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What is the Jobs-to-be-done theory?
People buy products and services to get a job done.
Do your customers need simply a new pair of shoes? Do they want, as they state, just the most advanced technology with their new smartphone? What if we discovered their hidden intent and unrecognized and unnamed need? This discovery is the driver of any product and service innovation. And it turns out that finding it can be achievable, unlike searching for Holy Grail.
In recent years sales, marketing, and product teams have turned their eyes more frequently to frameworks that can lead to innovation processes in the company, enabling uncovering opportunities and generating new ideas. One of these revolutionary approaches is called Jobs Roadmap or Job-to-be-done (JTBD), and it can be a perfect tool to overcome sad statistics nowadays. In a study conducted by Simon-Kucher & Partners, 72% of all new products and services fail to meet expectations. Jobs to Be Done framework is one of the ways to better navigate the constantly changing and dynamic business environment.
Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen popularized "Jobs theory" in late 1990 based on the idea of "Outcome-Driven Innovation" by Tony Ulwick. Christensen is also the author of the theory of disruptive innovation, which he popularized in his book "The Innovator's Dilemma" (1997). The theory explains how smaller, innovative companies can disrupt larger, established companies by introducing new products or services that underserve or create new markets.
Since that time, JTBD has gained especially popularity in the field of marketing and business strategy. The theory suggests that people do not buy products or services but are "hiring" them to fulfill specific needs in their lives. Christensen argued that customers hire products or services to solve their problems or satisfy their needs. Therefore, businesses should focus on understanding the customers' unmet needs and develop products and services that address those needs better than their competitors. To visualize it, a customer looking to get from point A to point B is not hiring a taxi, but they are hiring transportation.
As Harvard Business School marketing professor Theodore Levitt said once to his students:
People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!
As mentioned above quote stated, a Job to be done is neither a product nor a solution for the problem with which the customer is struggling. Instead, it should be viewed as a higher purpose for customers to buy products and solutions. So we have to turn our gaze, for example, from technology (the drill), to the outcome and desired result (the drilled hole). By using this Needs framework, businesses can identify the job customers want to accomplish and develop a product or service that meets those needs. Finally, companies can create customer value and gain a competitive advantage in the market.
The Jobs Theory has been widely adopted by companies big and small, and it has caused a significant shift in how businesses approach marketing and product development. By understanding people's objectives, companies can create products that stand out from the crowd and satisfy customers' wants and needs. Moreover, it has also led to the development of new business models focusing on delivering value to customers rather than just selling products.
What makes a difference between JTBD and conventional marketing? Job Theory goes beyond superficial categories, simply interaction with the brand, and focuses on the functional, social, and emotional factors that drive customer behavior. This approach changes the perspective: people see products and services as more than just purchases and the brand itself; they use them to progress in their lives.
The core tenets of JTBD Theory by Tony Ulwick
Explore 9 core tenets of JTBD created by Tony Ulwick from Strategyn, pioneer of jobs-to-be-done theory, the inventor of the Outcome-Driven Innovation® (ODI) process. His texts were published in well-known and esteemed magazines such as Harvard Business Review and MIT Sloan Management Review.
By understanding those core tenets of theory and practice, you can implement JTBD in your product development. Technology, fashions, contexts, and preferences can change, but JTBD is stable and enduring. The key to perfect innovation is to include all the possible knowledge and a customer-centric approach to fully deliver effective solutions to the customers' desired outcomes.
5 Steps of searching and applying JTBD to your product or service
How to put the Jobs-to-be-done theory into practice? The process of discovering and formulating a job the customer is trying to get done should never rely on assumptions and guessing. It should involve deep research and analysis that, when done properly, can help you gain insight into actual needs, goals, and motivations for why they would like to buy your product. Check out these steps you should consider to reveal the hidden intent and message and find the actual customer's JTBD:
1. Customer interviews
The best way to discover which customer needs are unmet and understand the job they need from the product is to meet with the customer directly. Of course, meeting them doesn't mean asking them direct questions, "What do you want?". It's not the best choice as, in many cases, customers don't know what they want.
We can visualize it by quoting the inventor of automotive mass production, Henry Ford, to whom the famous phrase is attributed: "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." Asking such questions would never help to develop technology because customers would only refer to their current experience, achievable technology and knowledge about solutions. Instead it is better to ask:- What are you trying to accomplish?,- What is the desired outcome that you are seeking?- What was the reason you bought this product or chose this service?By asking the right open-ended questions during in-depth interviews or focus groups, you can encourage people to share their authentic experiences and perspective. This way, we can gain in-depth insight into the problems they struggle with, their goals, and motivations that can formulate the job they need.
