Competitive Analysis

Marketing to Customer Needs and What Cicret Can Learn from Salesforce

If you haven’t already, take a look at the Cicret Bracelet video. In just over two years, it has over 25 million views on YouTube. It’s a water-resistant bracelet that projects your smartphone’s screen onto your arm. Advertised as a “tablet for your skin,” the not yet released Cicret Bracelet is clearly garnering attention.

But will people buy a Cicret once it’s launched? In other words, will sales grow as fast as their YouTube views?

In order to answer such questions at thrv, we use Jobs-to-be-Done, a product innovation theory popularized by Clay Christensen of Harvard Business School. The key idea is, “Your customers aren’t buying your product, they are hiring it to get a job done.”

The question that leads to understanding Cicret’s potential is, “What job would you hire the Cicret Bracelet to do?”

According to the product video, the answer is interface with your smartphone.

Purchases occur when people struggle with getting a job done. Does anyone struggle enough with interfacing with their smartphone to buy a new product? In other words, are there unmet needs in this job?

Cicret’s product video opens with someone using the Bracelet in the bath tub. This speaks directly to the unmet need on which Cicret should focus its marketing message in order to realize high-growth sales: reduce the likelihood that the conditions of your environment prevent you from using your smartphone.

In order to sustain its growth, Cicret will need to take a lesson from Salesforce and expand beyond satisfying needs in a consumption job to getting their customers’ functional jobs done better.

Wait! What are consumption jobs and functional jobs?
Consumption jobs are the tasks required to use a product.

For instance, to “consume” a smartphone, you have to:

  • Purchase it
  • Set it up
  • Learn to use it
  • Interface with it
  • Maintain it

These are all “consumption jobs.” They are important, and companies have seen rapid growth by making progress against them. However, consuming a product is always in service to some larger goal a.k.a. “a functional job.”

Functional jobs are the key goals that a person needs to accomplish in their personal or professional lives. Examples are:

  • Acquire customers
  • Reach a destination on time
  • Sell a used car
  • Curate music
  • Enable secure data use
  • Restore artery blood flow

Markets exist because people need to execute functional jobs.

Even though Cicret will eventually want to focus on helping its customers achieve functional jobs, the company can get fast initial growth by serving an unmet need in the consumption job. Cicret can then use their momentum and resources to find new ways to satisfy customer needs in the functional job better than the existing solutions.

Salesforce is a great example of a company that went to market with a focus on serving needs in a consumption job. As the first cloud CRM, it didn’t require an on-premise installation. Salesforce got the “install” consumption job done far better than its competitors.

On-premise software installations were slow and expensive. To “install” Salesforce, its customers just had to create an account on a web site. The Salesforce “installation” took minutes, blazingly fast in comparison to the days or weeks it took to install their competitors’ software.

Salesforce made this advantage a central part of their marketing, calling for “the end of software” and making “no software” a key part of their logo.

In the process, Salesforce enjoyed hockey stick growth and invested the proceeds in getting the functional jobs (“acquire customers” and “retain customers”) done better than their competitors by adding key functionality through product development and acquisitions.

Cicret can follow the Salesforce playbook by focusing its launch message on the needs in the “interface” consumption job, rather than its novel product features (“tablet for your skin“). If it works, they can follow-up on their early success by investing in satisfying unmet needs in the functional jobs.

How does knowing the job and needs help Cicret with marketing?
Philip Kotler, a marketing expert at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management says, “Marketing is the science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit.”

This advice is really helpful if we understand what a customer need is and have agreement across the organization.

What is a customer need? Do your colleagues at your company agree on your customers’ needs?

Jobs-to-be-Done defines a need as “a metric customers use to judge how quickly and accurately they can execute a job.” We structure each need with a direction, metric, and goal. To identify them, we interview people who are trying to execute the job, asking, “What’s difficult, frustrating and time-consuming about executing the job?” This definition, structure, and method for identifying needs gives teams an unambiguous, measurable problem statement around which everyone can align.

What need does Cicret serve?
We can articulate the key need the Cicret Bracelet solves as:

“Reduce the likelihood that the conditions of your environment prevent you from using your phone.”

This is a need in the consumption job “interface with a smartphone,” and the Cicret Bracelet does it better than any other product so far.

The bath tub shot at the beginning of Cicret’s video positions their product as serving this need. If the marketing continues in this vein, it could achieve high-growth at launch.

How does the Cicret reduce the likelihood that the conditions of your environment prevent you from using the hardware? Consider these situations:

  • You’re playing basketball and the phone is next to your gym bag. You’re waiting on an important email, but instead of running over to your bag to check your phone, you can bring the screen up on your arm during downtime on the court.
  • Your cycling to an unfamiliar destination, which means you need the help of a navigation app. It’s inconvenient and unsafe to pull out your phone, but the Cicret Bracelet allows you to glance down at your arm each time you need to check directions.
  • You’ve just arrived at a concert. You’re looking for a friend, but it’s crowded and you don’t want to drop your phone on the ground when there’s a human stampede around you. Simply text your friend right on your arm with the Cicret bracelet.
  • You’re eating chicken wings, and your hands are covered in sauce. Use the Cicret rather than getting your phone greasy.

All of these images can deliver the message of how Cicret satisfies a customer need.

