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Discovering Customer Needs: The Jobs to Be Done Theory

Picture this: you're sitting in a brainstorming session with your team. You're trying to figure out why your eCommerce website’s traffic is good, but conversions are still not where you’d like them. You throw around a few ideas, but nothing seems to stick. Sound familiar?


According to Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen, successful businesses are ones who have identified their customer’s unique needs or problems and tailored their service or product to solve them. Christensen called this the Jobs to Be Done Theory. 

Jobs to Be Done is a powerful framework that helps businesses understand their customers on a deeper level. It's not just about demographics or psychographics; it's about understanding the underlying motivations behind why someone chooses a product or service.

Understanding Jobs to Be Done Theory

Have you ever wondered why people choose certain products or services? The Jobs to Be Done Theory helps your business answer that question by focusing on the underlying motivations and goals behind your customers' behaviors. Essentially, the theory suggests that people "hire" products or services to get a job done. These jobs could be anything from completing a task at work to achieving a personal goal.

Here are some Jobs to Be Done Theory examples: 

  • Joan is trying to lose weight. She works a demanding job and frequently stops for takeout on the way home because she doesn’t have time to cook. She wants to "hire" a company that offers easy-to-grab on-the-go meals and is a healthier option than takeout. 

    • Flourish is a B2C prepared meal company that delivers healthy, pre-made meals on a subscription basis. Using the Jobs to Be Done Theory, they learn that most of their customers are busy professionals like Joan. 

    • Flourish decides to change its product offering from a paleo meal subscription for athletes to a high protein and fiber meal subscription service for busy professionals trying to lose weight or stay healthy. 

    • By understanding what “job” their customer really needs to be done and what their real rival is (takeout), they create a new landing page with this value proposition, which soon nets a 30% conversion rate. 

  • Mark is looking for a new refrigerator. His current fridge doesn’t have enough freezer space, and he’d like to reduce his energy bill. He wants to “hire” a fridge with low energy usage and maximizes freezer space. 

    • Icebound is a D2C refrigerator startup focusing its messaging on its built-in, customizable storage. Using the Jobs to Be Done Theory, they learn that most of their customers and leads want high energy efficiency and ample freezer space like Mark. 

    • Icebound decides to change its messaging to tout its capacious freezers and high Energy Star ratings. They sell out of their first run of appliances and rack up thousands of names on their pre-order list. 


Why Jobs to Be Done Theory is Important for Innovation

Jobs to Be Done Theory is important for innovation because it can help your business focus on the problem you’re trying to solve rather than just the product you're trying to sell. By understanding the job your customers are hiring your product for, you can create more targeted and effective solutions that meet your customers' needs.

For instance, if you owned a lawn care company, you might discover that your customers need help to keep their lawns healthy and green during dry summers. Based on this information, you could develop a new line of drought-resistant grass seeds that better meets your customers' needs.

Jobs to Be Done Theory is a powerful framework for understanding your customers' needs and developing targeted solutions for real-world problems. By adopting this approach, you can differentiate yourself in competitive markets, build stronger relationships with your customers, and drive growth and profitability over the long term.


Identifying Customer Needs through Jobs to Be Done Theory

One of the key advantages of the Jobs to Be Done Theory is that it enables your business to identify pain points and frustrations that your customers may experience but not explicitly express. 

For instance, a customer might buy a new laptop because they want to be able to work on the go, but their actual job to be done is to stay productive while traveling. In this case, the laptop is just a means to an end, and the customer may have other unmet needs that they need to articulate. By using the Jobs to Be Done Theory, you can delve deeper into the customer's mindset and uncover these hidden needs.

Once these needs are identified, you can find ways to address them and create products or services that better meet your customers' requirements. This approach can lead to higher customer satisfaction, increased loyalty, and even higher revenues. 


Using Jobs to Be Done Theory to Develop Customer Personas

By understanding the jobs different types of customers are trying to do, your business can create more accurate and effective customer personas based on customers' motivations and needs, rather than simply demographic information.

For example, let's say you're developing a customer persona for the busy professional who stops by your coffee shop on the way to work. Rather than simply listing their age and income level, focus on their need for a quick and convenient caffeine fix and their preference for a no-fuss ordering process.

