Turning Customer Research into a New Product with Copy Hackers and Airstory co-founder Joanna Wiebe

The Nitty Gritty:

  • How listening, watching and interviewing customers about the pain points of their process, helped the Copy Hackers team develop the basic idea of a new product.
  • What the jobs-to-be-done approach to innovation is and how it facilitates customer research.
  • How growth, innovation and building new solutions build on the battle scars you learned from other endeavors and creates opportunities and new responsibilities for your team.

Listen. Watch. Interview. And then build.

As Copy Hackers and Airstory co-founder, Joanna Wiebe relates in this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit., these steps were foundational building blocks in the creation of the new business endeavor, Airstory, a drag-and-drop document builder. Think: Google docs and Evernote had a baby and let Trello raise it.

The more we listened to more and more people and how they wrote. . .they were all kind of clunkily putting stuff together. So, all of this stuff was happening, and we’re like, OK, well, maybe we can solve this. That’s where the basic idea of Airstory was born.

– Joanna Wiebe

Jobs-to-Be-Done Approach to Innovation

When the Copy Hackers team attended the Business of Software conference 2 ½ years ago, they knew they wanted to build something for the same audience they served with Copy Hackers and to solve some of the problems they kept seeing over and over again. Joanna attended a session at the conference led by Bob Moesta of The Rewired Group where she was introduced to the jobs-to-be-done approach to innovation. The jobs-to-be-done approach essentially tasks the innovator with figuring out what job consumers want to hire a product to do. When consumers buy a product, they “hire” it to get the job done. If a product doesn’t perform, it gets “fired” and there’s opportunity to build something to take its place.

The Copy Hackers team followed the jobs-to-be-done approach and set out to uncover what specific job needed to be done that a software could solve for a content team. Although they started the process by talking to writers, novelists, editors and literary agents, they ultimately determined large content teams with demanding deadlines such as Moz and Hubspot would be the target audience for their new product, in part because they had money to pay for a solution.

“We went through two years of iterating on it to make sure that it had stronger value that it could provide for people. We’re really only now getting to the point where we have a good structure in place, we have a solution here. Do we have something that’s enough to make someone switch?”

– Joanna Wiebe

Joanna describes how they uncovered the “secret sauce” to Airstory when they watched and listened to how these content teams were creating content. Hint: It had nothing to do with their age, gender or socioeconomic status as traditional persona work might make you think.

Effective Customer Interviews

“Interviewing people. Putting something together. Watch beta users. And then get to this place now that we’re onto something; maybe not 100%, but we’re onto something.”

– Joanna Wiebe

Soliciting customer feedback was crucial in the development of Airstory. As Joanna said, it’s essential to get inside the heads of your customers to determine what problem you can solve.

Listen to the full podcast to learn Joanna’s approach to customer interviews, how reverse engineering someone else’s solution to identify building blocks and create something unique is part of innovation, and how to apply lessons you learned on past projects to enhance your current and future work.

To get your weekly Profit. Power. Pursuit. podcast fix, where we dig into the nitty-gritty details of marketing, management, business development and more with some of today’s most inspiring entrepreneurs, subscribe on iTunes.

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