How does Cicret beat the competition?
In tackling this unmet need Cicret goes head-to-head with smartwatches, which also reduce the likelihood that the conditions of your environment prevent you from using your phone. Smartwatches have been struggling to sustain growth as most have failed to move beyond the novelty phase.

Cicret’s marketing can speak to how its larger display and waterproof design serve needs in the job better than a smartwatch. Meeting a need better than your competition drives growth.

Cicret has an opportunity to outpace smartwatches by demonstrating how interfacing with your smartphone is easier with a Bracelet than it is with a smartwatch.

Meanwhile, Cicret will need to keep their attention on Garmin and Apple as they develop fitness trackers and health apps that depend on smartwatches. This work leads the way to smartwatches getting functional jobs done. If Cicret fails to get functional jobs done better, instead of following Salesforce’s path, they will fall far behind the competition.

Marketing to an unmet need in a consumption job can resonate with customers and help companies get off to a great start. It is then critical to invest in the functional job to have a long-lasting business.

How to Respond When Google Enters Your Market

In 2011, IBM found that drivers in cities around the world spend an average of 20 minutes finding a parking spot. Such studies highlight the need for more efficient parking.

Entrepreneurs and companies have been taking steps to solve the parking problem for some time now. There are many parking apps out there, yet no clear winner. It’s still extraordinarily difficult to park in major cities. Drivers are frustrated. Any company that can make it fast and easy to find a parking spot is likely to grow very fast.

So, it’s no surprise that the world’s second-largest company by market cap, Alphabet (aka Google), has joined the game. Google has introduced a parking difficulty function to Google Maps, allowing drivers to see if parking availability in a specific area is limited, medium, or easy.

The parking difficulty icon is certainly a cool function on its own, but it’s part of a much larger goal. To understand this larger goal, let’s consider the parking difficulty function through the lens of the Jobs-to-be-Done Theory, which was popularized by Clay Christensen of Harvard Business School. Christensen says, “customers aren’t buying your product, they are hiring it to get a job done.”

What job would someone hire the parking icon to get done? Well, it helps drivers park a vehicle. But, why does anyone need to “park a vehicle?” Unless you’re a valet or you live in a city with street cleaners requiring alternate side parking rules, you don’t wake up in the morning thinking, “Gee, I have to park my car today!” The reason you park a vehicle is so you can go to your destination. So “park a vehicle” is a job step in this larger job: reach a destination on time.

With Google now making moves to address problems with parking, what can car-parking apps like SpotHero and Luxe do to stay successful? After all, if Google gets this job step done along with many of the other steps in the job, it won’t be long before people stop using SpotHero and Luxe for parking because Google is getting the whole job done for them.

Jobs Theory helps us see options for services like SpotHero and Luxe to stay alive.

Know The Competitive Landscape
Using Jobs Theory, we can define the market based on the customer’s job-to-be-done, which is “reach a destination on time.” Reaching a destination on time is a functional job, meaning that it is a key goal or task that people need to accomplish in their personal or professional lives. The market for the job of reaching a destination on time exists because many people need to execute this functional job frequently. The company that gets this job done better for customers will win the market.

We also know that “park the vehicle” is just one of the job steps in the job of getting to a destination on time. At thrv, we’ve identified 16 total steps in for the job of drivers reaching a destination on time:

Companies like SpotHero and Luxe complete the job step of parking the vehicle for the customer, but remember that customers must get the whole job done (reach the destination on time). This means companies fulfilling the job step of parking the vehicle aren’t just in competition with each other, but also with any service that gets any other steps in the job done, which means parking apps have more to worry about than each other.

Obviously, this broadens the competitive landscape. It’s crucial for companies like SpotHero and Luxe to see and address this risk. Because bigger companies that are fulfilling other job steps may come in and start fulfilling their job step as well (i.e. Google), which could put them out of business.

There are many other big companies doing other job steps. For instance, Uber helps get the following steps done:

Even Tesla’s self-driving cars are competition for parking apps. Not only do these driverless cars handle steps like setting the route and planning the stops, they also self-park! If driverless car makers also figure out how to get autonomous vehicles to find open spots, no one will need to use other apps.

How Google Maps Extended Their Lead
The overall leader in the market of reaching a destination on time is Google, with Uber and Tesla making strides. Any one of these tech giants, and others like Apple and Lyft, present a threat to parking apps.

With Maps, one of the world’s most used apps, Google is already tackling other steps in the job of reaching a destination on time, such as:

 

Now that Maps serves needs within the parking job step, like reducing the time it takes to find a parking spot close to the final destination, the tech giant has extended its lead. Also, in addition to Maps, you also have things like Google Now and self-driving cars. All of these are working together to help Google do more job steps for reaching a destination on time.

For example, the Google Search App (formerly Google Now) addresses needs in these job steps:

And Waymo, Google’s self-driving car, eliminates at least these three steps:

Considering everything Google is doing to complete the job of a reaching a destination on time, it’s clear the company has a lead. The launch of its parking difficulty icon puts them even further ahead of competitors. No other solution completes the job better than Google’s overall ecosystem.

Ask The Right Questions
There are a host of parking apps in the market, and some do complete this job step quite well. For instance, BestParking helps drivers park a vehicle quickly by locating the most convenient garages, and Parker helps drivers find paid parking and navigate street parking rules.

