The biggest struggle innovators face today is identifying what would make their products and services successful in the market. Unfortunately, despite extensive research and hefty investments, businesses are often unable to identify this on time and meet the clients’ demands.
According to Clay Christenson, about 80% of innovations failed financially because they did not target the job the customers wanted to get done. The Harvard Business School Professor and Disruptive Innovation expert came up with an approach to find out why customers hired products and services and the job they were trying to get done.
When he conducted his famous milkshake experiment with McDonald’s, he noticed something most milkshake sellers failed to notice. Some customers had a milkshake to “meet their daily sugar intake” or “have a healthy drink to keep them full till lunch”. But more than half of the customers bought a milkshake on the commute to work just to add some life into their mundane morning routine. The customers, when interviewed why they chose this specific food product over others like bagels or doughnuts or even a banana, said that these thick milkshakes took longer to drink out of the thin straws and were simple enough to consume during commute when compared to the other options, i.e., in our world, the competitors.
This made him contemplate why customers behaved the way they do and implemented the JTBD theory, which significantly impacted the way innovators and marketers perceived their “solutions”. As a result, jobs-to-be-done statements were popularised and used by innovators and marketers to launch products that people love.
A job-to-be-done framework is a method used to clearly understand the needs and behaviours of a customer, where “job” is simply the main goal the customer wants to accomplish.
Job-to-be-done frameworks play a major role in determining how and why a purchase happens and finds correct ways to connect products and services with the right customer at the right time. It also helps you assess the customer’s pain points and struggles towards achieving their “job” and create pathways or solutions to solve them.
In the JTBD Framework, the Ultimate Job is usually referred to as the Main Job, and the other jobs performed to achieve the main job are called Related jobs. Since all of these jobs are done to perform a specific function, they are classified as Functional Jobs.
Certain JTBD Frameworks are designed to perform jobs that satisfy the customer emotionally and are called Emotional Jobs. When a solution is hired to perform an Emotional Job, customers consider two aspects:
Personal Aspect: The solution appeals to the customer personally. They must be able to trust the solution they hired to accomplish the “job” efficiently.
Social Aspect: The customer wants to know how they are perceived by their peers, competitors, and customers on hiring the solution. They look to build their reputation on getting this “job” done.
When you understand what “Job” your customer is trying to get done, you can personalise your innovation to adequately cater to the customer’s needs or struggle and serve as an apt solution. It will also help you position your marketing strategies perfectly into the customer’s view.
Take this for an example:
People purchase an Apple iPhone to get several jobs done like “Take good pictures”, “Create good content for Social Media”, and “To stay in touch with their loved ones across the country.” Despite having multiple key features to perform other jobs, most of its customers hired the iPhone “To stay connected with loved ones from other countries.” Apple proved this theory by launching the Facetime feature in 2010, after which Apple iPhone 4 sales topped 1.7 million. Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, credited that this was the most successful product launch in Apple’s history.
Achieving a successful product launch every single time is definitely the goal for every product development and marketing team. Jobs to be done frameworks help you determine customer needs better, analyse what job they want to get done and how to execute them. As a result, you end up building top-notch products that can’t go wrong.
Most companies tend to make mistakes here.
“Customers do not want a quarter-inch drill; they want a quarter-inch hole.”, said Harvard Professor Theodore Levitt. It is a simple yet solid example of how jobs-to-be-done are independent of the solution.
We will see how we can determine what customer needs are a little further down the article.
Before that, Let’s understand how jobs-to-be-done statements are framed and how we can apply them.
Jobs-to-be-done statements are simple statements that specify the job you are trying to get done.
Job-to-be-done statements are most often part of a JTBD framework.
They are used in a framework to categorise and channel well-defined jobs into pathways to help achieve the goal.
A mathematician named George Polya came up with a method to solve problems, which can be helpful here:
A good example is, “Reach the destination on time”. Assuming that we’re using an app as a solution to get to the destination, multiple JTBD statements could be framed to achieve the ultimate goal:
All of these statements can also be called “Job steps”. These Job steps or JTBD statements are formed by assessing the measures taken to solve a problem.
Tony Ulwick, an Innovation Expert, came up with a similar method called Job Maps with 8 steps to create Jobs-to-be-done statements in a JTBD Framework.
Here’s a B2B example that works with both Polya’s and Ulwick’s methods.