2. Customer's behavior observation
You can also discover valuable results and answers about customers' behavior and decision-making by observing them. You can do it during the real-world situation, when they buy, rent or order something. However, you can also try to get into the context of "hiring things" by searching online forums, groups, chats, and social media platforms, where customers share their needs, motivations, and concerns.
3. Quantitative research
During discovering the customer's need, you can also use quantitative research such as customer surveys and questionnaires that collect data from the customer and ask them questions that can be answered with numbers. This research method can help you identify trends and patterns across a large sample of customers.
4. Data analysis
Finally, when you get some insights from interviews, observations, and surveys, you can analyze its usual product usage, customer feedback, and purchase behavior. Collecting customer data can help identify repeatable patterns and trends when and how customers get the job done with the chosen product.
5. Focusing on the outcome, not the product and its features
The final step to define JTBD for your customer is to focus on the outcome all observed and interviewed customers try to achieve. It can be tempting to analyze the product and simply mention the function that this product has or the service that they are using. For example, headphones can indeed be used for listening to music. Still, for the company that sells its particular type for audiophiles, the more critical outcome can be delivered to their customer the highest aesthetic experience and happiness related to the best quality and purity of the sound. Turning the focal point from the product to the outcome can help you identify opportunities to create better solutions and respond to customers' motivations.
Formulate JTBD and discover your customer needs
To formulate job statements, we should follow a simple pattern that includes answers for questions starting with:
WHO + WHAT + HOW + WHY + WHEN
All those answers are related to strict elements of JTBD:
- Job performer (who)
It is the person who is trying to get the job done. It should be distinct from customers because there are people with various functions in the job ecosystem, such as approvers, reviewers, technicians, managers, audiences, and assistants. However, if you do customer research, remember that there are different types of customers for whom you can always create a persona to understand their goals, motivations, and frustrations. You can also connect this process with market research, where you can identify the range of customer's willingness to pay to get that job done (customers segment) instead of defining your market as a goal customers are trying to achieve.
- Jobs (what)
What is the performer's aim, and what are they trying to achieve? We can distinguish both main jobs, which serve as an anchor element for other but also related smaller jobs.
- Process (how)
It describes how the job will get done.
- Needs (why)
What motivates the performer to act in a particular way during the execution of the job, or what are their requirements or expected outcomes are.
- Circumstances (when)
It is crucial to investigate the contextual factors that can impact the final job execution.
5 types of Jobs to Be Done
People have different needs even when buying the same product or service. They can also prioritize them. For example, one can buy a new smartphone to impress others and feel stylish. In contrast, the other wants to communicate effectively by calling and video conferencing with their relatives living in the other part of the globe. We can mention many jobs that customers are trying to get done, and build their hierarchy in each case. Based on this knowledge, we can distinguish five types of a specific Job to Be Done:
- Practical (functional) Jobs.
It is the most common job for which customers hire products and services. It can be, for example, things that serve for cleaning a house or cooking a meal. Customers tend to do these everyday activities more efficiently and effectively by choosing some products.
- Emotional Jobs
Their direct outcome is achieving particular feelings and emotions. By hiring a product, people want to feel, for example, secure, happy, confident, and relaxed. It can be done indirectly through services and products offering entertainment or self-improvement.
- Social Jobs
Those kinds of JTBD are closely tied with interactions and relationships people want to get in. It can be, for example, communicating with family and friends by hiring messaging apps and smartphones or finding a romantic partner via platforms for matching people or dating apps.
- Supporting Jobs
As we research customer needs, we can grade jobs from micro-jobs to the ideal state of people's aspirations. Related jobs involve supporting other jobs and making them more effective. They can represent, for example, products and services that help to accomplish faster and easier tasks such as project management, organizing tasks and duties, or personal assistance.
- Personal image Jobs
This one is the most abstract and hidden need by the customer to buy a "new me". Personal image jobs aim to establish or maintain a desired image, such as being stylish or successful. The product they want to hire often represents fashion, gadgets, and luxury items. Professional services that improve personal images are offered, for example, by stylists, hairdressers, beauticians, personal trainers, or nutritionists.
Understanding that customers are different and have different needs, goals, and preferences can help companies fit their offer better and define the development direction and innovation of products or services that ultimately can help them drive company growth and success.
Job to Be Done examples
The best way to understand how JTBD works are by analyzing several examples that explain how customers are getting the job done by "hiring" bought products:
- Get in Shape: One of the most common struggles of contemporary humans is getting in shape. Customers can achieve this by hiring, for example, a gym membership, fitness equipment, nutrition plan, smart bands, or personal trainers to help them accomplish this job.
