Customer Needs

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.

8 Signs You Need a Product Development Framework

Process and frameworks can get a bad rap. Many companies are proud of having a light-weight or loose process, considering themselves “agile,” “fluid,” and “intuitive.” They may even say their work is like jazz and they don’t want to restrict their creativity. Most of all, teams fear that process will slow them down.

But, a company can also be dragged down by a lack of clarity: about decision-making, goals, and what’s causing goals to be missed. This condition can cause a downward spiral of guesses, failures, frustration, and a lack of trust that leads to more guessing and so on.

Here are eight signs that your company is on the verge of a downward spiral and tips on how a strong product development framework, such as Jobs-to-be-Done, can rescue you.

Sign 1: Missing Revenue and Profit Growth Goals
When your company is failing to hit its growth goals, be it revenue or profits, it puts strain on every team.

Revenue problems put stress on the sales team first. If only they could sell better, the company will earn more money.

All sales teams should aspire to be well-oiled, high-performance selling machines, but there is little they can do if the product does not satisfy customer needs better than the competition. See Wells Fargo’s recent fraudulent sales scandal as an example of how damaging it can be to put all of the revenue pressure on the sales team.

Sign 2: Disagreement on Customer Needs
To get growth back on track, the product team needs to ensure that their product is satisfying customer needs better than the competition. This raises an important question: What is a customer need?

Your product team may lack an agreed upon definition of a customer need, let alone agree on your customers’ needs.

If this is true, they’ll tend to use proxies to determine what to build:

  • Customer feature requests (“I want a faster horse.”)
  • Sales team feature requests (“I can close this deal if you’ll just build this feature.”)
  • Feature ideas from stakeholders, executives, etc. (“I love this idea. I know if we build it we’ll get growth. I can just feel it.”)
  • New technologies (“Augmented reality is the next big thing. Our customers need it!”)
  • New channels (“Everyone is on Snapchat. Our customers need us there too.”)

The problem with these proxy inputs is that they change frequently and often rapidly, which means the team is attempting to hit a moving target. A framework can provide a stable definition of customer needs.

Sign 3: Road maps Prioritized by Fierce Debate and Negotiation


How many times have you seen someone use their rhetorical prowess and passion to convince the room that a feature should be built?

How often do you hear someone refer to roadmapping as “horse trading?” Are your roadmap meetings exhausting and exasperating, with internal stakeholders jockeying to “win” the meeting by getting “their” features prioritized?

A colleague’s persuasive abilities have no bearing on the extent to which a feature idea will solve your customer’s problems.

Under the stress of such an environment, you may resort to answering easy questions, “Do I like how this feature looks?” or “Will I feel better if I give my colleague her way and get this meeting over with?” rather than the most important question, “Will this roadmap satisfy customer needs better than the competition?”

Sign 4: The HiPPO Rules
The HiPPO is the “Highest Paid Person’s Opinion.” It’s a fast way to decide what should be on the road map, but is it the best path to growth?

If the highest paid person happens to be very close to the problem you’re solving with your product, you might be in luck. When answering the question, “Do I like this?” she may do so from a frame of reference similar to your customer’s.

But, in larger companies, the highest paid person may be far removed from the customer’s problem or perhaps has never experienced it. Her primary activity could be managing people and nowhere in the job description did it say, “Must have experienced our customer’s problem.” If that’s the case, what she likes and doesn’t like could be wildly different from what’s useful to the customer.

Sign 5: Shiny New Object Syndrome Leads to The Disposable Road Map
With technological progress at a rapidly accelerating pace, you can expect exciting new technologies and channels to come on the scene very frequently. What do you do about it?

Do you let the shiny new objects steal your focus and cause you to throw out your road map? Or do you have a clear criteria for whether to adopt new capabilities or discard them as mere distractions?

Maintaining agility with your product road map is a virtue, but it has limits. If you find your road map is ripped up so often that you never finish a feature or you’re constantly releasing half-baked features that never get their planned iteration cycles, you’ve got a problem.

All this zigging and zagging will lead to a product full of elements that “sort of” work, none of which are truly great, and none of which bring value to the customer.

Chasing the shiny new objects and constantly changing the road map are indicators that your team disagrees on what the customer needs are. You’re likely using the proxies mentioned above (sales requests, new tech, etc) to determine what to build and as they change, your road map changes.

Sign 6: Launches Met with Crickets


You know when you put something out there, loud and proud, and all you get in response back is…crickets?