But while parking apps may do their job step well, they need to be aware that giants like Google are competitive threats, as they are already completing many of the steps for getting to a destination on time.

This should be concerning for parking app developers. If drivers can set the route, plan stops, assess if the destination can be reached on time, and find a parking spot all within one app (Google Maps), why would they open up another app just for parking?

To safeguard against a company like Google taking away your customers, smaller companies need to be asking themselves the right questions as they build their solutions. These include:

Are you working on a job step that much bigger companies will target soon because they’re already fulfilling other steps in the job?

If so, what does the larger company fail to do well?

Answering the first question involves employing JTBD Theory to see all the jobs steps within a job. Again, parking is one step to completing the job of reaching a destination on time.

Once you know about the potential competitive threat to your job step, you can make plans to protect yourself. This necessitates first improving upon the existing job step you complete, and then attempting to fulfill other jobs steps (especially those competitors don’t do well).

Improve and Expand on the Existing Job Step
The first solution parking apps have is to improve on what they already help customers do: Park the vehicle. If they are able to do this ten times better than Google, then users most likely won’t abandon the app.

The key to doing this lies in recognizing and solving customer needs. If you don’t define and identify these customer needs, then you are guessing about what they want. A customer need is a metric customers use to judge how quickly and accurately they can execute a job-to-be-done. For reaching a destination on time, there are lots of needs that must be satisfied.

For instance, let’s look at job step 15, “park the vehicle.” For this step, we’ve identified 11 needs. Satisfying more needs for this parking job step will help parking apps grow profits with less risk. These needs are:

If a parking app can satisfy most or all those needs efficiently, they will be able to protect themselves from being overrun by a big company that comes in to do the job step. To do this, parking apps should first identify where competitors’ weaknesses in the job step are (i.e. what needs do they fail to satisfy). Then, they should see if solving these unmet needs carries enough opportunity.

For example, Google Parking does reduce the time it takes to find a parking place close to the final destination, but it doesn’t reduce the likelihood of parking in a location where the vehicle gets damaged. Solving this unmet need actually has lots of opportunity, as customers report low satisfaction for this need but rate it as highly important. So, a feature that guides users to parking spots where it is less likely to get the car dinged or dented could help apps stay ahead of Google in the parking job step.

Solving more needs of the parking job step quickly and accurately could allow you to have sustained success. It could also set you up for acquisition by a big company. For example, Waze served the need of “reduce the time it takes to determine if an alternate route should be taken to save time due to unexpected travel conditions” within the job step “reset the route as needed” so well that Google decided to purchase the map app for $1.2 billion in 2013.

Still, even if you do that one job step substantially better than the competition, it might not be enough. After all, customers will still have to hire other solutions to get the job done. That means you have to work on getting more steps in the job done.

Get More Job Steps Done
Limited time and resources may make it hard to compete with Google overall when it comes to reaching a destination on time, but keep in mind your options. After improving upon the parking job step, you have two of them, which are:

  1. Do more job steps. Waze, by crowdsourcing construction and traffic, is able to help drivers determine how much time to allow for atypical travel conditions, in addition to setting the route (note the company accomplished this before Google acquired it).
  2. Use existing assets to tackle other jobs. While working on parking, a company may have developed other technology or operational assets that can get steps in other jobs done. For example, Uber is using its assets to tackle the job “get something to eat” with UberEats. This job is adjacent to their primary focus.

It can be extremely daunting when a large company puts you in their sights. But, once you understand all of the unmet needs in all of the job steps of your job or find adjacent jobs you can tackle, you will have opportunities to stay alive.

Final Advice
Doing just one job step that in a larger job may not be sustainable. Your competition will likely threaten you from many angles–the other job steps in the job. But, remember there are three moves you can make to stay ahead:

  1. Look for ways to satisfy more needs in the job step so that you stay far enough ahead of all competition.
  2. Find ways to expand on the job steps you do so that you can get the whole job done faster and more accurately.
  3. Find adjacent jobs to which you can apply your existing assets.

These three steps can help you stay relevant over time, even if a Goliath is coming for you.

A Step-By-Step Guide to Using Clay Christensen’s Competing Against Luck and Jobs Theory to Launch Great Products, Part 1: How to Ask The Right Question

Concept business illustration.

This is a two part series explaining thrv’s process for executing Jobs Theory. Part 1: How to Ask The Right Question is about defining your customer’s job, identifying unmet needs, and analyzing competition. Part 2: Answering The Right Question is about how to build a high-growth roadmap using Jobs Theory.

Throughout my 25-year career as a Private Equity investor, as a CEO of two Silicon Valley startups backed by A-list VCs, and as a Product Manager at Microsoft, I consistently ran into the same mission critical problem: no one knew how to predict revenue growth.

It was easy to predict our costs because we controlled them. However, we struggled to predict our revenue growth because we didn’t know what caused people to buy our products. Without understanding purchasing causes, we couldn’t accurately predict how changes to our products would accelerate our revenue growth.

Ten years ago, I found the solution to my problem in Jobs-to-be-Done innovation theory (aka Jobs Theory), the subject of Clay Christensen’s new book, Competing Against Luck. The central idea behind Jobs Theory is, “your customers are not buying your products, they are hiring them to get a job done.”

