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June 18, 2019

Jobs-To-Be-Done Framework: The Essential Guide for your Go-to-Market strategy

By Aggelos Mouzakitis

Are you wondering what the Jobs-To-Be-Done framework is and how can it prove useful for your Go-to-Market strategy (GTM)?

In this (essential) guide, you’ll find:

  • What the Jobs-To-Be-Done framework is
  • A powerful Jobs-To-Be-Done example
  • How to make use of the Jobs-To-Be-Done Framework in your Go-to-Market strategy
  • What you need to pay attention to when you use it

You’ll also learn how companies like Intercom use the Jobs-To-Be-Done framework to stay focused on the customer’s pain point and go-to-market with products that their customers love.

Let’s get started.


Chapter 1: What is the Jobs To Be Done Framework

Chapter 2: Jobs To Be Done Framework Example

Chapter 3: How to Use the Jobs To Be Done Framework Properly

Chapter 4: What You Need to Pay Attention to

Chapter 5: Final Thoughts

Chapter 1: What is the Jobs To Be Done Framework

The Jobs-To-Be-Done (JTBD) framework is a framework that helps businesses stay focused on the problems of their target customers and build or optimise new products according to that.

By staying focused on their customer needs, businesses can:

  1. Build features and new products that their target markets want
  2. Improve their current product and have an evidence-based roadmap

Identifying customer needs and customer wants, is one of the best ways to attain outcome-driven innovation and gain a competitive advantage.

Essentially, what you are building next or what you’ve built already is based on the outcome and not on assumptions on what may be useful. That’s particularly useful in our days because it shifts your marketing strategy to a Go-to-Market strategy (GTM Strategy) when every function participates in customer acquisition.

Customer’s needs should be your first priority and it should guide everything that you are doing on a product level. They should also be the guiding light for your marketing plan, sales strategy and overall, your Go-to-Market plan.

Also, even though most growth strategies are tactics-driven, they should be outcome-driven.

Only through outcome-driven innovation you can drive disruptive innovation in your industry.

And, that’s exactly what the theory of Jobs-To-Be-Done is all about.

The Jobs-To-Be-Done theory was popularized by Professor Clayton Christensen from Harvard Business School.

Image Source:

Professor Clay Christensen has talked about:

  • The importance of understanding what potential customers want,
  • What makes people buy certain products,
  • How important market research is in that process,
  • How understanding needs can improve the customer experience.

In its simplest form, the JTBD framework says that people won’t buy your products just because they happen to fall into your target audience.

If this is what you thought so far, then you are just competing against luck.

They are also not going to buy your product because of your pricing strategy or business model.

People will buy your product because it will help them with a job they need to get done. As Alan Klement, the author of “When coffee and kale compete” said in our interview, people will buy your product because it will help them make progress.

Let me put it this way: your customers’ jobs are things they have to do, but they wouldn’t mind if there was someone else who could do it for them.

Products and services that are truly successful are usually the ones that do a specific job well.

Let me illustrate this with a simple example.

I am sure you know Uber—the popular app that allows you to get a ride through your mobile phone.

Image Source: Unsplash

Why would you say that someone is using Uber?

Well, the answer is obvious: they need to go from one place to another.

But, they could do that with a simple taxi.

Why is that they are using Uber instead?

To get this, you have to dive a bit deeper into how people feel when getting a job done.

Uber is not only about commuting.

People had many other ways to go from one place to another.

A simple Google search for “Chelsea to Notting Hill” on Google will give you many different ways you can use to get to your destination:

And, even though these ways exist—and knowing that some of them are even cheaper—you will still choose Uber instead.

One of the reasons people choose Uber to get to their destination is that they want to get to their destination on time.

And why this might be important?

Because this way they won’t be late for a meeting or an important event.

In other words, Uber gets the stress away by getting people to where they want on time.

As you can see, to uncover the JTBD for any given product, you need to dive a bit deeper.

You need to find the actual cause of a problem.

You wouldn’t connect Uber with stress.

Well, as you can see with the Jobs-To-Be-Done framework, you have to find the emotional attachments behind purchasing behaviours across use cases and buyer personas.

And, by finding the root cause of the problem, you can present your product as the solution to that problem. And that’s the epitome of a successful Go-to-Market strategy.

Chapter 2: Jobs-To-Be-Done Framework Example

In this chapter, I am going to share with you another example, so that you can understand the concept of the JTBD framework in a bit more depth.

In a popular YouTube video, Clay Christensen explains what the “Job” of a McDonald’s milkshake is.

Image Source: Unsplash

Not for any segment of customers, but for those buying a milkshake early in the morning.

Now, if you had to guess, you would say that the job a milkshake from McDonald’s has to do is one of the following:

While all of the above Jobs To Be Done by a McDonald’s milkshake seem reasonable and right, the JTBD that the milkshake is doing is something completely different.

A research conducted by Clay Christensen and his team found out that the reason that people were “hiring” a milkshake was that they had a long and boring time to work.

In other words, people needed something to accompany them throughout the (boring) time to get from their house to work.

As per Christensen, people have tried to “hire” other products for this particular job:

  • Donuts
  • Bagels
  • Snickers bars
  • Bananas (even though it doesn’t do the job at all…)

According to Christensen, the Job To Be Done by the McDonald’s milkshake is:

“I have a long and boring drive to work, and I needed something that would just keep me engaged with life while driving the car.”

Amazing, right?

Who would have thought that the reason why people would “hire” the milkshake is to make the route to their job, less boring?

What’s more interesting than that, of course, is how businesses can use the JTBD by their products to make them more appealing to new markets.

One thing is clear, though: to learn what the JTBD is, you need to dive deep into your customers’ habits/thoughts and deeply understand what’s the true value proposition they need, what is the job they want to get done.