That can happen with a product release as well. Your team puts in a lot of hard work and gets very excited to show it to the world. The launch happens, you celebrate, and then you realize a week later that no one is using the new features in your product..

The obvious answer in this situation is “oh, the users haven’t found the feature yet. Let’s add help text or a flashing message somewhere to point it out to them.” If you do this and three weeks later there is no uptick in usage, you have a bigger problem. Either the new feature isn’t serving a customer need at all or the need it serves is already met.

Sign 7: Feuding Product and Marketing Teams
As a product person, have you ever looked at a marketing campaign and thought, “Why are they promoting that?”

And as a marketing person, have you ever read release notes and thought, “Why would a customer care about this? I guess I’ll just call out the new features.”

Or perhaps you’ve witnessed your product and marketing teams denigrating each other: “I just can’t understand what that team is doing. I don’t think they even know.”

If this sounds like a familiar pattern, you have a communication breakdown between your product and marketing teams that a framework can help solve.

Sign 8: Reinventing The Decision-Making Wheel
Last week you presented a deck with designs your stakeholders loved. Two weeks ago you assessed the impact of a new idea on your team’s KPIs. Three weeks ago the executives were compelled by the user problem and approved your plan.

To prepare for the next defense of your road map, you’ve been meeting individually with various stakeholders, trying to determine what’s on their minds.

If the criteria for decision-making is constantly shifting and needs to be divined from tea leaves, you could really use a framework.


The Solution
A product development framework like Jobs-to-be-Done can prevent the downward spiral of guessing, missing goals, growing frustrations, negotiations, more guessing, etc.

The key idea behind Jobs-to-be-Done, a framework based on the theory of the same namepopularized Clayton Christensen, is that your customers are not actually buying your product, they are hiring it to get a job done. This is important because your customer’s struggle with the job is what causes them to look for a product and make purchase.

In Jobs-to-be-Done, customer needs are a precise articulation of that struggle. Needs are the metrics customers use to judge how well they can execute the job. Since people want to get the job done quickly and accurately, customer needs are written in terms of time and likelihood. For example, drivers who want to reach a destination on time (a job-to-be-done) need to “reduce the time it takes to determine if they should take an alternate route due to traffic conditions” and “reduce the likelihood that recent road modifications are not considered when setting the route.” Those are two customer needs in the job that are stable and the team can target with their road map.

This brings us to a key question: What does it mean to satisfy the need “better” than the competition?

Now that we’ve defined needs as metrics of speed and accuracy, “better” is easy to define and detect. The solution that meets the need faster and more accurately is “better,” i.e. it will deliver more customer satisfaction.

If the product team delivers solutions that meet the needs in the job faster and more accurately than the competition, people will use the product and put growth back on track. Marketing the product becomes easier as the features are designed with the customer benefit in mind at the start, which can be promoted at launch.

With Jobs-to-be-Done, the team gains alignment around satisfying customer needs, which leads to hitting growth goals. This customer-centric approach minimizes internal debate and negotiation because it raises the conversation away from individuals’ goals and their products to how groups work together to resolve a customer’s job faster and more efficiently. It puts the focus on your customer’s goals and assumes that if you deliver against them, everyone in the company will hit their own goals.

Your team will have common goals, common metric-driven means of evaluating proposals, and a common language with which to discuss it, decreasing the conflict and the ferocity of the debate and negotiation in the roadmapping room.

When you adopt Jobs-to-be-Done at your company, decision-making meetings can get pretty boring. The criteria is almost always “does the proposition on the table satisfy the targeted customer need in the job better than the competition?” You may have an interesting conversation about what you can do to have an even better idea, but the criteria remain the same.

If you’ve seen one or more of the above signs at your company, you’re not alone. Many teams have experienced these problems. Fortunately, there is a solution. Find a framework that works for you. And contact us at thrv.

[video] thrv CEO on Building High-Growth Products with Jobs-to-be-Done at Product Tank SF

Jay Haynes, thrv’s CEO, gave a talk on Building High-Growth Products with Jobs-to-be-Done at Product Tank SF, the San Francisco Meetup for Mind The Product. Below is the video of the talk.

Watch for the moment when Jay asks, “How many people work on teams where everybody agrees on what a customer need is?” Nobody raises a hand. So, if you’ve ever felt this way, you are not alone. But, as Jay explains in the video, there is a solution for clearly defining customer needs using the job-to-be-done.

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.