If you understand what that job is, you can identify what causes customers to hire your products. As a result, you can make improvements to your products that will get the job done better. This is the key to mitigating investment risk and forecasting revenue accurately.

In the book, Clay states, “a job has an inherent complexity to it: it not only has functional dimensions, but it has social and emotional dimensions too.” This is why “in practice, seeing a job clearly and fully characterizing it can be tricky.”

After a decade of practicing Jobs Theory with companies ranging from $50 million to $50 billion in revenue, I couldn’t agree more with Clay. Identifying the job your customers are hiring your product to do is very difficult. Yet for the companies I’ve worked with, it has been the difference between declining or accelerating revenue growth.

Competing Against Luck is a deep exploration of Jobs Theory, but Clay is clear about “not attempting to be comprehensive or provide a step-by-step manual.”

In my time working with Jobs Theory, I learned that companies need a step-by-step process to turn the theory into high-growth products. That’s why I started thrv — to provide training, services, and software that enable executives and product teams to execute Jobs Theory successfully.

For those of you wondering how to use Jobs Theory to launch great products, here’s a step-by-step guide (in two parts) that maps a decade of practice to the theory in Competing Against Luck.

Step 1: Define your customer’s jobs.
In Competing Against Luck, Clay and his fellow authors suggest:

…define a job as the progress that a person is trying to make in a particular circumstance…a job has an inherent complexity to it: it not only has functional dimensions, but it has social and emotional dimensions too.

Rather than combine the functional, social, and emotional dimensions into one complex job statement, in practice I’ve found it easier to separate jobs into three different types:

  • Functional Jobs
  • Emotional Jobs
  • Consumption Jobs

Let’s look at each.

Functional Jobs
A functional job is the core task or goal that a customer is trying to accomplish.

The key is to define the task or goal independently from any product, service or technology.

As Clay says, “we don’t ‘create’ jobs, we discover them.”

“Creating a playlist on Spotify” is not a job because it includes a product (Spotify) and a solution (creating a playlist).

The question is: why do people create a playlist on Spotify? One answer is to “create a mood with music.” This is a more useful articulation of the functional job.

All products evolve and fade away over time. In order to execute the job of creating a mood with music, consumers have “hired” a huge range of products: piano rolls, Victrolas, LPs, eight-track tapes, reel-to-reel tapes, cassettes, CDs, MP3 players, and streaming apps. If you define the job with reference to the technologies consumers have used, you will be trying to hit a moving target. But, the job of creating a mood with music has never changed and will never change. This gives you a stable target for your business. Jobs Theory holds true in B2B and medical markets as we will demonstrate below.


Photo by Gillo Pontebraga – CC BY

According to Clay, “the circumstance is fundamental to defining the job (and finding a solution for it), because the nature of the progress desired will always be strongly influenced by the circumstance.”

At thrv, we state this a little differently, but the concept is the same: who is the job executor?

For example, is the job executor a consumer, a driver, a traveler, a parent, a surgeon, a nurse, a patient, a salesperson, a small business owner, a CIO, a technical architect, a database administrator, an engineer?

A single person can, of course, be multiple job executors (i.e. a driver, a parent, a patient, and an engineer) all in the same day. In Clay’s words, a person can find themselves in different “circumstances.”

The job executor is your core customer. The market exists because they are trying to execute a job-to-be-done.

While the job executor does not always make the purchase decision (e.g. a procurement officer or a hospital administrator can influence a purchase), your market exists because someone is trying to execute the core functional job. There would be no reason to purchase a solution if no one were trying to execute the functional job.

At the end of Competing Against Luck, Clay writes, “Defining the job at the right level of abstraction is critical to ensuring that the theory is useful.” This is a key step in the process.

We use three techniques to get to the “right level of abstraction.”

Focus on why in customer interviews. Ask your customers why they use a certain product. Why does a salesperson use CRM software? Why does a patient use a step-tracking app? CRM software and health apps are solutions and thus not jobs. Asking why will remove the product (which is ever-changing) from the equation and uncover the job (which is stable).

Use the Wake Up in the Morning Test. When your job executor wakes up in the morning, do they think, “I have to get this job done today”? Do salespeople wake up wondering how they will acquire customers? Do parents wake up wondering how to instill a behavior in a child? If yes, ask a helpful follow-up, “Did people waking up 100 years ago also need to do get this job done?” If not, you likely have included a solution in your job statement and you do not have a stable target for a long-lasting business.

Use Active, Goal-Driven Job Verbs. Clay writes, “a well-defined job-to-be-done is expressed in verbs and nouns.” But, what kind of verbs? Certain verbs, like “manage,” are not helpful in defining a job. For example, “manage lead data” is not a job for a salesperson because it is not the goal (i.e. it is at the wrong level of abstraction). Why does a salesperson want to manage lead data? To acquire customers. Acquire customers is the goal and thus a more useful level of abstraction. Good job verbs are active and goal-driven, such as: determine, understand, learn, acquire, enable, ensure, optimize, create, teach, instill, develop, buy, sell, obtain, identify, detect, mitigate, diagnose, treat, cure, prevent.