How can you do it?

This is what I am going to show you in the next chapter.

Chapter 3: How to Use the Jobs To Be Done Framework Properly

Applying the JTBD framework is NOT easy.

Making a list of your customers’ problems and addressing them by building features or new products is not going to help.

Simply put, you have to go deeper than that.

You have to be able to answer questions like:

I hope you understand that a simple customer survey won’t help here.

You need to talk to your customers and try to understand what are the JTBD your product can help them with.

I suggest that you jump on calls that will last 30-45’ each.

Of course, that depends on the product and your industry.

In general, the more time you spend trying to understand your customers’ JTBD, the higher the chances that you will get the answers you need to build the ideal Go-to-Market action plan.

The JTBD framework exists to help us understand what kind of actions we have to prioritize on a:

  • Product level
  • Marketing level
  • Sales level
  • Strategy level

I think you would agree that knowing what the JTBD is, can fundamentally change the way you build, market and sell your products across marketing channels.

It also changes your strategy, brand positioning, even your business plan.

This is why discovering what jobs your product is doing is very important.

Also, keep in mind that products that failed to find a job to do, in most cases, died after a while.

According to author and designer Jim Kalbach, the JTBD framework can be divided into six elements, that are grouped into two areas:

Image Source: Experiencing InformationHorizontally, we have the three dimensions of a given job:

  • Emotional—how people feel when they do the job
  • Functional—what are the actions taken by the person who does the job
  • Social—how people are perceived when doing the job

Throughout your research, you need to identify both three areas.

Moving on with Kalbach’s diagram, on the vertical side, we have:

  • Situation—the circumstances of a job
  • Motivation—the trigger that leads to the action (i.e. a problem)
  • Desired outcome—what the customer expects (i.e. a measurable result)

Once again, these are areas you have to identify.

Remember: the deeper you go, the better.

In the McDonald’s example that I mentioned earlier, these six areas—both vertical and horizontal—will look like this:

Tip: To get better results, try to come up with questions that cover all of Kalbach’s questions. Jump on calls and ask all of these questions to your customers. Identify patterns and try to understand what the real JTBD is.

Another view (or way) of using the Jobs To Be Done framework comes by Alan Klement in the following format:

Image Source: Experiencing Information

In our McDonald’s example, the story would go like this:

“When I am going to work, I want to drink a milkshake, so that I am not bored and so that I don’t have to eat until 10:00 am.”

Can you see the simplicity in this format?

You can use this story so that your product has to be a part of every three of the above gaps.

This way, you’ll know that you are focused on the problems and offer simple and powerful solutions to help your customers solve them.

Let’s move on to the next chapter.

Chapter 4: What You Need to Pay Attention to

I’ll keep this one short.

There are certainly some things you need to pay attention to when using the Jobs To Be Done framework.

Here are the most critical ones:

1) Some jobs remain the same, while their solutions are not

Think of how people used to pass the time to commute to work 20 years ago.

They would most likely read a newspaper:

Image Source: Unsplash

Now think of how people spend time on the commute to work nowadays:

Image Source: Unsplash

The problem remains the same: people need something to do while on their way to work.

However, the solution has changed.

Make sure that your solution is up-to-date.

2) Instead of guessing, ask your customers

You can’t rely on guesswork when it comes to your product’s success.

This is why you have to survey your customers; you have to talk to them and get as close to them as possible so that you can understand what their JTBD is.

Many companies—even some very successful ones—have failed to do that.

Don’t be one of them.

3) Your product has to be GREAT (at least) at one job

In an effort to outbid the competition, many founders build products that have many features but are very good at something specific.

In other words, people don’t need to hire them for any job, since they are not that good at any particular job.

Instead of building feature after feature, try to focus on the core value that your product brings to people.

Double down your efforts on that, and be sure that you will identify more jobs to be done as your product grows.

The Jobs To Be Done framework can also be used in the context of a Product-Led Growth strategy.

However, you need to be very careful when choosing the Jobs To Be Done and always have to keep the experienced value in mind.

4) Be transparent

Say that you identify a problem that your product is ideal at solving.

Is the product team the only one that needs to know about that?

You can note “no” in that column.

All your team members need to know the jobs that need to be done by the customers.

This way, your team will be focused on the problem, and how to better:

  • Communicate that problem to your target audience
  • Use that problem to sell to your prospects
  • Use the problem to build better features

My advice is to be transparent, and let everyone know what the jobs to be done are so that they know how to deal with them.

Let’s move on to the last chapter.

Chapter 5: Final Thoughts

So there you have it.

Now you know what the Jobs To Be Done framework is all about.

When using this framework, I want you to keep one thing in mind:

The value that you add to your customers’ lives, is connected to how focused you stay on their problems.

Because, as Eoghan McCabe, Co-Founder and CEO at Intercom, put it in Intercom’s book a while back:

“No matter what you build, if you’re really passionate about a certain problem, you’ll almost certainly attract customers who are passionate about it too.”

Now I’d like to know what your thoughts regarding this powerful framework are.

So make sure to leave your comment, question, or objection below!

People Who Read This Article Also Read:

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  3. The Build Measure Learn Model [Explained]
Aggelos Mouzakitis

Aggelos is the founder and Growth Product Manager of Growth Sandwich. He is among the first Customer-led experts in the world, leveraging advanced, Jobs-to-be-done customer research to orchestrate and guide Growth for B2B SaaS companies. A- and B- series SaaS are hiring him to organise, design and execute programs that infuse the whole company with qualitative data, empathy and the necessary knowledge to address any growth dilemma. In the last 4 years, he has worked with more than 100 SaaS companies and trained literally, thousands through my physical and online courses.