Jared Ranere

Learn and Measure Before You Build: Using JTBD to Improve The Build-Measure-Learn Feedback Loop

build-measure-learn feedback loop

You can use Jobs-to-be-Done to learn from your customers and measure a new product idea before building anything.

The Build-Measure-Learn Feedback Loop is a core tenet of the lean startup methodology, popularized by Eric Ries. The main argument is spending too much time behind closed doors, chasing down a perfect product, increases the cost of failure. To decrease the cost of failure and preserve resources to iterate towards growth, Ries and other lean startup practitioners suggest the following process:

  • Develop a hypothesis
  • Get a low-cost minimum viable product out to the market
  • Measure the results
  • Learn from the results
  • Iterate i.e. return to the build phase.

The assumption is the best learning occurs when people use your product. So, you build, measure, learn, and then repeat. The primary benefit is getting customer feedback and learning if an idea will work before it “gets too far,” i.e. before significant resources have been sunk into a product that customers never wanted in the first place.

We all know that building an MVP no matter how minimum it is, will never be free. And anyone who has tried to build an MVP, especially at a big company, has likely suffered from MVP-scope creep. Suddenly, people start calling the MVP “v1” and are asking engineers to participate in its development. And while they’re at it, they get marketing to whip up some creative to drive users to the MVP. The costs balloon.

The next frontier in decreasing the cost of product development and mitigating the risk of failure in your business and your role is to measure and learn from customer feedback before building anything at all, even an MVP.

Jobs-to-be-Done enables you to measure the likely results of an idea before the first line of code is written or the first pixel of a design is placed.

Here’s how you measure the value of a product idea before building it:

  1. Determine what job customers would hire the product to do.
  2. Determine which needs in the job your product idea satisfies and if those needs are unmet.
  3. Compare how quickly and accurately your new idea satisfies the unmet needs to how quickly and accurately the existing solutions satisfy them.

What job would customers hire the new product to do?

“Your customers do not buy your product; they hire it to get a job done. The struggle with the job causes a purchase,” says Clay Christensen, author of Innovator’s Dilemma and Competing Against Luck. The first step in measuring your product idea is to identify your customer’s job, in other words, the goal your customer is trying to achieve.

Sometimes the goal is obvious. Salespeople want to acquire new customers or close new business. When it’s not so obvious, customer interviews can reveal the job-to-be-done.

For guidance on articulating a job-to-be-done, you can read our post, How to Answer The Question, “What’s the job-to-be-done?”

In the meantime, here are a couple of quick tips:

  • A job is has a clear goal, an action verb, and direct object e.g. “get to a destination on time,” “acquire new customers,” or “create a mood with music.” Your customer is the subject of the sentence, not your company.
  • No solutions. Products, solutions, and technologies change over time. To maintain a stable target for your team, keep them out of your job definition.
  • The “wake up in the morning” test. It should make intuitive sense for someone to wake up in the morning with the job-to-be-done on their mind, thinking, “I have to do this today!” For example, unless you live in a city with alternate side parking, you don’t wake up thinking, “I need to park my car today!” But, you might wake up thinking “I need to be on time today!” The job is “get to a destination on time,” not “park the car.”

Identifying the job-to-be-done is the first step in learning from your customers before building.

Does your idea target an unmet customer need?

Once you’ve identified your customer’s job-to-be-done, you need to identify their struggle i.e. their unmet needs in the job.

What is a customer need?

Does your company agree on what your customer’s needs are?

In Jobs-to-be-Done, we define customer needs as an action a customer must take using a variable required to get the job done.

One way to think about customer needs is the actions that must happen quickly and accurately for the job to be executed successfully.

For example, in the job of “get to a destination on time,” three of the many variables are travel conditions, open times, and the distance between the parking spot and the destination. Here are examples of actions that need to be taken:

  • Determine if an alternate route should be taken due to unexpected travel conditions
  • Determine the open times of any planned stops
  • Find a parking spot close to the destination

If your decision to take an alternate route does not happen fast enough to take the route or you choose the wrong route (the decision is inaccurate), you will not get to the destination on time.

You can measure the speed and accuracy of customer needs in Jobs-to-be-Done, and the measurable needs are the foundation of measuring before building.

The measurement begins by determining which needs are unmet.

After interviewing customers to validate your list of customer needs in the job, you can run a survey asking customers which needs are important and not satisfied and their willingness to pay to get the job done.  The interviews are learning from your customers. The survey is measuring.

Needs that have high importance and low satisfaction are unmet. The survey gives you quantitative evidence of what percentage of customers find the need to be unmet and whether or not they are willing to pay to have their needs in the job satisfied.

The Jobs-to-be-Done survey measures whether or not a problem is worth solving.

For example, before Waze launched we conducted a survey for the job “get to a destination on time.” The highest scoring unmet need in the results was “determine if alternate route should be taken due to unexpected travel conditions.” Waze satisfied this need and enjoyed accelerating growth.

Once you identify the unmet needs in the job-to-be-done, you need to determine if your product idea is targeting one of them. This is a major learning moment–you learn if your idea is solving a worthwhile problem or if it is a solution in search of a problem. And you have learned this before building.

Compare your idea to the speed and accuracy of the existing solutions

Assuming you learned in step two that your idea is attempting to satisfy an unmet need, it’s time to measure if it does so better than the existing solutions. Customers switch to a new solution only when it gets the job done better.