Emotional Jobs
We look at emotional jobs separate from the core functional job. This makes it easier to identify the emotions a job executor is experiencing when doing the job and ensures that we don’t neglect the functional job. Emotional jobs are important, but if you don’t get the functional job done, eventually your customer’s negative feelings will take over and they will fire your product.

Emotional jobs come in two flavors: personal and social.

A personal-emotional job is how you want to feel and avoid feeling when executing a job. For example, when getting to a destination on time, drivers want to feel calm and confident that they will arrive on time. They want to avoid feeling anxious about being late.

A social-emotional job is how the job executor wants to be perceived (and avoid being perceived) by others. For example, an IT professional wants to be perceived as valuable to the organization when optimizing a network. A surgeon wants to avoid being perceived as unsympathetic by patients when restoring artery blood flow.

Emotional jobs matter because if two products get the functional job done equally well, customers will choose the one that makes them feel better. For instance, if two different 401k services produce the same rate of return, they get the functional job done equally well. But, if one service hides the day-to-day data, it will make me anxious. I will choose the one that makes the health of my fund more transparent, relieving my anxiety. As Clay writes, “Overcoming customer anxieties is a very big deal.”

Consumption Jobs
Consumption jobs are the tasks required to use a solution. Purchase, install, learn to use, interface, maintain, repair, and dispose are all consumption jobs that relate to using a solution.

In the book, Clay doesn’t use the same language to discuss Consumption Jobs, but when he talks about “experiences,” he often includes Consumption Jobs.

One example from the book is how American Girl dolls were never sold in traditional toy stores but only in catalogues and then in American Girl stores. The stores in particular turned purchasing a doll (a consumption job) into a special event between a parent and their child. By tightly controlling their sales channels, American Girl improved on the purchase job. It’s a great example of how improving consumption jobs can contribute to the whole experience of getting the job done with a product.

Step 2: Identify all the needs in your customer’s job.
Knowing the customers functional, emotional and consumption jobs is just the start to practicing jobs theory. As Clay states, a product “designed without a clear job spec, even the most advanced products are likely to fail.” But, what is a “job spec”?

In our view, a job spec should include all the criteria a customer uses to judge if she can execute the job successfully. We call these criteria the customer needs, and they are metrics. As Clay writes, “A powerful lever to drive job-centric process development and integration is to measure and manage to new metrics aligned with nailing the customer’s job.”

So how do we identify all the needs (the “new metrics”) in your customer’s job? First, let’s define a customer need in more detail.

We know that all job executors want to execute the job “perfectly,” in Clay’s words. In our view, this means they want to execute it as fast as possible without any errors and without it going off track–quickly and accurately.

The good news is that speed and accuracy in a functional job can be measured, so we use “time” and “likelihood” as the main metrics to define customer needs in a job.

When drivers are trying to get to a destination on time, they need to reduce the time it takes to determine if an alternative route should be taken due to traffic. When surgeons are restoring artery blood flow, they need to reduce the likelihood of restenosis. When CIOs are enabling secure data use, they need to reduce the time it takes to determine the referential integrity of the data. When consumers are trying to create a mood with music, they need to reduce the likelihood that a song disturbs the mood.

We always structure customer needs the same way. They have a direction (reduce), a metric (time or likelihood), and a goal (e.g. an alternative route, restenosis). This structure makes needs measurable and consistent so you can align your team around objective goals.

Competing Against Luck uses the example of Southern New Hampshire University, who focused on the job of “providing [adult learners] with credentials that would improve their professional prospects as quickly and efficiently as possible.” Re-focusing on this job generated explosive growth for SNHU.

One way SNHU improved their performance on this job was by responding to financial aid inquiries within 10 minutes instead of 24 hours.

This demonstrates how you can define the needs in the job as metrics customers use to judge how quickly and accurately they can get the job done. We would define the job of SNHU’s customers as adult learners (the job executors) obtaining credentials to improve their professional prospects (the job-to-be-done).

Instead of framing the problem generically as adult learners who want to execute this job “as quickly and efficiently as possible,” we would identify all the needs in the job and structure them with a direction (reduce), a metric (time or likelihood), and a goal (e.g. obtain financial aid).

This gives us more detail about what “quickly and efficiently” actually means to the job executors.

Responding to financial aid inquiries within 10 minutes reduces the time it takes to determine if you can obtain financial aid. This is just one need in the job, but every job-to-be-done has about 100 customer needs (metrics). Your job spec should include all of these needs to get a full picture of the job.

This need structure is useful throughout the process. It helps you identify unmet needs, find competitor weaknesses, generate the best product ideas, and mitigate risk in your product road map.

Step 3: Find the unmet needs in your customer’s job.
“The Theory of Jobs to Be Done…focuses on deeply understanding your customers’ struggle for progress and then creating the right solution…”

Finding unmet needs is how you precisely articulate and quantify your customers’ struggles. A need is unmet if it has high importance but low customer satisfaction. It indicates that the job executor wants something to happen quickly or accurately but is not able to make it happen with their current solution. They are primed to switch to a new solution that meets the need.

We uncover the unmet needs with a survey that asks job executors to rate each need in the job for importance and satisfaction.

Identifying unmet needs also helps you empathize with your customers.

For example, Apple and Google Map did not help drivers “reduce the time it takes to determine an alternate route.”

