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Jobs To Be Done: The Untapped Side of Persona Marketing

What is Jobs To Be Done?

If you work in marketing and advertising, you should know your clients’ personas and target audiences inside and out. But how well do you know their jobs to be done?

Defining personas is just the first step. Identifying the Jobs To Be Done is the big one.

Every day, people “hire” brands and their products and services (we’ll refer to them as products from here on out) to help them get through their day and make progress. Sometimes these products are hired over and over again because they keep working, or performing the jobs they were hired to do.

But frequently, the things we hired stop working for a variety of reasons, or we encounter a new situation requiring an entirely new product to perform new jobs.

Jobs To Be Done is perfect for marketers tasked with growth, innovation and/or sees themselves “stuck in hell.” It helps us reach alignment and more informed conclusions earlier, so we aren’t constantly making major last minute changes due to a lack of strategic understanding of how to move or attract the consumer toward our offering.

The methodology is simple to start. Understanding the “hiring” process the consumer goes through to purchase a product requires a very human touch.

Yes, this means you actually speak to your newest customers, or even better, people who never completed the purchase.

It’s right here, where the wheat gets separated from the chaff as most companies are not willing to pick up the phone and engage with its customers. The customer journey is the jobs hiring process, and news flash, a majority of that journey happens offline, begins years in advance of the purchase and is full of emotional content and outside influences. If you think you’ve captured a customer journey by looking at search, website, social and ad traffic data, you’re missing the important opportunities to create content, find influencers and be the most trusted option in the customer’s mind.

Defining the Job

To determine what your client’s jobs to be done are, first you must start with individuals who have either recently purchased the product, or never completed purchasing. Why the focus on new or lost customers? Because new or lost customers recently went through the switch process and understanding what drove them gives us insights into growth and innovation opportunities. We’re not looking for brand loyalists, we’re looking for brand newbies.

Example: Let’s say our target persona is Dana, 35-year-old female, professional and parent. All of our content, creative and ad targeting is going towards this particular persona. BUT, we conduct interviews with new customers and find out they’re mostly males aged 25-30. Whoa, why are they all the sudden buying our product? What is happening in the marketplace that has attracted a new buyer persona? This is where growth and innovation insights opportunities come into focus. Maybe there’s a new trend in personal care, nutrition or wellness pushing these people to our product. Maybe there’s an influencer pulling them to us.

This is a growth opportunity to look for new customers and influencers based on the trends and common journey points. Without much expense or effort, we can add new content, creative and adjust ad targeting to a new persona and test if we can grow that target with the right message.

The innovation opportunity comes in finding out if they’re trying to make progress by “hacking” our product beyond its intended use. Maybe we can design a product that is made specifically for their job needs.

So in 20 hours of interviews, we’ve identified new target audiences for growth and have concrete insights into innovation opportunities. Ask yourself, “How long does it take your organization to make these decisions to test new growth markets or innovation opportunities?” Now ask, how confident are you in the direction of the new growth or innovation opportunity?

The output of Jobs To Be Done insights builds confidence throughout the entire organization and creates alignment around creative themes and targeting.

What’s behind the process?

Forces of Progress

To start identifying any brand’s jobs to be done, first start with a Forces of Progress diagram. In every instance, people consume new products and services to make progress in their lives. This process uses the forces of Push, Pull, Habit and Anxiety to begin to see why a consumer wants to begin, begins, or chooses to abstain from using a new product.

Forces of Progress Diagram Forces of Progress Diagram


There is always a push and/or pull driving the need for progress, and if that push or pull outweighs the Habit or Anxiety keeping them from purchasing - then you’ve moved them from consideration to purchase. If they don’t switch, the Anxiety and Habit turn out to be greater. To be clear, not switching can also mean they choose to do nothing about this situation, which means they’re still in the market for a solution.

This diagram outlines a content strategy which can really move the needle for the customer.

The Push of the situation occurs when the consumer faces the fact that the status quo is no longer acceptable and something better has to exist. For instance, a push might be “my mobile phone keeps dropping service and I can’t take it anymore”. They need to change and do something different. Another thing to listen for is if not knowing what to do is stopping them from making progress. A content strategy for Push would be to create content around “there’s something better out there, where you are now won’t work in the future.”

Next, listen for the magnetism of the Pull. This is what the consumer has identified as a possible solution to the progress they want to make and envisioning what life can be like having that product or service is the driving factor. Lots of time you’ll see early adopters influenced by Pull. Content here would be focused on what life can be like with this product in your life.

The Habit of the present can be very difficult to overcome. We are creatures of habit and easily fall back on comfort levels of the current, even when we’re in pain and don’t like the future of continuing down the path. Habit often forces us to deal with what they are going to have to leave behind or let go of to make this change. Content ideas here are to reduce the comfort of habit, by asking, “If you keep going like this, what’s going to happen?”

And lastly, listen for Anxiety cues. What anxiety does considering purchasing the solution create? For example, they may be worried about using the product correctly or that it just might not deliver on what is promised in the marketing material. Content here could be the frequency of 3rd party validation, reviews, influencers using the product or how-to guides.

When the consumer puts his/her money down, that is when the forces switch, showing their anxieties are minimized, habits overcome and they are no longer weighed down by those considerations.

Forces one and two have to be greater than three and four. The storm builds until it either tips or it doesn’t. Once all four factors are outlined, we are able to create content to either reinforce the Push/Pull or combat the Habit/Anxiety thus enabling the customer to dive into making progress.

The Struggling Moment

But, the work value doesn’t stop at content aligned with the forces. After working through the Push/Pull/Habit/Anxiety exercise, it’s time to identify the Struggling Moment. The goal is to find out when the customer first thought about buying the product. Even though your first inclination may be to work forward, start by working backward. Instead of asking about the old solution and why didn’t you buy the same thing again (working forward), ask questions like, “Tell me about the first time you thought you needed this? What events led up to that moment?”

By working backward, you usually figure out that what they referenced as the first thought is not actually their first thought! They were at a party talking about a book, then asked a friend, then saw their co-worker with one.

As digital marketers, we tend to rely heavily on analytics on websites, but guess what? All this information won’t be found in that data. This is where online customer journey mapping fails to inform the actual customer journey.

Imagine being able to arm a search and media team with what you find through a Jobs To Be Done exercise. “What book? Can we target fans of that book?” Yes, you can.

It can completely change the narrative by using different messaging to drive people to a site or finding influencers to create content that resonates more strongly with them.

What About Personas?

You see, none of this insight comes down to just a persona, like “this consumer is a 35-year-old female.” If we have that data, that’s great. This is much more involved and can open up previously unknown avenues.

Just remember that this is not a total abandonment of the persona and persona development. Not even close. It’s simply blending jobs into the persona and knowing how to get them from consideration to purchase.

If you'd like to learn more about how we use Jobs To Be Done in our brand and strategy work, please reach out: James Clark - jclark@room214.com.

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James Clark

James Clark

James is compassionate, intuitive and fiercely loyal. He is a master of marketing theories (Jobs To Be Done, Traction, Product Market Fit, Crossing the Chasm and Category Design) and adheres by Bruce Lee’s approach of: Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own. He believes customers hold the secret to exponential growth

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