Book Notes: When Coffee and Kale Compete

Last week my friend Rajagopal advised me to read “When Coffee and Kale Compete: Become Great at Making Products People Will Buy

The book introduces the interesting concept of Jobs to be done or JTBD.  What I liked about and made me glued to the 200 pages of the book is one simple thing: Building product for customers, nothing else.

The two core principles of JTBD are about customers:

  • The desire every customer has to improve themselves and their life situations.
  • How customers imagine their lives being better when they have the right solution.


I will focus on customers and competitions which the book talks about. These are the notes from from the book.


  • Customers wants help in making themselves better.
  • Your desire to delight customers will drive you to invent on their behalf.
  • A dissatisfied customer does not complain; he just switches.
  • Customers can tell you of their struggles, how they expect life to be better, and how they interact with the products they use. But they cannot tell you what to do about it.
  • Design your product to deliver customers an ongoing feeling of progress.
  • Customers need to feel successful at every touch point between themselves and your business, not just at the very end when the outcome of an action is realized.
  • A successful product and business will continually improve customers’ lives. As customers use your product to make their lives better, they will face new challenges and desire new goals and outcomes.
  • Products have no value in and of themselves. They have value only when customers use them to make progress.
  • What can we change to better meet your needs?  << Ask your customer, it makes them more comfortable.
  • Talk with customers to learn what messages connect with them. It can be as simple as asking them to describe why they like your product.
  • Studying what customers consider as competition helps you reveal what pushes them to change.
  • Discover what customers value. Learn their expectations at the moment of purchase and/or first use and avoid over engineering solutions.
  • A great deal of waste happens when solutions are developed with features that customers don’t value. Customers value the progress a feature may deliver, not the feature itself.
  • If customers have anxiety over the cost-value relationship of your product, offer a discount.
  • If customers experience anxiety in using your product, find a way to make your product less intimidating.
  • If your product doesn’t help customers make progress, price doesn’t matter.
  • Identify any habits-in-use that keep customers from using your product. Adjust your product to help them along.
  • Comparing the habits of your best customers with the habits of those who recently quit is a great way to figure out how to turn switchers.
  • For customers who’ve stopped using your product, ask them why.
  • Grow your business, reduce churn, and capture more profits by delivering progress to customers.
  • A great salesperson understands that customer “wants” come from the system, not the customer. So, if you want to change “what customers want,” all you have to do is convince them of a Job that is worth getting Done.
  • Do customers a favor: help them visualize making progress. Create marketing and advertising materials that tell customers that you understand their struggle for progress, that help them visualize how life will be better when they have the right solution, and that explain why your product is the right solution.



  • You might think you’re alone in a market or have market superiority, but some unknown competitor might be stealing away your customers. Your only sign that something is wrong is decreasing sales.
  • Competition is defined in the minds of customers, and they use progress as their criterion.
  • Customers don’t define or restrict competition based on the functionality or physical appearance of a product. Instead, they use whatever helps them make progress
  • Studying what customers consider as competition helps you reveal what pushes them to change.
  • How can you beat the competition? Eliminate the need for the customer to make a trade-off.
  • Learn how to think about competition, become better at identifying real threats to your business, create better messaging that properly speaks to what customers consider as competition, and know how you should and shouldn’t design a solution.
  • Don’t assume two products are competitors because they look or function similarly.
  • Confirm that competition exists between products by finding customers who switched.
  • Every innovator, whether creating a new innovation or improving an existing one, should have a clear idea of how his or her customers see competition. When you’re creating a new innovation, you need to answer these
    • What are customers going to stop buying when they start buying our solution?
    • if you’re creating a new feature for an existing product, you need to ask, “What behaviors or other products is this feature going to replace?”


Other takeaways:

  • Success stories of founders applying  JTBD.
  • How just building product without taking customer survey resulted in failure of Tata Nano and Godrej ChotuKool. It also mentions how  Godrej repositioned ChotuKool and got success.
  • How creative destruction eat Kodak and made it bankrupt.
  • Why comparing PC with Mainframe or comparing PC sales with smartphones are incorrect.


I would like to  thank the author for writing this book because it just talks about how your product should be empowering your customers and making your business profitable.

If you wish to know more about JTBD do follow  for more user stories, techniques and latest updates.