You can picture this.

Imagine you are driving to a job interview and traffic on the highway comes to a complete stop. It’s not rush hour so this is a total surprise. What do you do? Do you get off and try to go a different way? How long is the traffic jam? Maybe a traffic report will come on the radio soon, but your anxiety increases with every passing minute.

Before Waze, you had no way to quickly determine if you should take an alternate route.

Waze built a business that Google bought for $1.3 billion by serving this unmet need in the job of getting to a destination on time. Waze’s app did this better than Google Maps, Apple Maps, and the radio. As a result users switched, and Waze experienced exponential growth.

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Step 4: Segment your customers.
Marketing 101 teaches us to identify a target customer. With Jobs-to-be-Done, our target is the job executors with the most unmet needs. They are the most underserved customers and therefore the segment who is most likely to buy (“hire”) your product to get the job done.

How is this different from traditional segmentation?

Clay writes, “Here I am, Clayton Christensen. I’m sixty-four years old. I’m six feet eight inches tall. My shoe size is sixteen. My wife and I have sent all our children off to college. I live in a suburb of Boston and drive a Honda minivan to work. I have a lot of other characteristics and attributes. But these characteristics have not yet caused me to go out and buy the New York Times today.”

Clay captures the essential flaw in traditional segmentation: demographics and psychographics do not cause purchases.

Age, shoe size, zip code, purchase history, etc. are all examples of characteristics that companies traditionally use to segment customers. This is also true in B2B markets, where companies segment customers by industry classification, number of employees, revenue, etc.

Here is a thought experiment to prove the point that demographics are not the most useful means of segmentation. Could an elderly rural woman who drives an economy car and an urban young man who drives a luxury sports car both struggle to get to a destination on time in the same way? In other words, could they have the same unmet needs in the job?

The answer, of course, is yes. But these two people (or “personas”) would never be grouped together in traditional segmentation and so a large portion of the market would be missed.

To execute Jobs Theory, we find customers who rate the same needs as important and unsatisfied and group them together. These are the people most likely to buy your product if it gets the job done better, regardless of their personas. They have the highest levels of frustration and anxiety when executing the job and are likely looking for a new solution.

Step 5: Identify your competitors’ weaknesses.
Once you have identified the job, found the unmet needs in the job, and segmented your customers, it’s time to identify your competitor’s weaknesses.

In every market there are multiple competitors, but they might not be who you expect. As Clay writes, “the competitive field is likely completely different from what you might have imagined.”

Did you ever think that Facebook is competing with cigarettes?

A smoker taking a break is not just seeking nicotine. Nicotine is a solution to a job. The underlying job is to relax.

As Clay writes, “From this perspective, people hire Facebook for many of the same reasons. They log into Facebook during the middle of the workday to take a break from work, relax for a few minutes while thinking about other things, and convene around a virtual water cooler with far-flung friends.”

The first part of identifying your competitors’ weaknesses is to identify the solutions people use to get the job done.

Airlines are not just competing with other airlines to help salespeople acquire customers. They are competing against web conferencing and CRM software. Angioplasty balloon makers are not just competing against other medical devices to help patients with blocked arteries improve their health. They are competing against diet programs, exercise routines, and fitness devices.

Once you see your entire competitive landscape, you can find and measure your competitors’ weaknesses by using the unmet needs in your customer’s job.

The structure of a customer need (direction, metric, goal) makes this possible. Your team can measure competitive weakness down to the second and the percentage. If the competition attempts to meet a need with a solution that is slow, manual, unreliable, or inaccurate, you have found a competitive weakness.

The competitive weakness sets the bar for how well your solution should meet the needs. To get customers to switch, you should target significant improvements over the speed and accuracy of your competition’s weak solution.


Now that you’ve defined your customer’s functional, emotional, and consumption jobs, identified the unmet needs, segmented your market, and analyzed how the competition serves these needs for the segment, you have the right question:

What can we do to serve our segment’s unmet needs in the job better than the existing solutions?

In Part 2, we’ll show you the process for answering this question.

Be sure not to miss Part 2 by signing up for our Jobs Theory newsletter. If you want to learn more about thrv right away, sign up for a demo.

Understanding Snapchat’s Disruption Story Using Jobs-to-be-Done

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Snapchat launched in September of 2011. Just 2 years later, Facebook attempted to acquire them for $3 billion. A year into their stratospheric growth, mainstream media assumed it was a sexting app. Why else would you want your photos to disappear? Now, Snapchat is worth $20 billion and major brands are spending hundreds of millions per year advertising with them.

Snapchat didn’t awaken the world to a deep latent need for sexting. By looking at Snapchat through the lens of Jobs-to-be-Done, we can see how they capitalized on an unmet need in the job of “Share a moment,” and we can project the next opportunities in this market.

Consider why people share photos and videos on apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and even Flickr. As the apps have evolved, users have been able to accomplish quite a bit:

The list barley scratches the surface. You can hire these apps to do many jobs. But at a high level, everyone posting on them has the same goal: they are trying to share a moment. “Share a moment” is the job-to-be-done that illuminates the disruption in this market.

If all of these apps help users do the same thing, how did so many of them gain millions (or hundreds of millions) of users? Different Job Executors consider different Needs to be important. Snapchat snuck up on Facebook by finding a large population of Job Executors who thought a Need was extremely important and were deeply unhappy with how underserved it was.

