Consumers don’t want your product. They want progress.

Embrace that insight, and your emails to prospects will become immeasurably better.

This article will give you fresh insight into how writing for your customer’s Job to be Done (JTBD) helps you write cold emails that:

  • Pique prospect’s interest
  • Starts their buying process
  • Persuades them to learn more about you

Everyone Wants the Same Thing

Your emails should speak to what is attractive to consumers. However, the hard part isn’t figuring out what consumers want - that’s easy. Why? Well, because everyone wants the same thing: progress.

What's progress? Progress is getting closer to what you want. It's also about getting further away from what you don't want. It's not about doing what you're already doing cheaper/faster/better. It's about change. It's about a better future where things are different than they are today.


The hard part is communicating progress at the right abstraction. Simply saying that your diapers helps parents “be a better parent” makes you seem aloof or disingenuous. On the other hand, saying that your diapers are “more absorbent than ever before” is speaking to the product, and thus too specific.

A much better way is to think about:

  • The life-situations that customers are hoping to change for the better
  • What constraints they face in making those changes

In other words, you should speak to your prospect's Job to be Done.

What is a Job to be Done?


A Job to be Done is when you want to change your existing life-situation into a preferred one, but can’t because constraints are stopping you. We call it a “Job” because:

  1. Just as employer hires and fires an employee for a job, consumers can hire and fire a product for their desire to change (i.e. Jobs)
  2. Jobs exists independently from any product

This thinking helps you get away from focusing on the product, what it does, and the outcomes it delivers. Rather, JTBD wants you to focus on the change the customer wants to make. I don’t buy a home security camera so I can better record an intruder’s face. Rather, when someone breaks into my house, I to be someone who can give police enough evidence to catch the bad guy - which may or may not include a picture of the criminal’s face . That is my Job to be Done.


Speak to your ideal customer’s JTBD

Speaking to a prospect’s Job to be Done helps you attract the right customers, while keeping away those who aren’t a good fit for you. But how do we do that? Well, let’s look at real life example.

In the article, The Why before the Why, CEO Jason Fried talks about how his company doesn’t think only about “why did my customers buy from me”, he sought to answer “why do people shop?”. His aim was to discover the elements that must come together to formulate demand. His research led to four “Jobs to be Done” - phrased as struggles - that caused someone to shop:

  • We can’t keep working like this.
  • We can’t mess up like that again
  • This project isn’t getting off the ground
  • How am I going to pull this off?


Armed with this insight into prospects motivation, Basecamp then orientats their message to align with these Jobs:


Notice three important types of data that help you understand demand:

  1. The kind of change that is attractive to prospects
  2. The constraints they face when trying to make that change
  3. The competition (how consumers are currently trying to overcome #2 so they can have #1)

When you want to connect with prospects ASAP, acknowledge #2 and tell them you’ll get them to #1.

Your email should trigger the shopping, and buying, process

Capturing prospects attention is hard enough. It’s even harder when you’re trying to get someone’s attention who may - at first - not be interested.

Know that people don’t start shopping until something happens. I won’t suddenly start shoppng for a new car while I’m at home reading a book. Rather, something must cause me to start shopping. My car breaking down, having another child, moving from New York City to Los Angeles...these are all events that might cause me to start shopping for a new car.

However, something else might cause me to start shopping: when someone puts in front me a new, better way of living that I hadn't considered before. I might see an ad on YouTube or TV that shows me how fun it is to go off-roading in a Subaru, or how weekend road trips make for great family fun. In these cases, a new possibility for experiencing life is being presented to me - something I may not have been aware of before.

Once this seed of possibility is planted, I’m going to start thinking about how I can make those new experiences come true. And if at the same time I’m presented a solution that makes those new experiences come true...well, I’m naturally going to look at that product first.

When you write cold emails, you should be thinking “how can I get the reader to start the shopping process?”. And to do this, you should be speaking the language of progress:

  1. Acknowledge their constraints
  2. Illustrate the new, better experiences they will have because of your product.
  3. Show how your product helps them overcome constraints and have those new, better experiences they desire.

(And of course, don’t forget to add a link to your product.)

Alan Klement helps individuals, teams, and companies become great at making and selling products that people will buy. He does this by helping them gain a focus on how to create a unified vision of how to create growth through innovation. Get in touch with Alan here.