Approaching Marketing With a New Lens

| By:
Susan Perez

Many managed services provider (MSP) business owners struggle with finding the “right” way to market their products and services. Partners have told us that, while they feel they are technologically savvy, they are not quite sure how and where to allocate their marketing budget.  

Although there is not really a one-size-fits-all marketing approach for every MSP to follow, understanding the principles behind certain theories can help a business put its best marketing foot forward.  

In this post, we’ll explore two theories that share similar principles: the Value Proposition Canvas and the Jobs-to-be-Done theories.  

If it isn’t broke, why fix it? 

Some of you may be thinking, “Well, what’s wrong with my current marketing strategy?” or “Do I really need to apply theories to my approach?”. Ultimately, you know what’s best for your MSP. That being said, consumer behaviors and preferences have definitely evolved over the years, and keeping up with those changes is a smart way to work towards success.  

What has caused the shift in consumer behavior? Well, many things. But, primarily, consumers are so much more well-informed than ever before, thanks to our constant access to information. Because of that, today’s consumers are drawn to brands that are honest, have a purpose, and move away from serving up fluff.  

In the past, marketing campaigns could successfully get away with focusing on a product’s features and what made that product “shiny and new” in comparison to its competition.  

Today, consumers are less concerned about a product’s features, and instead, they want to know what impact the product can have on their lives.  

What job is your product or service hired to do? 

That question may seem a little weird. We don’t typically think that we are “hiring” products to do anything but dig a little deeper, and you’ll see that this question makes sense.  

What is the user’s situation? How can your service help them make progress in their lives? What job does the customer actually need your product or service to do for them?  

This approach is defined by two similar theories or tools—Jobs to be Done and Value Proposition Canvas. The gist of both is that a more effective way to go about your marketing strategy is to focus on the customer’s emotions.  

You may have heard of the commonly cited ‘milkshake theory,’ a concept that Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen uses to explain the job to be done. It basically describes that a customer may hire a milkshake to solve their boredom and hunger during a morning commute. When you think of drinking a milkshake, you may not imagine it as a solution for these problems, but you can uncover these truths by digging a little deeper. 

What’s the best way to dig into customer emotions? 

Start by talking! Both Jobs to be Done and Value Proposition Canvas encourage marketing strategists to ask questions of their customers. Find out what gains your product or service can help them achieve and what pains it can relieve. Ask brand new users what prompted them to make the switch to you. Talk to churned customers to discover what caused them to leave.  

It’s important to get down to small, seemingly insignificant details in order to find the true underlying needs that can be met by your product or service.  

Think about the ‘consideration set’ as you formulate your strategy (based on conversations with your customers). That is, the other products that compete with yours.  

Keep two things in mind: 

  1. Your competitors may not be obvious choices. In the milkshake example, it’s easy to think that ice cream is a direct competitor, when in fact, a banana is a more accurate choice.  
  2. You may think you’ve got a service with zero competitors, but that’s probably not true. Again, it takes some effort to identify less obvious competitors, but also, is it really such a good thing to be on your own in the market? Healthy competition is a good sign of future growth opportunities.  

What should a marketing strategy include, then? 

Once you’ve identified the pains, gains, and jobs your product or service will meet or rectify, it’s time to put your strategy into action.  

Every marketing strategy involves a lead generation campaign of some sort. If you’re not generating leads, you’re not gaining customers. No customers mean no business. 

In today’s digital marketing age, there are many tactics to choose from, ranging from pay-per-click (PPC) to retargeting campaigns and personalized emails. The method you choose is not as important as the message you put out there. 

So many times, you see ads that try to lure leads in by screaming “FREE Trial!” or “Lose Ten Pounds in One Day,” (a.k.a., a totally unrealistic promise). Your customers are smarter than that. They will recognize clickbait when they see it. With all the screens in their lives flooded with messages like that, how do you expect to stand out? 

Instead of focusing on shiny-gimmicky features, talk to customers about how your service will help them. Bring their emotions into the picture, because that’s what they will connect with. 

We like what Snickers has done. They’re not marketing themselves as “the best chocolate ever.” That’s just an unsubstantiated and very subjective claim. Their slogan is, “Hungry? Why Wait?”. First of all, everyone can relate to being hungry hangry. It makes you tired, cranky, moody, whatever. So, instantly, a connection has been made. Secondly, they’re alluding that a Snickers can replace a meal. They’re helping their customers by keeping them full enough to get on with their activities and last until dinnertime. Suddenly, Snickers is competing with a sandwich, and they become the best-selling candy bar on the market. Genius. 

So, what’s the bottom line? 

At the end of the day, the Jobs to be Done and Value Proposition Canvas tools are all about keeping your customer in mind.  

If you’re trying to think of the next big idea, or if you’re finding ways to strike gold, dial it back a bit. Take the time to ask yourself, “How can I make people’s lives better?” instead of “How can I create a super cool service?”. See where you can inject an extra bit of positivity into someone’s day, and hopefully, make them feel like a superhero for their team. 

It’s not really about reinventing the wheel here. It’s truly about making a positive difference in people’s daily lives. 

Consider the pain points that would drive someone to hire your service and fire the one they had already been using. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and imagine the life events that cause you to take action in your own job. 


  • Job doesn’t always mean employment. It can mean progress being made in one’s life. 
  • Consider a customer’s emotional, functional, and social situation—context and circumstance matter. 
  • Your existing competitors may be in an entirely different product category.  
  • Always use a lens of “How can I help my customer?” and not “Look! What I offer is so pretty!” 

There’s a lot of material out there relating to Jobs to be Done and Value Proposition Canvas, so do your research. We particularly like the books Competing Against Luck by Clayton Christensen and Value Proposition Design (The Strategyzer series) by Alexander Osterwalder.