When Microsoft launched Auction Insights, they initially delivered all the data from Bing Ads in Excel sheets. Users found it difficult to understand and use the software and preferred Knobs and Dials for controls.
Applying the JTBD theory, you can see the statements they used to solve the problem:
By implementing these JTBD statements and working towards the solutions to each of them, Microsoft was able to achieve its ultimate job, which was to “Help Advertisers understand their competition.” As a result, Microsoft Ads was able to pull out $2B in losses every year.
Depending on the complexity of the solution, the number of job steps can vary. But, the idea and execution are the same.
Remember, JTBD statements are independent of the product and its benefits or features. Instead, they focus on solving the customer’s problems.
These statements are crisp and not too wordy. They capture the essence of the job-to-be-done and focus on mellowing down the competitor for the solution.
Every Job-to-be-done Statement is framed based on the customer need and contains an Action and a Variable.
Customer Need = Action + Variable
Simply put, when there is a need, an action is taken, and the variable helps identify the challenges or other factors involved while performing said job.
For example, if Job-to-be-done is “To Implement Visual Overlay”, the variables are elements like Designs, Layouts, Loading Speed, etc., taken into account while fishing for the solution. With every Variable, an action is taken.
Firstly, identifying the job that needs to be done gives you a market opportunity to fulfil an unsatisfied need.
Secondly, framing crisp and correct JTBD Statements will keep you focused on the customer’s needs, starting from Design, Development, Engineering, Research, and Marketing to ensure that the problem and the solution is a snug fit.
A survey had found that 95% of teams do not agree on solutions while brainstorming. Defined JTBD statements eliminate these differences and establish alignments within teams.
Ultimately, building products that people love.
This brings us to the final conquest.
Jay Haynes, the founder and CEO of thrv, focused on JTBD because getting a customer’s job done better improves every key business metric from top-line revenue growth to profitability to return on invested capital, etc. To do so, he needed to avoid mistakes his competitor made.
Failed products were built from input sources :
These inputs usually lead to unstable and dynamic solutions, which lead to inefficient product development. It is like hitting a moving target, which is very hard. Many never dig deeper into the root cause of the struggle; instead, try to satisfy superficial needs. As a result, they fail to understand the true struggles or needs of the customer.
Apple launched the iPod in 2007, with a $30 billion market. I remember using Zune back then too! Apple defined its market based on the product. However, in 2015, the product failed as there was no longer an iPod market. People wanted to “Create a mood with music”. This job could be achieved with multiple products. In this case, the iPod was replaced by streaming apps.
Haynes understood that the reason why most products failed was because of two reasons:
Jeff Bezos, ex CEO of Amazon, when asked the common question “What’s going to change in the next 10 years?”, always responded by asking, “What’s not going to change in the next 10 years? ” which, according to him, was the most important of the two.
This is why jobs-to-be-done are independent of any product or solution and are completely dependent on satisfying customer needs.
Luckily (or not), the only way to understand what a customer needs is to simply ask them. An Extensive study and Customer Research of your clients, prospects or personas can help you identify the struggles they face to achieve their goals.
Just knowing who your persona or client is won’t do much to help. Be willing to dig deeper.
Toyota believes in asking “5 Whys”. You need to ask customers why they think they need a product five times to understand what they really need. As mentioned earlier, a purchase driven solely by Customer Requests will give superficial satisfaction and will not accommodate a solid solution to the customer’s pain points.
One of the research methods to understand customer needs is by conducting Customer Interviews or Surveys.
Interviewing a customer can give you opportunities to clarify questions you may have about their needs and better understand their behaviour for hiring a solution.
This really puts into perspective the importance of understanding customer needs and the jobs they are trying to get done. It also gives an insight into how broad our competitive spectrum can be, what solutions can defeat said competitors, how JTBD can be formed and finally, prepare you to build Outcome-Driven Innovations. The data you pull from this can help you build insane products that were born out of non-obvious facts and empathy towards your customer’s struggles.
The best product, however, is one that refines itself to fit its user. To stay on top of your research game, you have to keep up with your customer. Learn to revisit your Job-to-be-done statements and be ready to tackle Churn.
Throughout this process, you will see that Jobs-to-be-done Statements establish that the goal is to build solutions that customers want and simply not a solution that works. If you are still intrigued about how JTBD can work for your business or if you simply want to learn more about it, find me on LinkedIn to geek out about customer research.