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Discovering New Opportunities Using The Jobs-To-Be-Done Marketing Lens

News flash: People don’t buy products, they hire solutions to solve important problems. Think about the last time you bought a non-impulse product, maybe new software or even an app from your favorite apps store. What were the factors that drove you to making the decision to buy the product?

Chances are you were actively looking for a product to solve a problem you were having. Or when the product presented itself to you (i.e. you found it somewhat serendipitously), it clarified a problem (or desire) you may not have been totally aware of, but motivated you to take action to hire it.

As marketers and product developers, the better we understand the problems people have upfront, and how people define success in their terms, the better our odds of creating winning new products and services.

Jobs-to-be done marketing lens provides insight and information to what people want

An innovation and execution framework called “jobs-to-be-done marketing lens,” popularized by Clayton Christensen (Innovator’s Solution) and expanded by others, most notably Tony Ulwick at Strategyn  (“What Customers Want”), frames potential opportunities from the perspective of a job executor (the potential customer) who is trying to get a job done to achieve a desired outcome.

Note: Christensen credits Ulwick and Richard Pedi, CEO of Gage Foods, for originally introducing him to the jobs-to-be-done marketing perspective.

A job is a task, objective or goal a person or organization is trying to accomplish or a problem they are trying to resolve. The “job” is important to them and they are dedicated to getting the job done. It is the purpose of why they hire products and services in the first place. Customers migrate to products that get the job done best according to their definition of success (desired outcomes).

True “Jobs” are stable – they don’t change much over time

Jobs provide a long-term focal point to create value around. They don’t constantly change, and thus, a company can build a long-term innovation strategy around important jobs.

Example of stable jobs to be done are:

  1. Transportation – going from point A to point B

  2. Listening to music

  3. Lighting a room

What changes is “how” to get the job done often enabled by technology. Products are point-in-time solutions that enable customers to get jobs done. The goal of innovation is to help customers get the job done better, faster, and cheaper.

For example, personal transportation, the need to travel from point A to point B, is a job to be done.  The solutions that have evolved over time include:

  1. By foot (walking and running)

  2. Horse and buggy

  3. Sail boats and power boats

  4. Bicycles

  5. Trains

  6. Automobiles

  7. Airlines

Job definitions are affected by circumstances

You might be thinking that comparing foot transportation with airline transportation isn’t really the same class jobs-to-be-done. And that could be correct. We need to put jobs-to-be-done in the proper context. If a person had to travel less than one mile, an airline product would not be a viable competitive alternative. Whereas traveling by foot might be as well bikes, autos, cars and trains (local subways for example) depending on other circumstances and constraints.

And if a person needed to travel 1,000 miles or more, and arrive at the final destination in less than 2 days – then traveling by foot and by bike would not be a viable solution either. Whereas airlines, trains and automobiles (depending on circumstances) could be.

The circumstances and conditions in which a job executor finds himself is an important factor in defining the “job-to-be-done.”  For personal transportation we might define the job-to-be-done in these classifications:

  1. Trips that are a mile or less with no time constraints

  2. Trips that are more than mile but less than 10 miles with time constraints

  3. Trips that are more than 10 miles but less than 100 miles in congested urban areas

  4. Trips that are more than 100 miles but less than 200, and so on.

Each one of these jobs-to-be-done will have different competing solutions available for the job executor. The job executor will choose the solution that best achieves his desired outcomes. He may have dozens or more desired outcomes to consider. We will talk about how to identify, validate and prioritize desired outcomes in future articles.

The job executor  may also have a broader job-to-be-done beyond just getting from point A to point B

For example once he gets to point B, he may still have a need for additional transportation to get around point B that requires an alternative to travel by foot.

Or maybe the reason he needs to get from point A to point B is to have a meeting. A face-to-face meeting might not be the real job-to-be-done. The real job-to-be-done is to have a meeting with a person that could be handled by telephone or video conferencing.

The point is, how we define the job-to-be-done is important

If we are too narrow with our definition, we may not account for other alternatives that job executors could choose, and potential miss nuances of the job executor’s desired outcome. Alternatively if define the jobs-to-be-done too broadly, we will have difficulty in creating a differentiated product that “gets the job done” far better than alternative solutions the job executor could otherwise use.

In my next article we will spend more time looking at how to define jobs-to-be-done, especially with jobs that might not seem so obvious as they first appear. Future articles I’ll discuss the concept of job trees and job maps, how job executors define “getting the job done” successfully, and constraints and circumstances the job executor has and how these can help us create truly innovative new products.

Let’s get our jobs done and solve problems worth solving and innovate for success!


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