How Jobs-to-be-Done Completes Your Google Ventures Design Sprint

sprint-cover

In 2010, Google Ventures design partner Jake Knapp developed a process that would help product teams go from abstract idea to a testable prototype in five days flat, now known as the Google Ventures Design Sprint. Within the past five years, Knapp has led more than 100 design sprints with companies like 23andme, Slack, and Nest.

But, while some of the hottest names in the tech industry have adopted Knapp’s approach, the design sprint on its own can lead to solving the wrong problem and overly subjective criteria for solutions. By pairing sprints with Jobs-to-Be-Done, product teams can define the problem from the customer’s point-of-view and objectively choose solutions that satisfy customer needs. The combination of JTBD and the Google Ventures Design Sprint ensures that your work will bring value to the user and your business.

What is the Google Ventures Design Sprint?
Knapp explains the design sprint process in his book, Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days complete with step-by-step instructions on how to conduct a sprint on your own. The goal is to educate teams on how they can focus their energy on creating solutions quickly and eliminate exhausting brainstorms that go nowhere.

The sprint is broken down into five stages, each taking up one day: Understand, Diverge, Decide, Prototype, Validate. A pending deadline paired with a clear process makes the Google Ventures design sprint an easy sell for design teams. It’s quick and intense.

“When we talk to startups about sprints, we encourage them to go after their most important problem,” writes Knapp. Later in the book he adds, “your goal should reflect your team’s principles and aspirations.”

How does a team know its most “important” problem? If the sprint’s focus is defined by the team’s “principles and aspirations,” how do you know they match users’ needs?

For example, imagine a team whose product has low user engagement rates.

Improving the daily or monthly active user counts is critical to business growth and their eventual round of funding. As such, they define their most important problem as “users aren’t opening our app frequently enough.”

A common (although not too clever) solution is to gamify the app in hopes of increasing user activity. But users don’t want to spend more time in your app, they want to solve their own problems quickly and move on with their lives.

If you define your most important problem from the perspective of your employees or business goals, you may miss solving the most important problems of the people who matter most, your customers.

Why JTBD is Critical to Your Process:
None of this is to say the design sprint is wrong. It’s simply incomplete. To complete it, the team must understand what the customer need is from the beginning, without the context of their own product. To identify unmet customer needs, companies must understand what job their customers are hiring a product to do, as described in the Jobs to Be Done (JTBD) framework popularized by Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business School professor and author of The Innovator’s Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth.

Here are the moments of a Google Ventures Design Sprint that are risky without a customer-focused product strategy method such as JTBD:

1. On Day One, the Design Sprint process relies on the intuition of the team to determine and map out the problem. There are no requirements to talk to customers until the problem has been solved and prototyped. The risk of choosing a business-driven problem instead of a user-driven problem is high.

2. On Day Three, everyone pins drawings of their solution ideas to a whiteboard. Each participant is given stickers and asked to place them on any solutions they find “interesting.” This activity creates a pseudo-heat map of good solutions. However, asking participants “what is interesting?” is the easy question.

“When faced with a difficult question, we often answer an easier one instead, usually without noticing the substitution,” said Daniel Kahneman, psychologist, Nobel Prize winner, and author of Thinking Fast and Slow.

The difficult question is: “Which solution serves your customer’s need better than the existing solutions in the market?” Satisfying customer needs is your goal, not building features the team thinks are interesting.

3. After selecting a few “interesting” solutions, the design sprint presents yet another opportunity for subjective decision-making in the role of The Decider, often the CEO, PM or another executive. When voting for the best solution to the problem, the decider can override all other votes. In an environment where the highest paid opinion wins, it’s hard to see where customer sits in all of this.

“Deciders generally understand the problem in depth, and they often have strong opinions and criteria to help them find the right solution,” Knapp wrote in his book.

Although Knapp may have strong, intuitive skills that align with customer needs, not all teams are created equally. CEOs will veto group decisions. Product managers will rely too heavily on their own agenda. And teammates will get attached to ideas. Intuition-based decision making can be dangerous. It’s unpredictable and ripe for customer neglect, but we can create procedural safeguards to protect against its bias.

Pairing the Google Ventures Design Sprint with Jobs-to-Be-Done
How can Design Sprints use JTBD to create clear, objective criteria for defining problems and making decisions?