What does “better” mean?

Above, we noted that customers want to get the job done quickly and accurately. To pressure test this, consider the following: Are there any goals you have that you like to achieve slowly? Can you achieve them at all if every step you take in the process is inaccurate? Can you think of any successful products that helped customers achieve goals slowly and less accurately than the previous solutions?

“Better” is satisfying the unmet need faster and more accurately than the existing solutions.

To determine if our solution is good enough to invest in, we first identify competitive solutions, measure how quickly and accurately they satisfy the targeted unmet need, and then compare those metrics to the speed and accuracy of our new idea.

The competing solutions aren’t bound to similar products. It’s any product, service or manual solution that customers use to get the job done.

Before Waze launched, customers used Google Maps, traffic reports on the radio, and calling a friend to determine if an alternate route should be taken to unexpected traffic conditions.

If we were to measure the speed and accuracy of Google Maps in this scenario, we would use the product and write out the steps. Remember this is before the app had a feature that would automatically suggest a new route. To determine an alternate route, users had to:

  1. Drag the route line on the map to a different road
  2. View the new calculated time to destination
  3. Compare it to the original route
  4. Repeat for all variations until the fastest route is found

This took a few seconds to many minutes depending on how many variations the user was willing to try. The real killer here was the accuracy. It was so hard to identify alternate routes that people would stop this well before testing them all. Therefore, the decision to take an alternate route or not was often inaccurate.

Now, we have speed and accuracy benchmarks: seconds to minutes and inaccurate.

Waze’s auto-suggest feature was automatic and instantaneous, enabling you to determine the alternate route before you had to make a turn. Furthermore, it was more accurate because it calculates the variations for the user.

The trick is that we can measure this idea before building it by determining how fast and accurate it would be if executed perfectly. If we determine it would be less fast and accurate than the leading existing solution, we have learned that the idea is not good enough and not worth investing in, even at an MVP level.

Learning and Measuring Before Building the MVP

At this point in our process, we have:

  • Learned the customer needs from our customers
  • Measured the unmet needs–problems worth solving
  • Learned if our product idea is targeting an unmet need
  • Measured the willingness to pay of the customers: is there a market worth targeting?
  • Measured the performance of the competitive solutions
  • Learned if our solution is better than the existing solutions and can cause people to switch to it if executed well in the build phase.

In short, we have measured and learned before building.

Either you will learn that your idea requires more refinement before its worth building anything, even a prototype, or you will have validated the idea and know which features are critical to include in the MVP.

In both cases, you have not only decreased the cost of a failed idea but you have also decreased the the cost of success.

Now that it’s time to build your MVP, check out this post on how you can integrate jobs-to-be-done and agile workflows.

Reach out to us to get more detail about how to do any of the above at your company.

Posted by Jared Ranere in Competitive Analysis, Customer Needs, Idea Generation, Innovation, Jobs Theory Blog, Roadmap Planning, 0 comments

How to Answer The Question “What’s the job-to-be-done?”

 

customer's job-to-be-done

Over a year after the publication of Clay Christensen’s book about Jobs Theory, Competing Against Luck, Jobs-to-be-Done is a much more common topic at companies of all sizes and sectors. As the question, “What’s the job-to-be-done?” becomes ever more frequent, confusion around how to answer the question rises. Product managers and executives we work with often wonder if their colleagues know the difference between a good and bad answer.

This post provides pointers to help you detect and articulate a useful jobs-to-be-done statement:

  1. The right question is, “What’s your customer’s job-to-be-done?”
  2. The JTBD should be a simple sentence consisting of an action verb and a direct object.
  3. Confirm the statement does not include a solution
  4. See if it passes the wake up in the morning test.

A well-articulated job-to-be-done sets a point of focus that will lead to developing high-growth products. Let’s dig into the criteria in more detail.

Whose job is it?

One of the biggest mistakes is defining “the job-to-be-done” as your company’s job. Of course, companies should have goals, but to hit them, you need to understand your customer. The “job” in Jobs-to-be-Done is your customer’s job. The foundation of the method is understanding your customer will lead to building solutions they value, leading to growth for your company.

Your product team’s goal is to get your customer’s job done for them.

Instead of asking “What’s the job-to-be-done?” make it standard practice to ask, “What’s our customer’s job-to-be-done?” By asking the right question, your team will get off to a much better start in defining the job-to-be-done.

What is a job and why does this matter?
A job-to-be-done is a goal your customers are trying to achieve independent of any product or solution. According to Jobs Theory, your customers are not buying your products; they are hiring them to get a job done. Their struggle with achieving the goal causes them to purchase new solutions.

In other words, the goal of building new products is to satisfy customer needs better than competitors in your market.

What is a market?

The traditional definition of a market, often used for market sizing, is “product price X number of buyers = the market.”

For example, a team at Microsoft likely used traditional methods to calculate the size of the “iPod” market at its peak. Apple had sold 200 million iPods at $150. Using traditional methods, this logically appears to be a $30 billion market.

Microsoft launched the Zune into the “iPod” market, and it failed dramatically.

The problem was that consumers didn’t want iPods any more than they wanted records, cassettes, or CDs. They wanted to get a job done. In this case, they want to create a mood with music–a goal that is independent of any solutions and nearly timeless.

