggle they hired your product to solve will drive engagement rates. Keep in touch with your customer, via email, push notifications, surveys, etc., to make sure you are continuing to solve their JTBD.

Step 2: Continue to provide value even when your product is not being used. This is what marketers commonly refer to as post-conversion engagement, and there are many ways to go about it. For example, you can implement a killer content strategy (not that you can’t do it earlier in the funnel). You’ll see a lot of great companies put out really valuable articles, whitepapers, or infographics that aren’t directly (or even remotely) related to their core product. This is good because your user is extracting relevant valuable information that they can apply to their life, or another struggle they are experiencing, and you’re not trying to sell them on additional products or features.

In the end, by doing the necessary research on your end user, the insights you gain will allow you to magnify your acquisition, both in numbers and in quality. And, at long last, your customers will look like this:

Ultimately, as a growth marketer, your job is to reduce friction and deliver value to your user as quickly as possible. Ask yourself if you’re truly solving the user’s struggle, or if your product is a nice-to-have. If your company goes down tomorrow, and it would be painful or impossible for your users to go back to things as they were before, then you have addressed your users’ core needs.
 — Matt Bivons, Head of User Acquisition at Earnest

About the Author

Ruchi Thukral — I’m a growth marketer specializing in user acquisition and branding. Passionate about discovering user needs, and identifying actionable pain points, I like to grow solutions that solve the user’s problems. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @ruchi_thukral or email me at ruch.thuk@gmail.com if you want to talk growth.

Thanks to Nick deWilde, Thomas Martino, Alexey Samkov, Ben Smith, Nausheen Ali and Aashay Mody for helping refine this article. Special thanks to Matt Bivons for his insight on delivering value to the user and to Alan Klement for his comprehensive book on JTBD, which inspired my own foray into the topic.