Here’s an idea:

  • Before day one of the sprint, define the customer’s job-to-be-done.
  • Map the steps people take when executing the job.
  • Through customer interviews, identify the metrics job executors use to judge whether or not the job is going well. These are your customer needs.
  • Conduct quantitative research to determine which needs are unmet–those that are rated important but not satisfied in a customer survey.
  • Now, define the problem for the sprint. Choose one highly unmet customer need to serve. Your goal is to “generate ideas that serve the need better than the existing solutions.” This starts your sprint with an objective, customer-focused problem.
  • When choosing a solution, change the criteria from “most interesting” to how well the solution serves the unmet need. Because each need is a metric based on time or probability, you can measure which solution will satisfy the need best. Voting and vetoing become irrelevant because you’ll weed out any solution that doesn’t meet the need more quickly or accurately than the existing solutions.
  • On Friday, when you user test your prototype, you now have a strong hypothesis that your solution serves the customer need better. Look to confirm your hypothesis and test usability. Does the solution indeed make the job faster and more accurate? Does the user understand how to execute their task with this design?

Before your team jumps into a Google Ventures Design Sprint, consider employing the JTBD framework to make the process more effective. With JTBD, you can identify customer needs, eliminate opportunities for bias, and test different solutions objectively. If your team needs help in getting started, we’d be happy to show you how thrv helps product managers get their customers’ jobs done.

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.

Welcome to thrv and Jobs-To-Be-Done

Welcome to thrv! We’re excited you’re here and we can’t wait to tell you more about our company, our people and our software. Why are we so excited? Because we believe the discipline of Product Management is ready for a new approach, one that will have you seeing your customers, your career and your product road map in a whole new light. We thought the best way to introduce ourselves to you would be by letting you hear directly from our Founder & CEO, Jay Haynes.

Jay has 25 years of experience running companies and shipping products, including time at Microsoft as a Product Manager. He is the holder of three U.S. patents, and received an MBA with Distinction from the Harvard Business School. Jay’s taken that experience and expertise and focused it on one mission: To help product teams launch successful products. That’s ultimately why he started thrv, the first and only software application for Jobs-to-be-Done product management.

So, if you’re involved in product management and you’re struggling with questions about features, customer needs, pricing, or customer acquisition, grab a cup of your favorite caffeinated beverage and start your journey with this introductory interview that will help you understand what Jobs-to-be-Done is all about, how thrv leverages this innovative approach, and most importantly, how it can help product managers excel at their jobs.

I’ve heard of Jobs-to-be-Done. It has something to do with a milkshake, right?

Jobs-to-be-done was made famous by Clayton Christensen of the Harvard Business School, who wrote about analyzing milkshake sales for a major fast food company (watch this great video for a description of the milkshake example). 40% of shakes were sold first thing in the morning. Did this company’s milkshake have a flavor that early birds craved? No, they had a “Job-to-be-Done“–keep hunger at bay until noon and reduce the boredom of their morning commute. Christensen stumbled upon a real insight: People weren’t buying a product, they were hiring a product to help them get a job done.

The milkshake served the job because it kept you full until lunch, you couldn’t drink it quickly, and it only took one hand to consume–perfect for driving. It’s interesting to note that recently Taco Bell created a line of breakfast items and focused on the fact you could eat it with one hand, leaving you free to go about your business. Now, that’s a relatively simple consumer example, but Jobs-to-be-Done is a very potent approach in much more complex markets like medical devices, business information and complex consumer markets where the job itself is actually much more complicated.

Ok, but what is thrv?

thrv is the first and only software to use the Jobs-to-be-Done methodology for product teams and product managers. And what that means is thrv puts your customer’s job front and center, so everything you do as a product manager and a product team, from analyzing competitors to prioritizing your product road map, to figuring out your messaging and positioning is done in thrv. That’s very different than other product management tools and software which start with ideas about what your product should do. Because thrv focuses on your customer’s job rather than your product, it helps you to generate ideas that will help your customers with their most critical issues.

With thrv, how do I use it with things like Buyer Personas or developing a cool new feature set?

Buyer Personas are interesting. They tend to be based on things like demographics, where you have an urban woman in her 60s and a rural man in his 20s and each is a different buyer persona. But the power of Jobs-to-be-Done is that it focuses on what those personas, those customers, are actually trying to accomplish. In the traditional view of things, a buyer persona might lead you astray from potential customers. For example, could an urban 60-year old woman and a rural 20-year old man both be trying to reach a destination on time? And the answer, of course, is yes. And they could both struggle with executing that job the same way, but because personas use demographic information to define your customers, rather than the job itself, that can lead you to make extraneous or even inaccurate assumptions. Jobs-to-be-Done can be very useful because it gives you insights into why customers are struggling to execute the job, not just who they are demographically. And once you understand why they are frustrated with executing the job, then you have the key to developing a new feature that they are likely to connect with and use, because now youve helped them get the job done quicker or more accurately.