The “iPod” or “MP3 player” market (like the “cassette” market and the “CD” market) is now rapidly approaching $0. New products have emerged (smartphones, streaming apps) that get the job done better for the customer.

The Zune was doomed from the start because Microsoft defined the market incorrectly. They launched a product and used a platform that mirrored the iPod while others focused on the features and platform that would get the job done faster and more accurately.

History is riddled with examples of companies that not only failed but missed enormous opportunities trying to satisfy customer needs better for their products rather than satisfy customer needs better in the job.

Encyclopedia Britannica lost $1 billion in market cap protecting their position in the encyclopedia business. Kodak went bankrupt thinking they were in the film market. Blackberry lost $80 billion in market cap while satisfying needs in the mobile device with keyboard market.

Meanwhile, all three companies missed out on the biggest market opportunities in history.

Google, Facebook, and Apple created three of the largest companies in the world in the same markets that Britannica, Kodak, and Blackberry were competing in. The three markets were: find information, share memories, and get jobs done while mobile. These are all jobs-to-be-done that define stable markets.

If Britannica, Kodak, and Blackberry had defined their markets as jobs-to-be-done, they would have been on the right track to capitalize on these market opportunities.

This is why defining the job correctly is so important. When a team is focused on a stable job, they are released from the constraints and pressure to improve the existing product line. They can now innovate with new technologies and a stable target–satisfying needs in their customer’s job-to-be-done.

What makes a good job statement?

In short, a job is a goal a person wants to achieve in their personal or professional life written with an action verb, a direct object, and including no solutions.

Let’s break this down.

1. Action verb + direct object

Keep it simple, memorable and objective. A customer’s job should be action driven with an attainable goal tied to it – that’s it. Over-complicating a job puts you at risk of multiple interpretations and assumptions.

Examples of JTBDs with an action verb and a direct object:

  • Get to a destination on time.
  • Restore artery blood flow.
  • Sell a used car.

The sentence needs to be easily repeatable. Everyone at the company should be able to state it whenever asked. This creates a common language that is critical to product success. If the language isn’t clear and direct, you may end up with different parts of the company having different perspectives on what the job is. This can cause a systemic breakdown of communication and eventually, of your product development.

Here is an example of a job-to-be-done articulated in a much more complex fashion from Clay Christensen’s Milkshake Marketing:

They faced a long, boring commute and needed something to keep that extra hand busy and to make the commute more interesting. They weren’t yet hungry, but knew that they’d be hungry by 10 a.m.; they wanted to consume something now that would stave off hunger until noon. And they faced constraints: They were in a hurry, they were wearing work clothes, and they had (at most) one free hand.

Will everyone at your company remember this entire paragraph?

To align your teams, you can dissect this paragraph as follows.

The job is “eat breakfast.” The customer (the job beneficiary) is commuters.

The job of commuters eating breakfast has customer needs that we can prioritize:

  • Avoid getting hungry again before lunch
  • Avoid spilling the breakfast on your clothes
  • Eat the breakfast within the physical constraints of the commute e.g. with one hand while driving, while standing up on the bus, etc.

Clay also raises the notion of an emotional job at play: “feel entertained while commuting.” This complicates your product team’s situation even further.

Are you working on the eat breakfast job for commuters or the commute to work job?

If you create a solution where the commuter can eat breakfast before beginning the commute, will you have solved the problem?

To stay entertained on the commute, is a podcast a better solution than a milkshake? Does it even matter if the commuter is eating?

This is why we break the job down into a short job-to-be-done statement and a hierarchical job map of customer needs. In practice, when you are trying to align teams in a large organization, these short, unambiguous, measurable, and prioritized statements are much easier to remember and create objective criteria for your new solutions.

2. Establish a goal, not a solution
It’s important the job includes a goal with no implied solutions on how someone might achieve that goal. By keeping the solution out of the job, you stay focused on your customer instead of your product or a technology that is bound to change over time.

There will be a new technology that can get the job done faster or more accurately, and you want to be the one to adopt it in your solution.

Here are examples of jobs-to-be-done statements with implied solutions:

  • Play MP3s
  • Get more Twitter followers
  • Print newspapers

Each of these statements can lead a company to believe that their market is a product or technology, which can cause them to miss revolutionary new technologies that win in the market.

In the first statement above, the solution is MP3s. If your company is focused on an audio file, what will you do when streaming takes over?

“Twitter followers” is the solution in the second statement. Why does anyone want Twitter followers? Perhaps they are trying to acquire new customers or learn from people who share common interests among other solution-independent goals. If your company focuses on helping people gain Twitter followers you are dependent on Twitter and you may miss other ways of helping people achieve their real goals faster and more accurately.

Finally, it may be stating the obvious to point out the disruption the internet caused to news organizations who thought they were in the newspaper printing business.

Here are actual jobs-to-be-done without solutions:

  • Create a mood with music
  • Acquire new customers
  • Stay informed about current events

Each of these statements focuses your company on stable targets that won’t change with technology. Further, they will give your team the leeway to choose whatever solution will get the job done best for your customers, even if it involves new products.

3. Passes the wake up in the morning test
Because people purchase new products when they struggle with a job, it’s best if the goal in the job is important to them. The best markets are made up of people actively looking for new solutions to get the job done because if they don’t get it done, the consequences are painful.

