Job to be done

Understand your customer with the Job-to-be-done framework

Customers don't buy a product or service. They "recruit" it to solve a problem or accomplish a mission. This is the Job-to-be-done principle.

Businesses spend thousands of euros collecting data on their customers: their age, where they live, the name of their dog. But few have mastered the art of understanding their customers’ job-to-be-done. And they’re missing out on a great opportunity.

What’s job to be done ? 

Job-to-be-done in a nutshell

Job-to-be-done, or JTBD, asks you to answer an essential question: why do your customers hire your product or service? The most common example is a drill. You don’t buy a drill for the pleasure of making a hole in your wall, which you’ll have to fill in the next time you move. You buy a drill so you can hang that painting you love, so you can feel good about your home.

job te be done - exemple

Job-to-be-done puts the customer at the heart of all your company’s decisions. You give yourself the opportunity to :

  • understand their underlying motivations ;
  • create the product they need to get the job done;
  • build your marketing strategy around this intention;
  • unite all company teams, from development to sales, around this objective.

That way, you can really build a purchasing experience that’s consistent with your future customers’ expectations. Recently, I talked to you about Product Led Growth. To sum up Product Led Growth (very) simply, I’d say this: it’s the creation of a product so relevant that all your users have to do is try it, adopt it and buy it. In other words, if you combine Product Led Growth with Job-to-be-done, you’re sure to have a winning strategy for growing your business.

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Yet few companies can truly understand their customers’ job-to-be-done.

Job-to-be-done’s origins

We owe the job-to-be-done method to two Harvard Business School professors, Clayton Christensen and Michael Raynor, authors of The Innovator’s Solution. While the JTBD method can be applied to your entire company, it was originally designed for the disruptive innovation market.

Understanding the unresolved jobs in your own life can provide fertile territory for innovation.

Clayton Christensen

However, the concept behind the JTBD is not fundamentally new. As far back as the 1960s, marketing professor and economist Theodore Levitt regularly told his students, “People don’t want a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”

JTBD’s three dimensions

Job-to-be-done has three dimensions :

  • functional;
  • emotional;
  • social.

The functional aspect is the most obvious. You need a drill to make a hole. In the 2000s, you needed an iPod to listen to your favorite songs when you left the house.
Joy, fear, anger, excitement, serenity: emotions are constantly running through our bodies. So what do your customers feel when they use your product? What state of mind are they in? This is what you need to find out to understand the emotional aspect of your customers’ JTBD.
I don’t want to sound like Aristotle, but we are social beings. Our decisions are therefore influenced by the impact they will have on those around us, and on others in general. How will they perceive us? What image do we project? Apple, for example, has understood this very well. The logo on MacBooks is used to show others that you own a Mac: ideal for displaying your success without looking like it, but also to show what kind of person you are. Or aspire to be.

Job-to-be-done : an example

McDonald’s marketing teams were tasked with increasing milkshake sales. With the help of a consumer group, the teams worked to improve the milkshake: the taste, the number of calories and the size of the drink, following the group’s requests. Despite all their efforts, sales were not increasing. So they called in Clayton Christensen.
He studies the data collected and focuses on the milkshake purchasing process: time of day, conditions, etc. He discovers that half of all milkshakes are sold before He discovers that half of all milkshakes are sold before 8:30 am. What’s the job of the milky iced drink, he wonders? Drivers want to kill boredom during their car journey and have a full belly. That’s understandable. But why the famous milkshake and not all the other snacks? They could just as easily have a banana, a doughnut or a cereal bar.
Except none do the job better than the milkshake: convenient for driving, feeling full on the stomach, while keeping your hands clean. This is an essential JTBD idea: don’t just study your direct competitors. Look at all the alternatives available to the consumer to get the job done. And even the alternative of not doing the job at all.

Another exemple

Why use job-to-be-done for your business?

In the age of Big Data, companies have never had so much information about their customers. Yet they often get it wrong. Knowing that your ideal customer is called Mathilde, is 34 and married to Benjamin won’t tell you what she wants to achieve, or why she’s buying your product. Not all data is created equal. The important question remains: what job is your product hired for?
When you really understand what your customers want to achieve with your product or service, you have all the keys you need to sell it better. And more.

With the job-to-be-done method, you can :

  • create the best product for your customers;
  • improve your product to meet their expectations;
  • identify unmet needs;
  • find out who your real competitors are;
  • increase its perceived value;
  • determine the right distribution channels;
  • improve your sales pitch;
  • sell your product or service more effectively.

How do you find your customers’ job-to-be-done?

Step 1 : interview the right people

You don’t interview potential future customers, asking them to project themselves into a hypothetical future. When you project, you project with all your good intentions. If you’re interviewed about opening a gym, you’re potentially going to give all your ideas for creating the ideal gym. But are you really going to sign up afterwards, when you’re not a customer in any gym today?
The people surveyed must be part of your Minimum Viable Audience. What’s more, they’ve already spent money or made an effort to use your product or one of its alternatives.
I talk more about this in my white paper on Customer Interviews (in French).

Step 2 : ask the right questions

The focus on knowing more about customers has taken firms in the wrong direction

Clayton Christensen

Let’s stop with the “who” and focus on the “how” and “why”. During your customer interviews, you can use this job story template:

  • Situation : “when I am (in the process of)… “;
  • Desire : “I want…”;
  • Benefit : “to be able to…”

When I’m using my drill, I just want to drill a hole so I can hang up that family photo I love so much.

If you want to know why your customers use a product, you also want to know why they don’t use it. What’s stopping them? Someone who has bought your product isn’t always a user. Again, gyms know all about this.
But don’t neglect the immediate functional aspect. Ask your customers what they do when they use your product.

Step 3 : consider all three dimensions of JTBD

Your customer doesn’t just want to hang up his family photo. He wants to be able to look back on it, show it off to others and have an interior design that reflects him.
Keep in mind that a job-to-be-done is functional, emotional and social.

Step 4 : study all the alternatives

Your competitor isn’t just the company that does the same thing as you. Your competitors are all the alternatives your customer could use instead of your product or service.
Sometimes, even doing nothing is an alternative. Not hanging the family photo or putting it on a piece of furniture are two alternatives to using your drill to make a hole in the wall.

Another example. One of Netflix‘s competitors is sleep. But also, TikTok. And not just Amazon Prime, Disney + and Canal +. Ask yourself why you choose one alternative and not another. Why are all the other alternatives “fired” for the job your product does? Why do you scroll through TikTok for 45 minutes instead of watching the latest season of your current series?

Let’s wrap up

Far from the trendy and versatile hacks, the job-to-be-done method puts the customer at the heart of all your strategies. It’s a concrete, essential element that helps inform your strategy, and thus directly influences the 4Ps of operational marketing (Product, Price, Place and Promotion). You no longer focus solely on your product and your direct competitors, but on what your user really wants, and on studying all the alternatives to your products. In this way, you can refine your segments, improve your understanding of needs and the value sought for a product that sells.

Midjourney creations
prompt/a tool like a drill, 8k, clear contrast visualization, high resolution :: –ar 2:1 –v 4 –stylize 1000
prompt/a woman hanging a family photo on a wall in her home. 2000’s, photorealism, 8k, clear contrast visualization, high resolution, wide angle
Graphics : Canva creation

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