9 Min Read

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

9 Min Read

Brand strategy
A very clean example
Free strategy whitepaper
Markets are very broad
Functional vs. emotional aspects of JTBD

Two critical factors

1: The customer dictates.

Your customers are already going about getting their “jobs” done. Chances are, it’s not optimal; they have things they’d like to change, but they may not be able to articulate them. And by “jobs,” we’re talking about specific tasks or products they “hire” to complete their job. When your customer describes to you in incredible detail during research 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 manufacture industrial tables and benches, it’s not enough to know your customer desires a “big, heavy bench.” You need to know what activities they will carry out with that bench and what they seek to achieve. That level of specificity during research is critical for you to innovate your offerings or to be genuinely compelling with your messaging.


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.

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.

However, You can succeed if you target specific unmet needs or compensating behaviors. These often appear as gaps or skipped steps in your customer’s process as they attempt to complete their jobs. Gaps and skips often happen 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 evident because your customer has internalized those gaps. Sometimes they show up as wishes for new features or complaints about lousy design. Sometimes they appear as “side trips” your customer will take during work.

Sensitive customer research is the bedrock of Jobs To Be Done

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 designed to keep you off your knees and deliver sparkling clean floors. In fact, they solved the problem so well that 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 to mimic. It’s easy to fall into the trap of duplicating other companies’ “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.” For commoditized services to survive, their price point must go lower and lower without sacrificing quality.

You can’t create a great brand without deeply understanding your customer.

Using the “Jobs To Be Done” lens, you can develop innovative solutions your customers will love.


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 think 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 think “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 illuminating compared to what the gardening industry has provided. 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.


Fair warning: This is really difficult to do when you yourself are attempting to market a problem of service. The objectiveness of a marketing partner who understands JTBD and your industry could take you much farther than you could go on your own simply because of your inherent biases. 


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 a 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 essential; 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 the most basic human needs, such as shelter. Consider the branding and marketing choices for a home builder with clients comfortable with statements like, “I want to choose a company to design a 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, vital 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 look 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.