One way to check if your job statement sparks the necessary urgency is to run it through the “wake up in the morning” test. This is a basic gut test: do you or anyone you know regularly wake up in the morning thinking, “I really need to get this job done today”?

If the answer is “no,” then the job you’ve defined is likely not an attractive market.

Consider another example of a job-to-be-done definition from Clay Christensen’s Competing Against Luck: pass the time while waiting in line.

Does anyone wake up in the morning thinking about passing the time while waiting in line? Do you know anyone who would be willing to pay to get this done?

Here’s another example: park a vehicle. Companies like Luxe and SpotHero are totally focused on parking.

Would you invest in them?

Let’s try the wake up in the morning test.

As we mentioned in our post about what to do when Google enters your market, unless you’re a valet or you live in a city with street cleaners and alternate side parking rules, you don’t wake up in the morning thinking, “Gee, I have to park my car today!”

Why does anyone need to park a vehicle?

The reason you park a vehicle is so you can go to your destination.

We consider “park a vehicle” to be a job step in this larger job: get to a destination on time.

Structuring the job this way can help you identify competitive threats. Who else is focused on get to a destination on time?

Uber, Lyft, Waymo, Google Maps, Apple Maps.

What happens if Uber and Lyft dominate the get to a destination on time market?

Far fewer people will need to park their cars and Luxe and SpotHero’s market opportunities diminish precipitously.

The wake up in the morning test can help you define the right level of abstraction with your customer’s job-to-be-done so that you can recognize competitive threats and opportunities.

Put The Criteria To Work
Next time someone asks, “what’s the job-to-be-done?” use these criteria to determine if the answer will put your team on the right track to a clear focus and high-growth products:

  1. The right question is, “What’s your customer’s job-to-be-done?”
  2. The JTBD should be a simple sentence consisting of an action verb and a direct object.
  3. Confirm the statement does not include a solution
  4. See if it passes the wake up in the morning test.

Of course, this is just the beginning. This post does not cover our techniques for identifying the job-to-be-done; sizing the market of the JTBD; selecting markets to target for your short, medium and long-term roadmaps; nor what to do with the JTBD once you have it well-defined. If you’re interested in these topics, feel free to get in touch.

Posted by Jared Ranere in Growth, Jobs Theory Blog, Market Sizing, 0 comments

Improve Your NPS with Jobs-to-be-Done

NPS

If you’re looking for ways to improve your Net Promoter Score, Jobs-to-be-Done can help you determine what to do to transform your detractors to promoters.

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is an extraordinarily popular and quite effective technique for measuring customer satisfaction for a product or service. A business surveys its customers asking, “On a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being ‘extremely unlikely’ and 10 being ‘extremely likely,’ how likely are you to recommend us to a friend?”

The customers who answer 9 or 10 are your “promoters.” Those who answer 0 to 6 are “detractors.” Your Net Promoter Score is the difference between the percentage of respondents who are promoters and the percentage of respondents who are detractors.

The business now has a single number indicating customer satisfaction. Improving the number is likely to improve customer retention and growth–a higher NPS should lead to more referrals.

But, how do you know why your detractors won’t recommend your product?

What is causing their dissatisfaction?

And what can you do to your product to improve customer satisfaction?

You can use Jobs-to-be-Done to answer these questions and figure out precisely how to change your product to transform detractors into promoters.

Why are your customers using your product?
To know why your customers are dissatisfied with your product, you need to know why they are using it in the first place.

According to Clay Christensen, the Harvard Business School professor who popularized Jobs-to-be-Done Theory, “Your customers are not buying your product, they are hiring it to get a job done.” Their struggle to get the job done with their existing solutions leads them to hire a new product that they believe will get the job done better. If the new product does not get the job done better, the customer will fire it.

In this context, a “job” is not necessarily an occupation. It’s any goal that a person wants to achieve in their personal or professional life.

To determine if a job represents a good market opportunity and is something you can align your team around, you can use the following criteria:

  • A succinct statement with a clear action verb and direct object e.g. “acquire customers,” “buy a used car,” or “restore artery blood flow.”
  • No solutions in the job statement. If you include a solution in the job statement such as, “Play MP3s,” then you focus your company on a technology instead of the customer and you risk missing big innovations that are possible from new technologies such as streaming music.
  • A job statement should stand the test of time. Take “create a mood with music” as an example. People have been trying to do that since the first noise was made by the first human and will continue trying to do it forever. “Buy a used car” will go away whenever people stop owning cars, but cars have already been around for over a hundred years and will likely last at least a couple of decades more. The projected time horizon of the job’s existence helps you determine the level of risk in your market.
  • A large number of people (or at least a small number of people who are willing to pay a lot of money to get it done), should wake up in the morning on a regular basis thinking, “I need to get this job done!” If your job statement doesn’t pass this “wake up in the morning” test, it’s likely that the job is not important enough for anyone to use a product to get it done better.

Sometimes the job (the goal your customers are trying to achieve with your product) is obvious.

For instance, if salespeople are using your CRM, it’s pretty clear they are trying to “acquire customers” and “retain customers,” two clear jobs.

Sometimes it is less clear. What job does Slack serve?

In such cases, interviewing your customers is a good way to determine the job.

