We buy a musical instrument because it represents the possibility of creating art that we/others might enjoy/buy (why do you think guitar stores have mirrors?)
We buy a computer because it represents the possibility of writing a book/building a business (why do you think Apple gives away apps like GarageBand and iMovie with their computers?)
We buy ingredients for dinner because they represent the possibility of a meal enjoyed with the family/loved one (why do you think food tends to be sold in the quantities it is?)
We buy a vacation because it represents the idea of happiness with family/loved one (why do you think EVERY parent feels compelled to take their kid(s) to Disney?)
You have to understand the purpose/job of the product. Why do we HIRE a product/service – what do we really want from it?
This HBR article (worth the $6) sums it up:
Unlike traditional market segmentations that are based on a correlation of product sales or service with the attributes of the purchaser (such as age, gender, income level, and education level), jobs-based segmentation seeks to understand the causal roots of purchase-when a buyer needs to “hire” a product or service to get a “job” done.
Think in terms of what role your work is filling in the life of the customer. Think also where your customer would turn if your work didn’t exist. Then make sure that your work is doing the job your customers are hiring it for… better than any substitutes could.
When the product/service you offer is hired by someone because they feel this product/service will do the job of making them better/smarter/more beautiful/more creative/more successful/etc. (i.e. increase their possibility) you will have a hit.
This hangs in my office:
Of all of Mr. MacLeod’s work, it’s the one I always come back to.