- Stay Connected: Another social type of JTBD is to stay connected with friends and family. Customers may hire messaging apps, social media platforms, smartphones, or video conferencing tools to keep in touch with them.
- Household Chores: A common job-to-be-done is cleaning the house or doing laundry (with the superior goal of personal comfort). Customers may hire vacuum cleaners, washing machines, dishwashers, or cleaning and laundry services.
- Plan a Vacation: Planning a vacation is a complex job-to-be-done because it involves many steps, such as researching destinations, booking flights and accommodations, and creating a plan for discovering tourist attractions. To complete it, customers may hire travel agencies, online booking platforms, or travel guides to help them accomplish this job.
- Learn a New Skill: For job, fun, and self-development - no matter the reason, learning a new skill is also common JTBD and can include skills like a new language, playing instruments, or mastering MS Excel. Customers may hire tutors, take online or on-site courses, or use instructional videos to realize those plans and accomplish these jobs.
Based on this revealed knowledge, product developers, product owners, and marketers could develop accordingly both the business strategy for future development and messaging communicating a unique value proposition for the customer. All of those can make a company stand out from the crowd with its offer, creating the image of an innovator and a brand that researched customer needs well.
Why is JTBD framework important?
One should include "Jobs theory" in business strategy for several reasons. JTBD helps to establish a customer-centric approach to product development and innovation. Shifting the focus from the product to the customer needs and using Jobs theory can increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and profitability.
Check how your business can benefit from JTBD and how this framework helps to speed up the development of companies:
- Customer-centered Approach.
One of the severe problems that "Job-to-be-done" helps solve is that most of the product teams don't agree on what a customer needs. By focusing on JTBD, which is what customers strive to do, companies can turn their attention from the product and its features to the customer and create more tailored services to meet their needs.
JTBD approach helps to free from the mental limitation of the current solutions provided by-products, reframe contemporary perspectives, experiment and discover new, unrecognized opportunities, and, thanks to them, generate new ideas, innovate, and create new and better offerings.
- Competitive advantage
By setting up the JTBD approach as a business strategy, companies can follow more accurate and even not defined customers' needs and respond to them by creating innovative products that offer their job and better resolve current challenges. This method can help establish a competitive advantage, differentiating the company and winning the market.
- Product development
The JTBD can guide product development by determining which features and attributes will help the customer complete their Job to Be Done. By doing so, companies can plan their approach and create more desirable products that are more efficient and effective at helping customers achieve their goals. JTBD allows to redevelop the value for the customer constantly, and this way to innovate and grow the business.
Identifying the messaging and positioning that resonates most with customers can guide marketing efforts. Companies can use this information to create more effective marketing campaigns that target the needs and preferences of their customers.
- Compatibility with modern techniques and frameworks
JTBD is compatible with modern Agile, Lean, or Design Thinking techniques. For example, product developers can use revealed unmet needs in empathy-building exercises or ideation phase, user stories created in Agile, or hypothesis statements in Lean experiments.
Help your customers get a job done, not buy products
Understanding customer needs is crucial for every product development and innovation for business growth. Changing perspective from product and its features to needs can release innovators from current solutions and think about what was already unimaginable, uninvented, and new. Most importantly, it responds directly to customers' changing needs.
How to apply JTBD strategy to a business website, eCommerce or SaaS? Try to think about end users and what they would like to achieve by using your digital product. Whether it represents supporting jobs of another product you offer them, or an online store where their job is to find everything in one place, there is always the possibility to evolve its idea and improve it by searching for customer objectives under certain circumstances.
However, if this business strategy is effective, it should be well-thought and prepared with the appropriate plan for research and analysis to get valuable insights. Different motivations, needs, and goals drive every customer. Applying the Jobs-to-be-done approach and understanding all the market needs can help organizations identify new opportunities for current solutions, improve existing products and services, drive innovations and business growth, and establish new, truly customer-centered experiences that can differentiate a company from competitors.
Ulwick Anthony W. "Jobs To Be Done: Theory to Practice," 2016
Wunkner Stephen, Wattman Jessica, Farber David, "Jobs To Be Done. A Roadmap for Customer-Centered Innovation", 2016
Klement Alan, "When Coffee and Kale Compete. Become Great at Making Products People Will Buy", 2018
Christensen Clayton M., Hall Taddy, Dillon Karen, and Duncan David S., "Know Your Customers’ “Jobs to Be Done”, Harvard Business Review, September 2016
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