You may find your product is being used by your customers to serve multiple jobs. This makes your situation a little more complex and the way to deal with it is another topic for another post.

What is causing customer detractors to be dissatisfied?
Now that you’ve figured out what job your customer is hiring your product for, you need to determine your detractors’ problem. Why are they dissatisfied?

More often than not, their problem is that your product is not getting the job done well enough. Your detractors are not achieving their goal as quickly and as frequently as they would like, and they are blaming your product for not helping them.

Let’s imagine we’re on the product team for Google Maps. Users are hiring our product to “reach a destination on time,” among other jobs. Knowing our users blame us for being late to their appointments is not enough information to understand what to build to turn the detractors into promoters.

We need to be more specific.

Fortunately, we can break a job down to precisely identify where the struggle is occurring and how severe it is in the market.

First, we list the job steps, which tell the story of how the job gets done, independent of the existing solutions in the market. All jobs have six categories of job steps.

For example, here are 6 steps in the job of “reach a destination on time,” one for each category:

You can hypothesize the job steps in a job by thinking through the last time you tried to execute the job and taking note of what you had to define, prepare, execute, monitor, modify, and conclude. When you find yourself thinking about the products you used to do those things, ask yourself why you used those products until you get to a statement that does not include a solution.

In all there are sixteen steps in “get to a destination on time:”

Next, we identify the customer needs in each job step.

The needs are the actions the job executor must take in order for the job step to be completed successfully. The faster the action is completed and the more accurate the outcome of the action, the more successful the job step will be and the more satisfied the customer will be. In other words, needs that can only be met slowly and inaccurately with the existing solution will cause the customer to be dissatisfied.

We can hypothesize the needs by taking note of the variables in each job step that could cause the process to go off track. For example in the step of “plan the stops,” the variables are:

  • The sequence of the stops
  • Where the stops are
  • The number of stops
  • The routes between the stops
  • Open times of locations where you need to run errands
  • Wait times at the locations
  • How long it takes to park at the locations

If your customer cannot quickly and accurately determine this information, she cannot plan her stops in such a way that she will reliably reach her final destination on time. The job will go off track, causing anxiety.

To validate the job steps and needs, you can interview job executors. To validate your assessment of whether or not the job executors are dissatisfied with their ability to meet the needs, you can survey job executors on their importance and satisfaction of each need.

To figure out why your detractors, specifically, are dissatisfied, you can have them take your needs survey. The needs that have low satisfaction ratings will give you a precise problem to solve that will increase the satisfaction of your customer and turn your detractors into promoters.

How to improve customer satisfaction
Now that we know the problem–the unmet needs in the job-to-be-done–how do we come up with a solution that will be good enough to turn our detractors into promoters?

The first step is to analyze the existing solutions in the market–not just your obvious competitors but any product, service, or manual process someone can use to get the job done. Instead of doing a feature to feature comparison between your products and your competition, you look at how long it takes to satisfy the unmet needs in the job and how accurately customers can do it with the existing solutions.

The speed and accuracy of satisfying the need with the existing solutions is the benchmark you need to beat with your new product or feature idea. If your new idea is not faster and/or more accurate than the benchmark, there is no reason for job executors to switch to your solution. Time to think of another idea.

Once you do have an idea to satisfy the need faster and more accurately, you can check-in with your customers at various intervals in your product development process–idea stage, prototype, post-release, etc. Ask them how satisfied they are with their ability to meet the targeted needs with this new feature. If they answer with more satisfaction than they did before seeing the new product or feature, then you are on your way to transforming the detractors to promoters.

NPS is a useful tool for tracking customer satisfaction. However, to take action against the results, it’s extremely helpful to have a method like Jobs-to-be-Done to specify the cause of the dissatisfaction and create a plan to turn your detractors into promoters.

Posted by Jared Ranere in Jobs Theory Blog, Product Strategy, 0 comments

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.

Posted by Jared Ranere in Competitive Analysis, Customer Needs, Jobs Theory Blog, Messaging & Positioning, 0 comments

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.

Posted by Jared Ranere in Competitive Analysis, Jobs Theory Blog, 0 comments

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.

Posted by Jared Ranere in Customer Needs, Growth, Jobs Theory Blog, Product Strategy, Roadmap Planning, 0 comments

Pitch Like a Startup to Win Budget at Your Big Company

Many people think that only entrepreneurs need to pitch investors and raise money, but the same process is happening every day in big companies. Boards, executives, and stakeholders are trying to determine how to allocate funds just like venture capital firms and angels. As a product manager or department head in an enterprise, you need budget to fund your projects and ideas. Just like an entrepreneur, you need to craft a compelling story that demonstrates your project will generate more money than is put into it.

But what makes a good pitch?

Our Product Pitch Cheat Sheet shows you.

We’ve combined top venture capital firm Sequoia Capital’s Writing a Business Plan–the outline of the story they need to hear to invest–and the Jobs-to-be-Done product development method to generate a clear and concise guide to pitching a product idea.

Sequoia’s outline tells you what to cover, and Jobs-to-be-Done helps you answer the key questions that will give you confidence in your material, such as:

  • How do you know your problem is worth solving?
  • How do you know your solution is good enough?
  • Is your market big enough?

