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Savoring the Surprises: A Marketer’s Secret Weapon

Scott Cook Quote

Surprise: customers love one famous DIY company’s car polisher — not for buffing out their vehicles, but instead to soothe their sore muscles.

Surprise: customers are obsessed with one dairy’s grass-fed milk — not for their kids’ cereal, but for their own extra-frothy morning latte.

Customers come with surprises: about who they are, how they live, and what they need. When we spend 45 minutes on the phone with them, there will come at least one moment of surprise.

Room 214’s interview process (inspired by the Jobs to Be Done framework) takes the customer back — sometimes 10+ years — in their journey. We discover what progress in their lives they sought and how that led them to your brand.

As the customer journey unfolds, there are starts and stops in this pursuit of progress. They might have tried other routes, products, or services. During our interviews, we look for the turning points and “aha” moments that spark action and improve customers’ lives.

And we savor the surprises. European researchers in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that the unexpected — the surprise — makes people more creative. When you find yourself with surprises, fear not. This is where opportunity awaits.

What is the one surprise we find most often? The amount of time, energy, and resources people spend on this pursuit before becoming your customer. Knowing this helps you understand the value of the product and appropriately price it. It’s hard to get a customer to tell you what they would pay for your product because they probably don’t want you to increase prices. But they will happily tell you how much they’ve spent along the way on everything else they have tried.


A team we worked with had concerns about market accessibility because of the high price of their CBD product. It seemed even more expensive compared to other items in the store. But their customers’ experiences revealed years of expensive therapies, fear of social shaming, and doctor visits. After all that investment and pain, customers finally found relief with this product. This deeper understanding of their customers led the team to price their products with confidence.

Product hacking is another surprise we often find in the JTBD customer interviewing process. Companies usually think they’ve solved the problem for their customers, but they may only be a part of the solution. Their customer might even use the product in a way the design team had never intended.


One of our clients makes hiking boots. After customers purchased the boots, a significant number added a waterproofing spray to enhance their usefulness. The client was surprised at the extent of interest in waterproofing, though fearful of the prospect of new costs. But — after hearing how the customer had to put time (going to the store to find a waterproof spray), energy (finding out if the spray would work on the boot material), and resources (to purchase the additional spray) — the value proposition for a waterproofed boot became clear.

We like to interview new customers because that’s where new knowledge lives. You might be surprised to hear how people find your brand.


A gluten-free food brand discovered referrals coming in from a prominent biohacking podcast. The company continued to pursue its core audience (gluten-free customers) while testing new messages with the biohacking crowd to uncover growth opportunities.

Don’t just surprise your customers. Let them surprise you.


This blog was also published on Medium

James Clark

James Clark

James is compassionate, intuitive and fiercely loyal. He is a master of marketing theories (Jobs To Be Done, Traction, Product Market Fit, Crossing the Chasm and Category Design) and adheres by Bruce Lee’s approach of: Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own. He believes customers hold the secret to exponential growth

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