Will using thrv and the JTBD methodology help me to get more people to buy and use my product?

That is the entire goal! To make you a product management hero. The goal with JTBD and within thrv is to coordinate your entire product team on what your customer is trying to do. In other words, to help you figure out, before you invest in building and marketing and selling a product, what is it that people are likely to buy and use? And what they’re likely to buy is something that helps them get a job done. This of course was the famous milkshake marketing example. Clayton Christensen, when he was writing about it, realized that if you thought about improving the milkshake, if you realized that 40% of the people drinking milkshakes were drinking them in the morning on their commute, then you could study and analyze what’s happening on their morning commute and gain insights into the job they are trying to execute. Rather than just studying how you make a milkshake better, you would study the job. And this is where you come up with breakthrough innovations that people will more likely buy and use.

Wait, so JTBD sounds different than what I thought. I don’t have the time to learn new stuff, and we’ve already got a system at work. Why should I try this new approach?

There are three main reasons you might want to try the JTBD approach: One is, you want to convert more customers, and JTBD can be very powerful because it can quickly help you improve your positioning and your messaging just by thinking about what your customer is trying to accomplish. The second is that it can help de-risk your product road map. Your company is likely planning to invest potentially millions of dollars in new product features that are theoretically going to help you beat your competition. But that investment can be very risky because frequently companies launch new products or product features and they don’t generate the revenue growth that they need. With thrv and JTBD framework you can assess the risk in your product roadmap. The third reason is that its a much better way to identify your competitors’ weaknesses. If you have competitors that you are worried about, that are launching new products and/or are taking market share from your company, you can use thrv and JTBD to figure out where their weaknesses are by analyzing not just your product vs. their product, but how well your competitors product gets the job done, and how well your products get the job done.

I’m just a product manager, doesn’t this need to get approved by the C-Suite?

It’s good to have executive buy-in into any new approach or new tool, but as a product manager you can train your team, and get the training you need yourself to help improve in your job as a product manager independent of your C-Suite. Because as a product manager you’re always looking for new insights into what your customers want and what your competitor’s weaknesses are. JTBD and thrv can help you as a product manager which can help you help your team, which is the ultimate goal of thrv, to create highly effective product teams.

I get what you’re talking about, but this will totally baffle my colleagues.

JTBD is a very logical process. When you explain your customer’s job and what theyre trying to accomplish in a logical, coherent story, which is what JTBD enables you to do, your colleagues are more likely to agree on what your goal as a product team should be. In traditional methods, where there isn’t an agreed upon method to understand customer needs or what your customer is trying to accomplish, problems such as conflict, dissatisfaction, and emotional arguments among colleagues can arise. One of the real advantages about thrv and JTBD is, you can translate a customer story into a series of metrics that can be measured, so then you and your colleagues can agree on what your customers are trying to accomplish which makes it easier to agree on what you should put in your product road map and how you should message and position your product.

Ok, this all sounds pretty good, but the Head of Product wants to push new features out by the end of the quarter, will thrv help us do that?

What you want to ask yourself (and your team) is, why do you want these new features for your customers? This is the power of JTBD thinking, understanding that customers don’t necessarily want new features. In fact, what they want is to get a job done. If you can get the job done with fewer features, in many markets, thats actually a better solution. Ultimately what your Head of Product wants is satisfied customers and more revenue by selling more of your product. Jobs-to-be-Done enables you to focus and measure where your customers struggle so you can identify if you truly need more features, or you may in fact need fewer features to help your customers get the job done quicker and more accurately.

This requires a paradigm shift in thinking for the Head of Product and his/her team. Rather than measure their success by the number of features launched, they should be looking at customer satisfaction as a key metric of success, and customer satisfaction is measured, in the mind of the customer, by how well they can get their job done. That was my job at Microsoft as a product manager – we measured ourselves against the competition by who had the most features. Most of the time that didn’t work because people weren’t buying software based on the feature count, they were buying based on how effectively they felt the product would help them with the job they needed to get done. That traditional sort of thinking does often tend to lead companies down a path, and they do tend to chase their competitors. Real breakthroughs can comes when companies eliminate features and make it easier for customers to get the job done. This is not easy to do without JTBD, which is why we created thrv.

 

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Thanks for reading, we hope you found Jay’s thoughts and insights worth thinking about. If you have any questions or comments, we’d love to hear them. You can leave a comment below, or engage us on Twitter @thrvapp. If you’d like to speak to us directly about thrv and our training program, you can get in touch with us here.