A Job Executor is someone who is trying to get a job done. In the case of “Sharing a moment,” you have many Job Executors: professional photographers, small business owners, parents, coaches, college kids, teenagers, journalists–a wide variety of people want to share moments.

Using conventional marketing tactics you could segment them into dozens, if not hundreds, of demographic personas. In the Jobs-to-be-Done framework, we segment by unmet needs, grouping people who believe the same needs are important and who are not satisfied with their ability to meet those needs today.

A Need is a metric used to measure the speed and accuracy of executing a job. Like Jobs, Needs are stable across time and across people. Here are a few Needs in the job, “Share a moment:”

  • Reduce the time it takes to recognize that this moment is shareable e.g. “You should take a video of that monkey because he looks like he’s about to steal something and that will be hilarious!” If you’re too slow to recognize the moment, you will miss it and not be able to share it.


  • Reduce the time it takes to capture the moment. You don’t want to be that person trying to unlock your phone while your kid’s homerun sails over the fence.
  • Reduce the likelihood that the way the moment is captured fails to communicate why it’s special e.g. the photo is out of focus or has bad lighting; the video is long and boring.
  • Reduce the likelihood that the moment damages your reputation. Anthony Weiner. ‘Nuff said.

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Each Need has a direction of improvement (“reduce”), a metric (“time” or “likelihood”), and a goal (e.g. “capture the moment”). This means you can measure each Need and know how well a given solution serves it. For instance, you can measure how long it takes to “capture the moment” with an SLR camera slung around your neck vs the camera app on your phone in your pocket. The method that is faster meets the need better.

The magic of Customer Needs in the Job is that everyone trying to execute the job has the same needs no matter who they are or when they are trying to do the job. Monet needs to reduce the time it takes to paint water lilies. Avedon needs to reduce the time it takes to snap the photo of the elephant before it puts its foot down. New parents need to reduce the time it takes to memorialize their child’s first steps. Teenagers need to reduce the time it takes to snag a pic of that most embarrassing but hilarious thing their friends did at a party.

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The Needs in the Job are the same, but their importance and satisfaction are different for different Job Executors. Monet’s hand might have gotten tired if it took a long time for him to paint the water lilies, but that moment lasts a relatively long time. Therefore, it’s not very important for Monet to capture it quickly.

However, a child’s first steps start and finish in the blink of an eye. For new parents, it’s incredibly important to move fast to capture that moment. In the 80s, they were likely terribly dissatisfied with how long it took to bust out the VHS recording machine. Satisfaction levels have changed today. If you search Vine for “baby first steps,” you’ll see parents are now pretty good at capturing moments quickly.

The Need hasn’t changed; the technology has. As a result, there are new solutions that serve the need better.

So, why did some people take to Snapchat like bees to honey and others couldn’t have been more confused by it?

I’m 35. When Snapchat first came out, I told my younger friends, “Why do I want to look at your photos that are so bad they aren’t even worth saving to look at later?” I was flummoxed.

But, if I think about the Needs in the Job, “Share a moment,” and the Job Executors, it all makes sense.

Facebook didn’t hit my college until 2004, just after I graduated. Camera phones were crap, and with the iPhone launch still 3 years away, we only had dumb phones. Photo sharing was not a big deal yet. I did a lot of really goofy things in college and high school which, thankfully, are lost to the sands of time.

By the time camera phones and photo sharing on Facebook exploded, I was a bit more mature (but not by much). Reducing the likelihood of damaging my reputation was only somewhat important to me and I was pretty satisfied with my ability to do it.

What if I went to college a few years later? Everyone armed with a bazillion megapixel camera. Taking photos and videos of every single moment. Posting them to this site where all my friends, family and future employers can see them, for ALL TIME.

The need to reduce the likelihood of damaging my rep would be terribly important and horribly unsatisfied. This is life for everyone who started college in say, 2007 or later. Enter Snapchat.

With their self-destructing photos, Snapchat met the need of reducing the likelihood of damaging your reputation, while keeping it easy and fun to share moments.

This was not just for the Anthony Weiners of the world. This was for any normal kid who did kid type stuff and wanted to laugh about it with their friends. Snapchat let them laugh without the risk of an employer or someone important eternally judging them. A disappearing photo has a really hard time reaching unwanted parties. And even if someone who saw it judged you, you could deny, deny, deny.

Snapchat disrupted Facebook by serving a need that was deeply important and hugely unsatisfied for an enormous population. They served the need much better than Facebook or Instagram.

Now with image filters, they are serving the need “Reduce the likelihood that the way you captured the moment fails to communicate why it’s special.” Watch out, Instagram!

To find the next big opportunity to disrupt the “Share a moment” market, we would:

  1. Uncover all of the Needs in the Job with customer interviews
  2. Execute quantitative research to determine the importance and satisfaction of each need to different Job Executors
  3. Generate ideas and build features that serve the unmet needs for the highest value segments better than the competition, like Snapchat did

If you execute well against the most underserved needs, you become a threat to the incumbents. When you move on to serve the whole job (or even multiple jobs) better, you can disrupt them and be on your way to building a 100 year business.