Whether you’re trying to find budget to launch a new product or initiative, get more resources for your team, or confirm for yourself that your project is worth pursuing, Jobs-to-be-Done can quantify the justification you need to win investment.

After the cheat sheet, you’ll find Sequoia’s outline with the JTBD guidance under each point. If you’d like to learn how to do all of this yourself in detail, don’t hesitate to contact us.

 

1. State the Company Purpose
As Clay Christensen says, “your customers aren’t buying your product, they are hiring it to get a job done.” A “job” is an important goal that a person is trying to achieve in their personal or professional life, such as “reach a destination on time,” “acquire a customer,” or “overcome diabetes to achieve optimal health.”

The struggle people feel in attempting to get their job done is what causes them to look for a new solution–a product to hire. We call people who are trying to get a job done “job executors.” If your company gets the job done for the job executors, they will use your product.

A direct and simple way to state your company’s purpose is to say what job you are getting done for which job executor.

Here are a few examples:

Try to make your articulation compelling and, as Sequoia says, “declarative.” The job, the job executors and the key struggle should be very clear.

If you have chosen a job that has a lot of job executors trying to accomplish it frequently and the job is famously difficult to do well, it should be immediately clear that when your company achieves its purpose, it will create enormous value.

Finally, remember that your product is not part of your purpose. For example, if you’re trying to help small businesses acquire customers, your purpose should not be to “build the fastest, easiest-to-use CRM.” Small businesses don’t want lightweight CRMs any more than they wanted advertisements in print directories. What they want is to get a job done, so express your purpose in terms that reflect helping people overcome the stress and anxiety associated with getting a job done.

2. State the Problem
Your customer’s problem is that their job is complex and difficult to execute quickly and accurately. It could even require the use of multiple solutions.

How do you know if the pain is severe enough that people are looking for a new product to relieve it? Jobs-to-be-Done helps you quantify the pain and gives you a benchmark to know if the problem is worth solving.

The key is identifying the unmet needs. In Jobs-to-be-Done, we define customer needs as “the metrics customers use to judge how well the job is going.” The metrics we use are speed and accuracy. If the job is slow and inaccurate, the customer will want a new solution.

You can interview job executors to find out what’s frustrating and time-consuming about executing the job. Then, you can survey a statistically significant sample of job executors to determine which needs are the most important and least satisfied. These are your customers’ unmet needs.

The unmet needs are the precise articulation of the customer’s struggle to get the job done. Since a job is a key goal in a person’s personal or professional life (i.e. they need to execute the job frequently and they derive value from doing it well), the unmet needs are problems worth solving–they have great value.

It’s rare, but there are times when there are no unmet needs in a job. This means you don’t have a problem worth solving. Often this is because you came up with your idea for a solution first and it’s for a job that is over-served (the job is important but perfectly well satisfied in the market). This is a problem that’s not worth attempting to solve, as no one is looking for a new solution.

But once you’ve found a collection of unmet needs, you have the problem you need to start a business. In your pitch you can say, “[job executors] are struggling to [job-to-be-done].” Then, you can state the key unmet need(s) you uncovered in the market and intend to serve with your product.

For example, if you were pitching Waze, here’s how you could state the problem:

In this problem statement, the job executors are “drivers,” the job is “reach a destination on time,” and the unmet need is “reduce the time it takes to determine if you should take an alternate route due to traffic conditions.”

Anyone who drove a car before Waze has felt this problem, which means if you state it well, it should resonate. More importantly, if you have executed Jobs-to-be-Done, you will have data to back up your statement. You will be able to show that this unmet need is worth attempting to solve.

3. Show the Solution
When presenting the solution, Sequoia says to “demonstrate your company’s value proposition to make the customer’s life better.” In other words, how is your solution going to serve the job executors’ unmet needs in the job and how do you know it will do it well enough for customers to switch to your solution from whatever they’re doing today?

Using Jobs-to-be-Done, you can measure the value of your solution. Customer needs are all metrics of speed and accuracy. Consider how long it takes to meet your targeted needs and compare that time to the existing solutions. The closer your product gets to making the job automatic and extremely accurate, the more customer value you are adding.

Instead of talking about the features of your product, frame the discussion of your solution by how quickly and accurately it meets the needs in the job. For example, if the job is overcome diabetes to achieve optimal health and you’re targeting unmet needs around reducing the time it takes to determine costs, benefits and risks of available options for the patient, then demonstrate how quickly your product enables patients to meet these needs.

4. Why now
Sequoia recommends setting up the “historical evolution of your category” and then defining “recent trends that make your solution possible.”

Combining this with Jobs Theory, this becomes “What has changed that enables you to get your customers’ job done better?”

Consider the following examples:

In the examples above, new technologies and changing regulatory environments enabled new and better ways to get the jobs done. If you look further back in history, we see that this has always been true. Think about those people that have solved a job for a large, underserved market at the right time. Some legendary examples include:

  • Karl Benz: The potential of gasoline had just started being explored; people (and things) needed a way to get from point A to point B faster.
  • Frank McNamara (the credit card): Consumer confidence in post-WWII America was rising; people needed to reduce the likelihood that not having cash on hand prevented them from buying what they needed.
  • Jeff Bezos: In 1994, internet usage was growing by 2,300% per month and was an excellent foundation for serving the needs in the job “purchase a product” better than the existing solution of stores and mail order catalogues, which gave birth to Amazon.

