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How You Define The Job-To-Be-Done Can Make The Difference Between “Me-To” Products And Breakthrough

In my last article, we examined traveling locally from point A to point B as a “job-to-be-done.” On the surface, traveling from point A to B represents a simple to understand job, but as we drilled down into the job, we discovered there are more factors involved in executing the job that need to be understood before a meaningful solution can be designed.

“Traveling from point A to point B” is too vague of a job statement to innovate around. Without specificity, including the desired outcomes a customer wants to achieve, and the circumstances she faces in successfully achieving her desired outcomes, it’s unlikely we will have the insights to imagine, explore, and design a new innovation customers want.

Defining the jobs to be done with “job-statements

A job statement captures the essence of the job a person “executes” to achieve a desired outcome. It defines who the job executor is, what problem or objective (desired outcome) she is trying to get done, and the circumstances she faces in executing the job.

A job statement construct looks like this:

[Customer] wants to [solve a problem] in [this circumstance]

In our example, we might start the job construct with:

“Go to a friend’s house for a visit, and afterwards run some errands.”

Better, but still too vague. We have a sense of the desired outcomes, visit a friend at their house, and then run errands. But that’s about all. We need to dig deeper to paint a clearer picture of who, what and why.

Deconstructing the job statement into its 3 main components

The next step in defining an “actionable” job is to deconstruct the statement into 3 main components:

• The customer who has the job, also known as the job executor • What they’re trying to get done and why – desired outcomes • The context in which the job occurs – circumstances, constraints, and barriers

The “customer” in our example, can be defined broadly as a person living in a metropolitan area who needs transportation beyond foot travel. Admittedly this is a very broad description that covers a large swatch of potential customers.

But in the early iterations of the job statement, we want to keep our eyes wide open to spot “the unseen obvious.” Segmenting the market by specific jobs-requirements (desired outcomes) comes later in the process and will eventually lead to a focused and crisp definition of the customer.

In my book “The Innovator’s Playbook,” chapter 11 discusses segmenting the market using the jobs-to-be-done marketing lens. The goal of market segmentation is to divide customers into groups that share unmet needs that are different from customers in other groups. These groups of customers with similar unmet needs represent unique segments of opportunity.

Market segmentation is both an analytical and a creative process. It involves collecting and analyzing data about the potential market. It takes hard work, reflection and a willingness to explore outside the current or obvious segments. This is especially true for early market opportunities.

Done right, segmentation provides the foundation and game plan for developing products and services that are aligned with the demands and wants of our targeted segments. In addition, it determines the positioning strategy and direction for our ongoing marketing and sales activities.

Thus at this stage, we don’t want to start defining customer segments using demographics. Demographics do not define needs, rather they describe a particular sector of the population without regards to the wants and needs of people in the sector.

Demographics may ultimately correlate with our targeted segment. But it does not explain why a 25 year old urban woman and a 55 year old suburban man would both hire a motorcycle to go from point A to point B. There is some other commonality. That commonality is found by analyzing the specific job-to-be done.

For now, we can narrow the job executor category down a bit more by filtering on “adults in metropolitan areas.” Does that mean adults living in the country don’t have a job to travel? Of course not, but we will discover that the circumstances a country girl faces are different than a city girl. Context as we will see, is critical to creating solutions that gets the job done perfectly.

What does this customer want to get done?

We know specifically that the customer wants to visit a friend who lives too far away to walk to. And we know the customer also wants to get another important job done – run errands before or afterwards – or both.

Thus we could say the customer wants to move about freely to visit friends, go places and run errands within an easy one hour commute. This defines the functional job people want to get done.

Last article we talked about emotional jobs customers have including traveling in style, traveling without hassles, and being seen as a hip person (i.e. hiring a motorcycle to get the job done). Desired outcomes are what people use to measure success. If our solution doesn’t address their outcomes adequately, customers will be inclined to hire a better solution that gets their job done perfectly.

And under what circumstances and constraints?

The context in which a job executor finds herself is critical to the solution she will ultimately hire, and how well she will achieve her desired outcomes. For example, by not having a driver’s license, she will not be able to hire a car or motorcycle to get her job done. She will either have to hire public transportation or ask someone to drive her to her friend’s house, and then take her shopping afterwards.

For our analysis, we can state that our target customer does have a license, and has access (or wants access) to a car or a motorcycle. Weather is not a limiting circumstance, but perhaps traffic and other barriers exist that we have not yet discovered in the early stages of formulating the job statement.

Here’s what our job statement might now look like:

Adults in metropolitan areas want the ability to visit friends and run errands within an hour commute from their homes, at their own leisure.

A job definition to target

We now have the foundation of a job statement to analyze and discover what if any opportunities exist for a group of people who want the freedom to visit friends and run errands at their leisure. Our initial discovery phase of research will help identify a set of desired outcomes customer seek in executing their job. Underserved and overserved desire outcomes provide us the guide post to innovate around as we will learn in future articles.

In my next article, I will present an alternative job statement construct. This will give us a slightly different way of defining important jobs, that you may find simpler than the job statement construct presented in this article.

In the meantime – be on the lookout for spotting the unseen obvious by observing important jobs people want done, and the barriers they face in getting their jobs done with 100% satisfaction.


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