How a subscription business can help you serve your customer’s Jobs to be Done better

Evelien Al
April 18, 2019

The Jobs to be Done framework acknowledges that it's not just someone's goal that determines what product or service he will choose, but also the circumstances in which he tries to reach that goal. How urgent it is, who else is involved, where he is, at what time, in what state...

Understanding all these details, having a deep understanding of the "Job to be Done", enables you to make something that's optimised for achieving that particular goal. And as Clayton Christensen mentions in his book Competing Against Luck: “It’s in this level of detail that organisations create long-term competitive advantage because this is how customers decide what products are better than other products.

To truly optimise your product for the Job to be Done though, you need to understand and own as much of the customer journey as possible. As my colleague Bob states, there's a reason why Apple and Tesla are investing so heavily in services: they can control not just the product itself, but the entire experience of the product while being used.

I'm going to tell you a bit more about how you can use subscription models to better serve your customer's Jobs to be Done, and create a competitive advantage that's hard to copy.

How Swapfiets uses a subscription service to help you always get your Job Done

If you live in Holland you’ve seen them around: the recognisable blue-banded bikes by Swapfiets. It’s a subscription service where you rent a bike for 15 euros a month. And it’s incredibly popular! Which wouldn’t make sense cost-wise, as it’s cheaper in the long run to buy a good second-hand bike. But it’s clear that the benefits outweigh the extra costs.

And that benefit is clearly stated on their website: “Swapfiets - Always a working bike” (“Swapfiets - Altijd een werkende fiets”). They ensure this by having local "Swapfiets repair shops" where customers can swap a broken bike for a new one. If a bike gets stolen customers can get a new one immediately for €40. And if someone moves to a new place she can easily hand in her "old" one and get a new Swapfiets there.

One of the local Swapfiets shops in Holland

This takes care of a lot of bike-hassles many Dutch people have experienced: Having to walk home because you just got a flat tire, having to wait for it to be repaired, having to sell your bike online when moving to a different place, and then having to buy a new one there again. And this is a big pain in the ass in a place (Holland) where most people are very dependent upon their bikes (as not everyone owns a car, inner cities are quite car-unfriendly, and cabs are expensive).

What Swapfiets does it not just selling the bike, but making sure you get the Job Done: going from A to B. This is why customers are willing to pay a premium price for it. And Swapfiets can only do this properly by renting out their products and controlling the entire customer journey of actually using the bike.

How Cocoa Runners uses the element of surprise to help you treat yourself

The case of Swapfiets is a very functional one, but you've probably also seen subscription services that are way more about creating a certain experience. One of these is Cocoa Runners, a premium chocolate subscription I've been subscribed to for a while. Every month it ships a collection of premium chocolate bars to your home, with the choice between a milk-and-dark or dark-only box.

While convenience might play a role too (you don't have to go to that chocolate boutique to get some bars), it's clear from the box you receive that it's not just about the chocolate. The bars are beautifully wrapped and come in a nice box, along with a leaflet explaining you more about the bars and what makes them special. Often the boxes carry a theme, like texture or spices.

A Cocoa Runners subscription box

But one of the often overlooked aspects of this subscription model, in my experience, is the element of surprise that it creates. As I'm never quite sure when my box arrives, and I'm not taking a conscious action to order it. Instead, one day it's just on my doorstep! And it always feels like a pleasant surprise (especially after a long day of work). It makes it feel like a real treat to myself :)

This is an effect that's hard to recreate without the subscription model. And that's why I think it can be great for creating experiences around premium products for real aficionados: you can create an element of surprise, and "curate" the experience much better.

Subscriptions help you own the entire customer journey & optimise for the Job to be Done

The Jobs to be Done framework acknowledges that buying a product is never a goal in itself, but always a means to achieve something else. And that its success rate depends on many more things than just the product itself.

Running subscription services enables you to own much more of the customer journey than just selling products, which allows you to 1. understand your customer's Jobs to be Done in-depth, and 2. optimise for that Job to be Done. And as Christensen mentions, this creates an advantage that's really hard to copy by others.

Want to give your products a real competitive edge by switching to a subscription service model? Our tool GoMonthly can help you test the waters first and find out what subscription model fits your product best. Sign up now to get your first small-scale subscription service set up in no time, and join the subscription economy!