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.

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