Unlocking what consumers say versus what they do

How Basecamp experienced YOY growth by aligning its marketing and product around its customers’ true motivations.

About Basecamp

Trusted by millions, Basecamp puts everything you need to get work done in one place. It helps teams organize projects efficiently, reduce time in meetings, and communicate effectively without spreading work across multiple apps.

The challenge

Basecamp started out as an internal project management tool for its software development company.

As it began to attract customers of its own the team realized they were having trouble understanding just what the new customers wanted. 

And whilst Basecamp had talked to its customers before, their questioning gave the team a superficial understanding of what customers said they liked. 

But it didn’t tell the team why customers’ actions were so different from their comments. Nor did it provide clear direction on what to do following these conversations.

Project information

Industry: Collaboration Software
Company Size: 120+ employees
Use Case: Uncover Consumer Insights

We’d talked to customers before… but talking is not enough. You’ve got to ask the right kind of questions and you’ve got to get to the right kind of answers. What I think is so different about JTBD is that we’re actually looking for the root. We’re looking for the real causes of purchasing or canceling or quitting.

Jason Fried, Basecamp

Our approach.

Basecamp didn’t know how to define itself now that people were using it so differently from its original premise. Ryan Singer, Head of Strategy, and the team hired The Re-Wired Group to come in and help them to figure out why customers hire Basecamp. 

Using The Re-Wired Group’s Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) framework, Basecamp and Re-Wired interviewed 15 customers to find out exactly why people make the choices they do. The interviews focused on identifying a customer’s ‘struggling moment.

What is a struggling moment? People don’t wake up one day with an urge to buy your product. They have been asking themselves questions for a while before they take any action.

Unearthing those questions is a valuable way to begin to understand what the customer is going through and what they are looking for in a product to help them. But it’s not so simple. At the same time that the customer wants to move from Point A to a happier Point B, they may feel anxious about trying something new. Maybe they’re afraid that things will actually get worse if they stop doing what they’re doing. 

JTBD helps you understand that moment for the customer before your product is even in the picture. It begins by pushing customers to refine their language in interviews. 

Basecamp asked its customers to clarify what they were trying to describe. For example, many customers said they chose Basecamp because it was “easy”. How do you take a word like easy and translate it into product development and marketing specifications?

You also have to be careful that you aren’t just hearing the words and not truly understanding what those words mean. A designer/developer may run with the word easy and create very different features, possibly more than your customers really need. You could create the wrong–perhaps too complicated–product.

Basecamp and The Re-Wired Group finally began to hear what customers really value about Basecamp. By uncovering consumer insights, the team then understood the progress customers were trying to make and why they hired Basecamp to do these jobs.

Once you understand these emotional responses, you can change the way you explain your product… to play on those emotional responses a lot more than just fact or features…

Jason Fried

The results

Five new customer jobs identified which meant a new customer language was created

Feature creep was significantly reduced because product knew what to create next

Marketing created new demos, introduced at customers’ struggling moments

Changed the way it runs its business and now has millions of paying customers

The impact.

… not even hearing the positioning that we use, that we’d spent so much time trying to hone was really eye-opening.

Jason, explaining how interviewees used very different words in explaining Basecamp than Basecamp used when positioning the product

For years they had positioned its product as a project management tool and built the expected features a project management tool would have. But, upon conducting JTBD interviews they learned that very rarely did their customers talk about project management. They didn’t even connect it to Basecamp. 

Messaging evolved from feature-based communication to more emotional and relatable positioning. Messaging that the audience quickly connected with because it was talking about the job. 

Feature creep was reduced significantly. This deeper understanding of the job helps manage feature creep, focusing on creating features that add real value. The job defines how to design the feature and when it’s needed.

It also created a streamlined and dedicated environment for each customer, based on what job they want to accomplish. Now, instead of a routine procedure that’s the same for everyone no matter their needs, Basecamp software matches the customer to the job they need it to do. People learn only what they need to know rather than being forced to learn all the features of the software.

Using the JTBD framework and interviewing technique changed the way Basecamp thinks about its entire business. And Basecamp has become an advocate for the approach because, to put it simply, they know it works. Their ongoing growth proves it. 

…without clarity, you end up possibly unpacking or adding more features that you don’t need to add…

Bob Moesta, The Re-Wired Group
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Next steps.

Consistent growth starts with understanding your customers. Let us help you change the game.