What exactly is Jobs To Be Done, and how can it help my business?

JTBD is a way of thinking that promises insights into “what’s missing” in your customer’s lives. Can you be the first to fill that gap?

Jobs to Be Done theory (or “JTBD”)  is a customer-focused lens that increases the likelihood that your efforts at innovation will be successful. Why? Because your customer essentially dictates to you what they need to achieve in order to arrive at a specifically desired result. 

There are two things in that short definition that are critical: 

1: The customer dictates. Your customers have a way they go about getting their “jobs” done. And by “jobs,” we’re talking about specific tasks that hire what you offer — your products and your services — in the process of completing their job. When your customer describes to you in incredible detail how they get done what they need to do, they’ll tell you exactly what they need.

2: A specifically desired result. That “result” IS the definition of success for the customer. That’s what they’re aiming for. The trick is in the “specifically” part. For example, if you’re a manufacturer of industrial tables and benches, it’s not enough to know your customer desires a “big, heavy bench.” You need to know what activities they are going to carry out with that bench, what they’re seeking to achieve with those activities. 

You can’t build genuinely innovative products, services, or marketing in a vacuum and you certainly can’t succeed by simply mimicking the patterns of others. 

“Research” is always the first step

Listening to your customer’s voice, defining who that customer is, and defining their behaviors as it relates to your brand offering isn’t only good marketing; it’s showing your customer how much you respect them. Research informs everything we do at BSLLC. We’re confident our kind of research will help your brand — and help your customer. Contact Ben Greenberg to get started

You can succeed, however, if you target very specific unmet needs or compensating behaviors. These often show up as gaps, or skipped steps in your customer’s process as they attempt to get their jobs done. Gaps and skips happen often because the customer needs to develop their own workarounds because products or services don’t currently exist to serve them at particular points. These missing pieces aren’t obvious, because your customer has internalized those gaps. Sometimes they show up as wishes for new features or complaints about bad design. Sometimes they show up as “side trips” your customer will take during their work processes.

Take cleaning your floor, for example

For years, we had brooms to gather up nasty bits into a dustpan. To make the floor even cleaner, we’d get out a bucket, soap, and mop, then dredge  the mop all over the floor before disposing of the dirty water. An even more unpleasant alternative could be getting down on your hands and knees with a cleaning solution and paper towels. 

The above illustrations are what we call compensating behaviors, actions taken to MacGyver an end-result to a job. But then, in walks P&G with a new and wondrous product, Swiffer. Here is a new product and a new purpose brand, designed to keep you off your knees and deliver sparkling clean floors. In fact, they solved the problem so well, the product name went from a noun into a verb, and people today refer to the duty as “swiffering.”  

Having a methodology that allows you to capture and parse your customer’s processes is the secret to discovering “gaps” wherein you can innovate and be a hero. However, it’s not as simple as that may sound. 

Don’t allow yourself to be diverted into aping the market or following trends, which can lead you, essentially, to mimicking. It’s easy to fall into the trap of duplicating other company’s “successful” efforts. Even if you attempt “improvements” to existing products or services it just adds static and noise to the market. In fact, by adding undifferentiated messages or products, you are complicit in confusing customers. Perhaps even more tragically, you are contributing to the commoditization of products and services which is nasty for everyone, a phenomenon called “racing to the bottom.” In order for commoditized services to survive, their price point must go lower and lower, and with it, quality.

Your market is broader than you think

If you honestly experience life through your customer’s eyes, you’ll see that they don’t just consider products within your industry to solve their problems; they entertain a wide range of approaches from — pretty much anywhere. 

Solutions cobbled together using disparate tools aren’t uncommon. This isn’t difficult to grasp: If you’re a fast food burger restaurant considering “How do we make our restaurant more desirable for lunchtime here in our office park location,” you don’t consider only other burger restaurants to be your competition, but you might consider any restaurant within 10 minutes of the office park your competition. Taking it to the next level, you might consider “grocery stores,” “delivery services,” “meal replacement drinks,” “intermittent fasting” or “eating an early dinner” as your competition. This is the level of granularity required for a true jobs to be done, customer-centric approach to marketing and innovation.

This is the difference between observing correlation (finding similar patterns in those who successfully accomplish tasks) versus causality (understanding why a task is possible or what precipitates its action in the first place.)

Once you understand a cause, you can then determine several things accurately, such as: 

Who is your competitor, really? When you sensitively immerse yourself in your customer’s job process, you’ll likely see that customers are themselves very innovative. You may make and sell traditional gardening equipment, only to learn that customers in cramped apartments have learned to use Tupperware, aluminum baking pans, serving spoons, and clotheslines to great effect to enjoy growing their own fresh flowers or herbs. As previously mentioned, competition can come from anywhere. Understanding how your customers innovate can drive any number of new directions for your product design, education, or marketing.

What characteristics (product design, education, service offering) do you need to bring together to help your customer achieve a successful outcome? Considering our apartment gardener, you may learn that their combination of passion, ingenuity, self-driven research, and “earthiness” are themselves illuminating in comparison to what the gardening industry has been providing. What you can deliver therefore is integrated services that solve their need to research and “hire” products from such a diverse range of companies.

For example:

  • Gardening kits where the limited-space gardener can select from curated materials in pre-determined areas such as soils, containers, seeds or starters, or hydration
  • A new social network dedicated to limited space growing, where those in high-rises can share their successes and challenges with single-family structures without yards

Therefore, as far as innovation is concerned, the ultimate question you’re asking, once you’ve determined what the job to be done is in your customer’s mind, sounds like this: 

What can be done to help the customer get the job done better than anyone else?

How will you know if your solution is better? Your customer will tell you, directly. You just have to be sensitive enough to listen, and not be addicted to foregone conclusions.

One of the greatest aspects of JTBD is it is non-commoditizing. By prioritizing what customers truly need, you innovate through the lens of causation, not through benchmarking (which leads to commoditization.) The net effect creates sustainable and differentiable strategy. 

Functional vs Emotional – Social Aspects of JTBD

In B2B, especially, we hyper-focus on the functional jobs to be done, I.e. “I need to deliver products from one city to another city in less time than my competition for a comparable cost.”

However, to completely understand a customer’s involvement with a job to be done, there is an additional component that is more difficult to measure, but is nonetheless important; the emotional and social aspects of getting a job done. 

Back to our apartment gardener: How does raising fresh tomatoes from a small terrace box make our gardener feel? What emotions drive them to choose tomatoes over, say, flowers? 

Here’s another. Consider the emotional drivers behind even the most foundational human needs, such as shelter. Consider the branding and marketing choices to be made for a home builder who has clients comfortable with statements like, “I want to choose a company to design my house that will make me feel more exclusive when I talk about them to my buddies on the golf course.” In this instance, the functional job of house building is subjugated to the emotional and social need of personal exclusivity brought about by choosing an influential designer.

It’s therefore very important to structure your fact-gathering during research to attempt to understand what emotional and social needs may be present in even the most mundane jobs, and what the search criteria looks like to that customer. A few more examples of this behavior can be found in perfume (help me feel unique), rare whisky (help me build a memory), and social clubs (help me belong) among many more. 

BSLLC offers branding, strategy, and design solutions because we believe businesses operate at their highest growth potential when guided by a holistic set of values and goals. 

If you would like to learn more about how BS LLC can help you grow from the inside out, please send us a message or give us a call.  Additionally, you can take an in-depth look at our services and resources. Contact Ben Greenberg