Know the Job to be Done to make products people love

Evelien Al
February 24, 2017

Struggling to make a product that people are buying? Sure you’ve created the perfect product but it’s not selling? It might be time to shift your focus. By using the Jobs to be Done framework you can make sure you’re making products that solve real problems for people, and that they’re willing to pay a premium price for.

What Jobs are your customers trying to get Done?

The Jobs to be Done theory was pioneered by the Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen and states that people ‘hire’ products to get certain ‘jobs’ done in their lives.

Everyone has many jobs they need to get done on a day to day basis. Like ‘making the house clean’ or ‘getting somewhere in time’. For each of these jobs they hire certain services or products that help them getting these Jobs Done.

Jobs to be Done describe core motivations for doing certain things. What is someone’s ultimate goal when using a product? Is it ‘cutting my nails’ or ‘keep my nails short and tidy’? Identifying the core motivation can make you see solutions you’ve been overlooking.

Jobs to be Done don’t exist in a vacuum

There are many surrounding factors that can help or work against making progress and influence what’s best to ‘hire’. These include the environment, resources and emotional factors.

Knowing your customer’s Jobs to be Done’s real value comes from knowing the surrounding factors that help or hinder progress. In what ways are current solutions not satisfying their needs, and why? What workarounds do they use to get their Jobs Done anyway?

Having a deep understanding of the situation in which people are trying to get a Job Done allows you to optimise the experience you’re offering to make this as easy as possible.

Let’s take an example

A well-known example of the power of Jobs to be Done is described in the book Competing Against Luck by Christensen. Here he discusses the example of a snack-food company that tried to improve the sales of its milkshakes. They asked customers what would make them buy more milkshakes: Making them creamier? Thicker? Adding extra flavours? But despite implementing all their suggestions sales did not increase.

So they decided to approach it from a different angle: What ‘job’ were the milkshakes ‘hired’ to do? After asking people in the morning why they bought their milkshake they found out that many of the customers did so because they had a long commute to work coming up. On the way they wanted to have something to do. At the same time they were looking for something to fill them up a bit, as they knew else they’d be hungry again by 10 am. A milkshake performed this ‘job’ very well because it was filling enough, didn’t crumble and took long to consume because of the straw and thick consistency.

With this knowledge in mind they could optimise their product as well as their service to help people get this Job Done best.

Watch this video for a more in-depth explanation of the example by Clayton Christensen himself:

Why do Jobs to be Done matter?

Many companies focus on product attributes and improving these rather than the customer. ‘Our mattresses are the ergonomically best ones.’ ’Our mattresses are the most durable ones.’ But what makes people happy about a product is not what’s objectively the best pick. It’s what helps them to get their Jobs Done best. By for example answering the question ‘How the heck am I going to get this mattress back home?’. Or ‘And what if I don’t like it? Can I return it easily and get another one?’. If you can solve these worries people are much more likely to choose your product.

This has a host of implications for your design process. ‘Listen to your customer’ is usually interpreted as ‘ask your customer what they’d like to see in your product’. But people are often not aware of what’s most important to them. So ask about their daily lives, struggles, and what they’re trying to achieve. About the pushes that make them go out and look for a different solution, and the pulls that convince them to use a new one. This will develop a deep understanding of your customer, understanding their needs on a deep level and within the right context.

Proper Jobs to be Done research informs not only your product design but also creating a great customer journey. With a deep understanding of what people are trying to achieve and their struggles you can optimise the experience surrounding your product. Like in the previously mentioned milkshake example, you can move the milkshake dispenser to the front of the counter so people can serve themselves, making it much quicker. These insights come from genuinely knowing the situation your customers are in and what would help them best.

Excited to get started?

In our next posts we will dive deeper into the hows and whys of Jobs to be Done, including user research techniques for discovering them and how to distill and analyse your findings.