During your pitch, be sure to identify recent trends that show why now is the time for your product or service. The people above tackled age-old jobs by capitalizing on technological advancements that made solving those jobs easier and faster.

5. Market size
Don Valentine, Sequoia’s founder, has always stressed the importance of the market: “We have always focused on the market–the size of the market, the dynamics of the market, the nature of the competition–because our objective always was to build big companies.”

When companies flounder, it’s because they try to define the market based on product ideas rather than market needs. Then, they invest too much in the manifestation of their assumptions: their unwanted products. This is a gamble (and almost always a mistake), as it assumes there will be a line of customers waiting to use that product simply because it exists.

Before you take your product to investors, Sequoia says to calculate market size. But how do you do it? You have to carry out research to see how many people need to complete the main or related jobs your product completes. Remember: the job-to-be-done is the market—not the product.

This is why the traditional ways of examining a market are flawed. These include the following:

  • Total Addressable Market (TAM): All units sold in a product category multiplied by the price per unit.
    Served Available Market (SAM): Units sold of a specific product type multiplied by the price per unit.
    Share of Market (SOM): Percentage of customers buying a certain company’s products.

These are product-based ways to calculate market size. Jobs Theory teaches you that the target market is the job executors and a job-to-be-done.

As an example, consider the Microsoft Zune, which was an answer to the iPod. Using traditional ways of analyzing market size, Microsoft measured the iPod market, which, at the time, was in the billions of dollars (e.g. 200 million iPods sold x $150 per unit = $30 billion market). But in 2007, the iPhone and Pandora launched, getting the job of curating music done more effectively, and the the iPod market quickly dipped to $0.

Microsoft made the mistake of defining the market based on the product. The market vanished because it was defined by a product. This left Microsoft trying to grab a market share of what was essentially nothing.

Instead, with Jobs-to-be-Done, the market size should be defined based on the customer’s willingness to pay to get the job done (regardless of the products currently in the market). To size the market into an accurate dollar amount, survey customers in the market to find out how much they are willing to pay to get the job done more accurately, efficiently, and/or conveniently. The resulting number is termed the securable market—the revenue you can generate by enabling customers to get a job done better.

6. Competition
As Sequoia says, it’s “better to identify all the competitors than have the investors discover them afterwards.” How do you capture a comprehensive list that is meaningful? Which products are worth including and how do you analyze them to show that your solution can beat them?

The competition is not just similar products. It is any existing solution–a product, service, or manual process–that the job executors use to get the job done today. This view generates a much broader list and a more comprehensive understanding of what your product needs to beat.

You can show how you will beat them by eschewing the traditional feature-to-feature comparison and instead looking at how well the competition serves the needs in the job. Your customers don’t want more features, they want to get the job done, so showing that your product has more features does not demonstrate that people will adopt it.

Let’s look at the Nest learning thermostat as an example.

A typical list of competition would include other thermostat companies such as Honeywell and Emerson. The first version of the Nest didn’t include all of the features of the Honeywell programmable thermostat and it was far more expensive, so how could you have shown that it would succeed?

First, identify the customer’s job by asking, “What job is the customer hiring this product to get done?” In this case, it’s to “achieve comfort in the home.”

Next look at the needs in the job. One need is “reduce the likelihood of the home being cold when you return to it.” How quickly and accurately does a programmable thermostat serve this need? Programming the thermostat takes minutes. The schedule is rigid, so if you get home early one day and forget to turn the thermostat up, you will be cold. The time it takes is minutes and the accuracy is low. The Nest improved upon this need by controlling the thermostat based on your location. It doesn’t require programming so it meets the need faster. It’s more accurate because it will turn on the heat automatically when you are home.

By showing how much faster and more accurately your product meets the needs in the job, you can show that you will beat the competition.

7. Product
Sequoia recommends you provide a product development roadmap covering functionality, features, architecture, intellectual property, form factor, etc.

Whether your product is far enough along to show a demo or all you have is a road map of your future, be sure to focus this section of your pitch on the unmet needs. It’ll frame your story, giving your feature set meaning and showing why customers would switch to your product.

It’s critical to demonstrate how early versions of your product will serve unmet needs better than the competition. Otherwise, your audience will question why and how you will get early adoption.

In your roadmap, you can show how even though your product only gets a few needs in the job done today, over time it’ll expand to get the whole job done (and potentially expand to adjacent jobs), creating more value for the customer and a competitive moat.

8. Business model
Sequoia’s outline recommends discussing your revenue model, product pricing, average value of a customer, sales and distribution model, and customer pipeline list. Here, you must make clear who is willing to pay (and how much).

The examples of Airbnb and Facebook show how viewing your business through the lens of Jobs Theory can help you construct a sound revenue model.

Airbnb generates revenue from the job executors of the two primary jobs the product set out to serve from day one:

1. Travelers finding lodging

2. Residents providing short-term rentals

Airbnb charges a fee on the transaction because the job executors have a willingness to pay to get these jobs done.

Facebook doesn’t make money off the primary jobs it originally helped its users complete: students getting to know their classmates and staying in touch with friends and family. Instead, the mountains of user data Facebook collects created an asset to get another job done: businesses acquiring customers. The willingness to pay for this second job done is very high.

