Why do people use your product or your competitor’s product? In essence, they are trying to get a job done. But what is a job? Let’s take a look at, for good reason, the most used example: the drill vs. the hole.
As Harvard’s Marketing Prof. Theodore Levitt famously said:
“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”
Mind blowing, isn’t it?
Nobody buys a product or service for their features, they buy it for their benefits or for the job they wanted solved. This reasoning was what helped me to grow from an average salesperson at Staples to one of the best performing…while I was in high school! I remember when I first started at Staples, I used to sell printers based on their features, often telling customers that Printer A could print 22ppm (pages per minute), but Printer B could print at 30ppm, but they didn’t care and chose Printer A because of its price. Once I learned that I should instead talk about how Printer B could get you back to your life sooner, then people started to cared. Nobody wanted to sit there and watch the printer print paper, they wanted their print job to be finished quickly so they could staple/bind it, and move on to the next thing.
This reasoning was what helped me to grow from an average salesperson at Staples to one of the best performing…while I was in high school! I remember when I first started at Staples, I used to sell printers based on their features. I used to tell potential customers that Printer A could print 22ppm (pages per minute), but Printer B could print at 30ppm, but they didn’t care about ppms, just the cost. Once I learned that I should instead talk about how Printer B could get you back to your life sooner, then people started caring. Nobody wanted to sit there and watch the printer print, they wanted their print job to be done asap so they could staple/bind it, and move on to the next thing in their lives.
Sadly, I forgot this key learning while in university, but luckily got reminded about it and learned more about it through a framework calledJobs to be Done (JTBD) at, coincidently, the New York Jobs To Be Done Meetup. They more I learned about it, the more I felt it was undervalued in the world of marketing, and most importantly, in the world of product development.
Let’s look at how Jobs to be Done can help your product be the best for its customers.
JTBD helps you understand why your customers chose your product
They key here is why. Why do I have people using my product? Why do they adopt it? Why? Why? WHYY!!!
You may think because your product is awesome, it has so many features compared to your customer, or because it’s cheaper/free, but that might not be the case. JTBD will help clarify that for you.
The core concept around JTBD is the job. The job is why your customers hire your product for. Let’s look at some examples of jobs I hire products to do:
I hire candles when I:
- Need to create a romantic atmosphere
- Realize my cooking is smelling up my apartment
- Want to create or enhance a religious/spiritual mood or setting
- Feel exhausted or frustrated and need a way to relax my mind
I use Uber when:
- I’m in a rush and need guaranteed transportation
- I want to feel special (I feel like I’m ordering a limo!)
I hire a to-do list app to:
- Help me get control over my life when there are a million things happening and I need to do all of them
Keep in mind that in order for a product to be hired for a job, another one might be fired, for example, I used to use a paper and pen for my tasks, but got tired of it not being dynamic enough for the life of a Product Manager, so I fired it! I could have chosen many other products to perform the job, like hiring a personal assistant, but instead I chose Asana.
Possible insights from JTBD
As you can see, people can hire your product for multiple jobs, and JTBD can help you learn a lot about your product and your customer.
1. Understand what features/needs drive adoption of your product
JTBD will show you what critical needs/jobs your product could do that drove your product’s adoption With this knowledge, you can focus on iterating on your product to make sure it does those jobs perfectly to keep acquiring new customers.
Most importantly, JTBD will illustrate the timeline on how your users came to be your users. They didn’t just wake up one day and decide to use your product, there were a number of events and decisions that happened along the way!
The timeline will also help you understand where and how you should promote your product.
2. Understand what features/needs drive adoption of your competitor’s product
You can and should use JTBD on your competitor’s product to learn what jobs your product isn’t doing well enough compared to your competitors’ products.
If you learn your product does the same job just as well, then perhaps it’s time to update your marketing strategies.
3. Understand other jobs people use your product to solve
This one, my friend, is probably one of the most amazing insights you will get about your product. Users will always use your product in ways you cannot imagine, and by talking to them you understand why and how they use it in the ways you didn’t originally design your product for.
For example, the Yo app was used to alert Israelis about missile attacks, a job the Yo team probably never thought about. Similarly, Twitter has been used by many during disasters and, as a result, Twitter has made it easier to be used to help others in disasters.
Other insights could help save your product. Imagine, what would you do if 95% of people were using your product for one use case? Time to pivot and concentrate on that one use case, or find out why people are not using your product for the other use cases. Such knowledge is so powerful!
The other benefit is that you could learn that there are enough people using your product in an unintended way that you could spin off a separate product tailored for them, thereby creating a new revenue source. An example of this would be for a photo sharing service to create a separate service for parents to share pictures of their babies with their friends and family. Instead of muddling the core product with more features, create a separate product where you can explore and innovate around this new job.
4. What to market
With all the knowledge you’ve gained from JTBD and all the improvements you’ve made, JTBD will tell you want benefits and jobs of your product to market. Now your marketing team is even more effective than before as they are now getting the right customers, which will hopefully lead to less churn.
Sounds fantastic, so how does JTBD work?
JTBD is a great learning tool, but it requires work, lots of work, but hopefully after explaining the jobs that JTBD does (see what I did there?), you’ll want use JTBD.
First and foremost, JTBD requires you do perform qualitative research aka talking to customers. You can’t look at metrics. You can’t email out surveys. JTBD requires you to have a conversation with each of your customers to learn what job the product does from them. Once you get the data you need, then you can do the easy part: sift through the data and make it quantitative so you know where to prioritize your team’s efforts on.
The focus of this article is to show you benefits of the JTBD framework, not show you how to use it (otherwise this would be one long article).
I’d like to refer you to some of the fine work out there where you can learn more about JTBD and how to execute it:
- A primer on the origins of JTBD theory by Prof. Clayton M. Christensen at Harvard
- A primer on JTBD Framework and all the steps
- Why you should write Job Stories instead of User Stories and 5 Tips on writing Job Stories by Alan Klement
One thing to keep in mind…
JTBD takes the focus away from grouping users into personas (25-year-old, single male who has a college degree), and instead concentrates on grouping users around the job: some customers will be segmented into groups like:
- “I was in this situation A and needed Job 1 done”.
- “I was in this situation A and needed Job 2 done”.
- “I was in this situation B and needed Job 3 done”.
It offers a different perspective of looking at users and it should be thought of as another tool in your toolkit, and not necessarily the only tool in your toolkit.
What are your thoughts on the Jobs to be Done Framework?