One day this summer while working at our Cambridge office, I happened across a Tweet from Jason Fried of 37signals announcing a workshop they were hosting at their headquarters in Chicago. The goal of the workshop, titled ‘The Switch,’ was to tackle the question of why customers switch to — or away from — a product or service. I jumped at the opportunity to attend.

I’m a big fan of 37signals. I like the way Jason, David Heinemeier Hansson and Ryan Singer think about and conduct business. So I figured that any workshop endorsed by Jason would be invaluable. Plus, I thought it would be fun to check out their headquarters and to get the chance to interact with other members of their team. While visiting their office was a cool experience, the highlight of the trip -– by far -– was the workshop itself.

The two leaders of the day-long event were Bob Moesta and Chris Spiek, founders of The Re-Wired Group. They’ve spent years studying and observing customer behavior and have developed a unique way to approach marketing and product development.

On the surface, what they’re trying to accomplish is a common goal of most businesses: Understand why a customer buys — or leaves — a particular product or service. And, although most marketers likely understand this concept, Bob and Chris are quick to point out that “most businesses don’t know the real reasons why people switch to — or from — their products”.

Bob and Chris credit Harvard Business School professor and author of the Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton Christensen, for helping them develop their techniques. Below is a video where Clay talks about milkshake research:

As Clay points out in this video, we all hire products and services to do specific jobs. It’s the understanding of why we hire — or fire — them that’s key.

Most people I’ve come across who are good at their craft make it look easy. Bob and Chris are no exception. In the workshop, they demonstrated how to interview people and to get at the heart of what motivates their decisions. They provided numerous examples of how to read between the lines and develop a plan of action around themes that flow from the interviews. As someone who has a few of these interviews under his belt, let me tell you that it’s way easier said than done!

And even though they’re difficult to do, because of these interviews, we’re already gaining valuable insights into why people switch, and we’re looking forward to having many more of these types of conversations in the future. I’m confident that the time spent will make PromoSimple a better product and company.

At the end of the workshop, we talked about our takeaways from the day. Here are a few of mine:

  • Focus on what job a person is hiring your product or service to do
  • Your biggest competition may not be products or services that are similar to yours
  • When talking to customers (or former customers), find the areas of struggle and emotion

I highly recommend The Switch workshop, but if you don’t get the chance to attend, I encourage you to listen to the Jobs-to-be-Done Radio podcasts, as well as to check out some of the resources related to the Jobs to Be Done Framework that Bob and Chris have made available. It will be well worth your time!