On the other hand, if you're developing a persona for the group of friends who come to your coffee shop on weekends, you might focus on their desire for a cozy and comfortable atmosphere and their need for a variety of menu options to accommodate different tastes and dietary restrictions.


Creating Products and Services to Meet Customer Needs

Once you have a deep understanding of the jobs your customers are trying to do, you can create products and services tailored to meet their needs, which in turn helps to build a loyal customer base. When your customers feel like you understand their needs and are working to meet them, they are more likely to stick with you and recommend you to others. 

This approach not only helps in creating effective solutions but also helps you to differentiate your business from your competitors. By focusing on the jobs that customers are trying to fill, you can create products and services that are unique and more relevant to your customers, which can help you stand out in a crowded market.


How Jobs to Be Done Theory Can Transform Iterative Design

Imagine you're a software company, and you've just released a new tool for project management. You've done user testing and made some tweaks, but you're not seeing the adoption you hoped for. You're scratching your head, wondering what else you can do.

Enter Jobs to Be Done Theory. This theory focuses on understanding the underlying needs and motivations of customers rather than just their demographic or psychographic data. By asking questions like "What job are you trying to accomplish with this product?" instead of "How old are you?" or "What's your income?" you can gain a deeper understanding of why people are using your product and what they're hoping to achieve.

Let's go back to our project management tool example. Using the Jobs to Be Done Theory, you might discover that your customers aren't actually looking for a better way to manage projects. They're looking for a way to communicate their project roadmaps to company leadership. Suddenly, your focus shifts from improving the tool's functionality to enhancing its ability to help users visualize where they are in a project and what they have left to do.

By understanding the jobs your customers are trying to accomplish, you can also identify areas where your product falls short. Perhaps users struggle to integrate your tool with other software they use, or they find the user interface confusing. Armed with this knowledge, you can make targeted improvements that will have a greater impact on customer satisfaction.


How to Measure Your Product's Success Using Jobs to Be Done Theory

By truly understanding the job that your customers are trying to get done, you can develop metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that are directly aligned with those needs. This customer-centric approach to measuring success goes beyond traditional metrics, such as revenue or market share. It focuses on whether or not your product or service is effectively addressing the core problem or task that your customers are hiring it for. 

For example, if you offer a meal delivery service, instead of solely measuring metrics like the number of orders or revenue generated, you can use the Jobs to Be Done Theory to identify that the key job customers are trying to get done is to have convenient and delicious meals delivered to their doorsteps. You can then develop metrics that specifically gauge the success of your service in meeting this job, such as customer feedback on meal quality and freshness, delivery time, and order accuracy. By aligning metrics and KPIs with the jobs your customers are trying to get done, you can gain a more comprehensive and accurate understanding of how well your product or service meets customer needs and delivers value. 

This data-driven approach enables you to make informed decisions, iterate on your offerings, and continuously improve customer satisfaction, leading to long-term success in the market.


Challenges and Limitations of Jobs to Be Done Theory

While the Jobs to Be Done Theory is widely recognized as a robust framework for guiding innovation, it's important to acknowledge that it has challenges and limitations. One of the significant challenges is identifying the right jobs to focus on, especially when your customers may not be fully aware of their motivations or needs.

Customers often have unmet needs and desires that they may be unable to articulate or fully understand. They may not be consciously aware of the underlying jobs they are trying to get done or the problems they are trying to solve. This can make it challenging to accurately identify and prioritize the right jobs to target with your products or services.

Another limitation is that customers' jobs may change over time. As their circumstances, preferences, and behaviors evolve, the jobs they are trying to get done may also shift. This dynamic nature of customer needs requires continuous monitoring and adaptation to stay aligned with the changing landscape.

Despite these challenges and limitations, the Jobs to Be Done Theory remains a valuable approach to better understand your customer’s needs and creating innovative solutions. By engaging with customers, conducting in-depth research, and using qualitative and quantitative data, you can overcome some of these challenges and gain deeper insights into the jobs your customers are trying to get done. This understanding can inform product development, marketing strategies, and customer engagement efforts, leading to more successful and customer-centric innovations.

Schedule a call with us today to learn how Room 214 uses the Jobs to Be Done Theory to provide vital customer insights.