When I Suspect My Product Is Purchased for New Use Cases

“I’m seeing new purchase patterns and I don’t know what to make of those.”

“It seems that new kinds of people purchase our product.”

“My consulting services are being sold more easily for people I haven’t sold to before.”

“What should we change about the way we present our product?”

“Are these new trends going to stay for the long term?”

In times like these, it’s tempting to resort to the following two strategies:

  1. Let’s wait and see. The truth about these new buyers will come out over time through our support channels
  2. Let’s make an experiment where we change our marketing and see if that makes a change.

The problem is, you’re not the type to choose either of these approaches. You don’t want to miss an opportunity to be deeply helpful to your customers, so option 1 is risky for you. And you don’t want to invest in a change without digging deeper.

So you choose a third option: you want a quick way to dig deeper.

What’s Causing These People to Purchase My Product, Right Now?

When you get on the phone with a surprising new buyer, there’s a specific type of question you can be asking that will get you to causality, which is what you’re after.

Those questions should be retroactive in nature. They should avoid making the buyer interpret their behavior and instead concentrate on recounting a messy story.

Instead of asking:

  • What did you like about the product?
  • For what purpose did you decide to buy the product?
  • What features do you like the most? The least?
  • Describe to me a typical situation where you’d find this product useful

Ask questions like these:

  • Can you run me through the purchase day?
  • Was it on a weekend or during the week?
  • Was it sunny outside or was it raining, do you remember?
  • Help me get a picture of your setup at that moment… You were telling me that you were in your office… was the door closed?
  • What did you type in Google when you had that thought about your problem on that Sunday morning?
  • Tell me about the first time you thought about that problem you were going through.

With these types of questions, you’ll be able to help the buyer recall more details about their purchase story.

You’ll be able to map out the dominos of events that occured along their attempts to solve their problem.

Event #1 makes the buyer switch from Passive-looking to Active-looking. Event #2 makes the buyer switch from Active-looking to Deciding.

You’ll be able to map out how the buyer’s struggles, attractions, anxieties and pull-backs changed over time, pulling toward making the purchase or pulled back toward saying “I’ll just do it myself”.

Forces Diagram

And all that, together, will get you to causality. What were the triggers that caused that buyer to say “yes, this, now” and is that different from the buyers I’ve had so far?

Maybe There’s a Different Job-To-Be-Done

After running around five of these types of interviews, it’ll quickly become apparent when you’re onto something new.

You’ll get insights like these:

  1. For these people, it really didn’t matter that I was advertising these other benefits. In fact these other benefits were causing them to hesitate. That means that you might want to downplay your list of benefits on your home page, and instead communicate you’re there to serve a specific new struggle (or two).
  2. There’s a common combination of a struggle and a hope for these people. A trigger and an end goal. You can communicate both the struggle and the hope on your updated home page.
  3. They had anxieties that you found surprising (and it might not have been about the price after all). They juggled about how it would fit into their current workflow, they hesitated about having to learn something new, or they stepped around the pushiness of some pre-sales interactions…
  4. You realize the role your pre-sales interactions had in the sale, and how that could be improved. You realize that these people bought your product despite your efforts to convince them to purchase it, simply because their momentum was so strong.

If you’ve found insights like these, you’ve found people with a new kind of purchase momentum, a new Job-to-be-done you can cater to.

Will This Be the New Normal?

You’ll know how to answer that question after you interview a few more recent buyers. Try to see if you can talk to buyers that purchased your product before that change in the market occured, to compare. What you might find is that your product always was “hired” for that “job” you just unearthed, and people were buying your product despite your marketing, not because of it. Or maybe you’ll find a new, sharper type of purchase behaviour.

A sudden downturn in the economy shakes up what was previously stable. It means a whole new set of purchase behaviours, a whole new context for what makes a product attractive, for what creates anxieties in the service you’re offering, and what you’re really in competition with. Time to adapt.

You can always wait and see if this new trend becomes the new normal, but if you’ve made it this far in the article, you’re the type that wants to understand your buyer and help them through today’s struggle.

And when things change again in the future, you’ll address the new struggles then too, with your ear to the ground.

Stay Sharp!


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