Digital Marketing
5 minutes

Exploring the Jobs to Be Done Paradigm

Companies across the world often hail innovation as a top priority for growth. Despite this, they often seem to struggle with incorporating true creativity and innovation in their products and services. Thanks to the big data revolution, there is a huge focus on gathering data about customers and performing complex analyses on it in an attempt to understand them and better cater to what they want. However, as we can see by the slow change and lack of ingenuity in many industries, this approach is not the most effective. Enter, Jobs-to-be-Done.

What is ‘Jobs to be Done’?

The Jobs To Be Done (JTBD) theory is an alternative method of thinking about customer needs in order to provide useful goods and services. It operates on the idea that consumers hire products to carry out a job they need to get done. Rather than continuously improving tools that already exist, JTBD seeks to find better ways of getting the job done. The ‘job’ here is whatever the customer is trying to accomplish. Consider this: customers don’t necessarily want to buy a pencil — what they want is to be able to transfer information from their mind and share it in physical space. While the ink pen was an interesting step up from the lead pencil, the keyboard as an input device completely changed the game. Jobs to Be Done can therefore be seen as a starting point for innovation and a crucial component in business strategy development.

Why the JTBD Framework is Important

Marketing and development teams tend to segment their customer base and produce their merchandise accordingly when developing new products. They may define user categories by demographics such as gender, age, education or income level and alter the function or price point of the goods accordingly. The core issue with this approach is that all the analyses done on customer data are designed to illustrate connections. They show that client A fits a specific profile, and that 47% of customers in group A prefer version X of a product over version Y. While finding patterns in the statistics may be intriguing, it does not necessarily mean that such a correlation will hold true across an entire market.

The standard approach to innovation starts with generating lots of new ideas, often out of thin air. We want to iterate quickly and fail fast. With a focus on creating or developing products, this can easily take us down a track of blind creation. With the JTBD framework, innovation is client-focused. It requires us to interact with our customers and, instead of asking them leading questions like ‘What they want’ or ‘How we can better serve them’, we ask questions to identify what job they need done — what they are trying to achieve. We will look more closely at how this is done later in the article.

Using this method can easily help to uncover unserved or underserved customers, possibly leading to development of niche markets that you can now tap into. Everyone has a job they need done. Let’s explore how to use the framework.

How to Implement JTBD

When using the JTBD Framework, the first step is market research. We need to define our goals by specifying what we are seeking to learn in this step of the process. Let’s pretend we are a company that makes eco-friendly halaal meat. We feed our animals only natural and organic food, ensure they are kept in safe, free-range environments and do not package our products in plastic. Besides our chicken nuggets, all of our goods are consistently in high demand. For this round of research, we want to understand why our nuggets don’t sell.

Secondly, we need to define our customer base and interview them to determine what their hidden needs are. This is important to fully grasp what the Job to be done in our market is, and capture any segments that we may be missing. The interview should focus on three aspects:

  1. The customer’s desire
  2. Their motivation
  3. Their limitations

Desire, here, points to a future experience that the customer wants to have but cannot currently achieve. Motivation refers to the event(s) which caused the customer to have that desire and their limitations refer to whatever is stopping them from fulfilling it. Clarifying these will then allow us to develop a feasible set of solutions, generated as a list of products or services the customer can use or “hire” to achieve their innate desires and minimize limitations.

Our next step is data analysis. This is simply reviewing and interpreting the data that was gathered in our last step. Let’s invent a customer named John for use in our example. Here are the questions we asked John about our products, with his responses.

  • What pushed you to buy our meat products? John saw a commercial about the dangers of GMOs and wants to avoid them.
  • What is it about this new solution that appeals to you? He doesn’t need to change his diet in order to avoid harmful food.
  • What would deter you from purchasing these products? The eco-friendly products cost more than GMO products, and he doesn’t want to spend extra money.
  • What concerns you about our nuggets? John is worried that the nuggets from our eco-friendly company are much smaller than the GMO nuggets, and so he would not be getting total value for his money.

We now have a better understanding of John’s feelings and the steps he wishes to take. So what do we do with this information? We make a job story.

The job story explains the circumstances surrounding the initial purchase thought. It aims to understand what was going on with our customer before they started using our product. A job story should take the format of “When __________, I want __________ to__________.”

For example, John’s job story would be: “When I’m hungry, I want low-cost, non-GMO products to eat.”

Once this is all complete, we now need to use all this information to compare all our customer job stories against each other for similarities and variances, then decide on how to either improve our existing product or create a new one.


Always thinking product-first will tend to lead towards local optimisation, often resulting in a marginally better product, but not necessarily helping you to uncover the next best solution or enable the long-term progress and improvements that your customers desire. Understanding what jobs that your clients want done allows you to identify fresh market insights, uncover new opportunities and develop feasible growth strategies. Where a good solution for a customer job, or set off jobs, does not already exist, you have an excellent opportunity to innovate.

Articulating the Job-to-be-Done also helps your organisation to transition from an insular way of thinking to a more customer-centric mindset. Understanding the jobs of your clients allows you and your team to emotionally connect and grow with them, gaining insights into both their problems and accomplishments as they try to complete their tasks. It also aids in breaking through any psychological inertia (the tendency to maintain the status-quo) and challenges your team’s inclination to remain within the constraints of what they know in the industry.

To summarise, if you want to generate a portfolio of unique goods, remain ahead of the competition and build long-term relationships with your customers, you need to add Jobs-to-be-Done to your product design toolkit.

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