Anyone have a good idea for reducing the time it takes to recognize that a moment is shareable?

JTBD Product Management: An Education Market Example, Part 1

Last week we posted our Jobs-to-be-Done cheat sheet. It’s a handy guide to help you understand how JTBD differs from traditional thinking, and how you can use the JTBD framework to create products people want to buy. This week we go into detail on five of these ideas.

Jobs-to-be-Done has its own language, filled with analogies, phrases and terminology that you’ll become familiar with over time. Soon you’ll be reminding your colleagues that “no one wants a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.” While that might be a clever way to illustrate the difference between a product and a job-to-be-done, we know that catchy phrases are not enough. You need to see how JTBD can affect your day-to-day practices.

We’ll start with the first five concepts on the cheat sheet, dealing with your market, target customer, and competition. In our next two posts, we’ll cover the remaining concepts. Feel free to review the cheat sheet before reading on.

Let’s explore these ideas using an example from the education sector. Imagine you work for a company that makes textbooks, an educational publisher. It’s a pretty complex environment with multiple stakeholders (students, teachers, administrators, parents…) and thanks to the rapid advance of technology, new competitors are entering the market. At thrv, we would approach this challenge from a different perspective:

Market Definition

As an educational publisher, the natural assumption to make is that there is a market for your product – books. Students want to learn from the best books, and teachers, parents & administrators want to ensure that students have access to those books. The job seems simple – produce a book with up to date information that’s well written, easy to understand, is well-designed and will stand up to the wear and tear of a year traveling to school, the library and back home.

But is a book what the students really want? Actually, what they really want is to learn and nowhere is it written that textbooks are the only, or even the best, delivery mechanism for imparting information. This paradigm shift – from markets for products to markets for getting a job done is the single biggest ‘flip’ from the traditional way of seeing things to the way we view things at thrv. Once you understand what the true market is, you’re now open to viewing problems, and most importantly solutions, in a whole new light, and that’s where the greatest opportunity for innovation and success lies.

Research

People, as a rule, want to please. They are often uncomfortable telling you things they don’t think you’ll like to hear. When you show a customer your new product and ask, “do you like this calculus book?” they are inclined to say, “Yes.” After all, they don’t want to disappoint you. They may even like the look and feel of it, but will it help a student learn calculus? You don’t know yet. As a result, you probably haven’t gotten a true read on the potential for your product.

By contrast, ask a person about some task they are trying to get done, like learning calculus, and they will give you a specific, detailed answer. They may tell you that it’s frustrating when they have a specific question and there’s no one around to ask. In that case, making a better book isn’t necessarily the answer. By researching the job and looking for unmet needs you’ll find specific problems that you need to solve and your customers will care about.

Market Segmentation

Demographics and Personas are the Siren Song of product development, luring you towards the rocky shores, ready to dash your product upon the rocks of apathy and dissatisfaction. Yes, there are many differences between an 11th grade Asian-American female from Seattle and a Mexican-American 10th grade boy who lives in Atlanta. But for your purposes, it’s much more important to understand what they have in common: a need to learn calculus and a dissatisfaction with the current methods.

A far more relevant way of segmenting your market is by looking at people with the same unmet needs. The female from Seattle and the male from Atlanta may get frustrated in the same way when they have a question that can’t be answered in the moment, regardless of their location, age, or gender. The unmet needs tell you more about the solution you need to create than the customer’s demographic profile.

Competition

The traditional way of understanding who you’re competing with is to focus on the companies who make similar products. If you print books, so do your competitors, otherwise they wouldn’t be your competitors, right? Not anymore, not if you’re focused on the job-to-done. Remember, customers are not buying your product, they are hiring it to get a job done. So, when considering how they can learn something, they are not just comparing books to books. They are comparing books to in-person tutoring, online videos, interactive online courses, anything that helps them learn.

Any product, service or process, including DIY, that performs all or part of the job is a competitor. Threats can come from businesses using new technology to get the job done faster or those that are only serving one part of the job extremely well and soon will transition to your domain, taking market share in the process. The good news is, when you’re focused on the job, it’s much clearer which new technologies you should adopt to stay ahead of the competition or understand which customer needs you need to serve better. Or if you are the competition, you can see where the incumbent is vulnerable.

Analyze Competition

Ever gone to a website and seen one of those comparison charts, where Product A has 23 features, and Product B “only” has 18 features and poor Product C, with their 15 features, well, how can they compete? Of course, you only need about six features, so, you’re still confused on which product to buy.

The issue isn’t how many features you have, it’s whether or not your features are actually satisfying the needs of the customer. The best part is, that’s measurable! Does a feature help the customer get the job done faster? How much faster? Does a feature help a customer get the job done more accurately? How much more accurately? By measuring factors such as these, you can devise features with demonstrable, quantifiable benefits. Or maybe you can satisfy all the needs with just one feature! Customers don’t hire your product because it has a lot of features, they hire it because it has the features that get the job done.


Those are five ways JTBD helps you think different. How does your organization develop its product road map? Do you do it the traditional way? Could you benefit from implementing the thrv approach? If so, get in touch with us, we’d love to talk with you about how our products and services can help you launch high growth products.

In the next post, we’ll take a look at generating ideas, pricing your product, and projecting revenue.