When conceiving your revenue model, first research the willingness to pay for the primary job your product gets done. If the job executors are not willing to pay for it, consider whether or getting the primary job done creates an asset that can be deployed to getting an adjacent job done where the job executors have a high willingness to pay.

Final Advice
Jobs-to-be-Done not only provides a rigorous foundation for your pitch, but it also provides a framework for you to determine if your idea is worth pursuing or to find a new idea worth pursuing. However, just because you’ve learned the language of Jobs, Job Executors, and Unmet Needs does not mean the audience for your pitch (company stakeholders, your company’s board, potential investors) knows this language. Abstract your story from the theory to drive your points home. No one needs to know what a job or a job executor is to understand that drivers struggle to reach a destination on time. Use the theory to do your homework and then tell your story in plain English.

If you have any questions, get in touch.

Posted by Jared Ranere in Jobs Theory Blog, Market Sizing, Product Strategy, Roadmap Planning, 0 comments

7 Steps to Improve Annual Planning with Jobs-to-be-Done

Serious group of businesspeople having problems at work.

It’s the heart of Q4. Product Managers across the land are getting requests for next year’s road map as part of a company-wide “annual planning process.”

Some of you have talked your way out of an annual plan, “Why bother planning for more than a quarter? Every year I’ve been here, we’ve changed everything after 2 months.”

Whether you’re planning for the next quarter or the next year, you’re still on the hook for a plan. The pessimists among us wonder how they can reach an acceptable deliverable with minimal effort. The optimists have hope. Maybe this year we can make a plan that doesn’t get overhauled before we finish the first step.

Why do product road maps change so much?

Because the inputs typically used to make a road map–customer feature requests, sales team requests, stakeholder requests, new technologies–never stop changing.

But, your customer’s job-to-be-done (the goal or task that causes them to use your product) and the needs within the job do not change. You can use them as the basis for annual planning and vastly improve the stability and reliability of your road map.

Here are 7 steps to using the Jobs-to-be-Done product development method to create an annual plan that holds up throughout the year, delivers on the intended results, and satisfies customer needs better than the competition.

Step 1: Prioritize unmet customer needs
Customer Needs are the metrics customers use to judge how well the job gets done. A need is “unmet” if customers think it is important but not satisfied. Using a survey, you can assign importance and satisfaction scores to each customer need.

Here’s an example of a Customer Need:

When creating a mood with music (the job-to-be-done), you need to reduce the likelihood that the criteria for the playlist is too stringent e.g. the songs are too similar or no songs fit the criteria (the Customer Need).

In the job of create a mood with music, there are approximately 100 Needs.

The first step in annual planning is to prioritize the needs by the difference between importance and satisfaction scores–the bigger the difference, the higher the priority. A large difference indicates a large portion of the market is struggling to meet the need.

The result of this prioritization is a ranked list of problems to solve throughout the coming year and strong evidence that solving them will matter a great deal to your users. This list is the cornerstone of your plan.

Step 2: Analyze the competition and generate feature ideas to serve the unmet needs
Now that you have a list of problems (unmet customer needs) your team will tackle, it’s time to fill out your plan with solutions.

Look at how quickly and accurately existing solutions (i.e. the competition) meet your prioritized customer needs.

Remember our example:

When creating a mood with music, you need to reduce the likelihood that the criteria for the playlist is too stringent e.g. the songs are too similar or no songs fit the criteria.

If you’ve ever picked just one band to start a playlist on Pandora, you might find that the criteria is indeed too stringent and all the songs on the list are very similar. The accuracy with which Pandora meets this need is rather low.

This analysis provides the benchmark for your new ideas.

You’re looking to think up features that serve the unmet needs faster and more accurately than the competition. They will lead to people hiring your product to get their job done.

To generate ideas, gather a small, diverse group of colleagues from design, engineering, marketing, etc. Write a prioritized need on the board, and ask, “What can we do to serve this need?”

Compare each suggestion to the benchmark: existing features and the competition. If the idea will not meet the need faster and more accurately, toss it.

Keep a list of the ideas that do meet the need faster and more accurately. They will likely have varying degrees of difficulty, but you’ll deal with that later with cost estimates.

Think back to when Songza (now Google Music) launched playlists that were hand-curated by music experts. This idea served our example need much more accurately than Pandora. It’s an idea that would meet the criteria for “good” in a jobs-to-be-done idea generation session.

Step 3: Estimate new satisfaction scores
For each idea that met the above criteria and got on the list, estimate what the new satisfaction score would be if you surveyed your customers again, after they have been using this new feature. It’s a judgement of how much faster and more accurate the new feature will be.

If the existing solutions take days and your new feature only takes minutes and improves accuracy, you can imagine that satisfaction will increase quite a bit. If your new feature is only 1 second faster and the same level of accuracy, you should estimate a rather small increase in satisfaction.

Step 4: Estimate the cost of each feature
Your goal is to satisfy customer needs profitably so before you can prioritize which solutions to build first, you need a cost estimate. This is the one step that is likely not very different from what you do today. Talk with your builders–designers, engineers, etc.–and estimate the resources and time required to build the feature.

Step 5: Prioritize feature ideas by value
Feature value is a function of two factors:

  1. How many more customers will be satisfied with their ability to meet the need with the new feature
  2. How much the new feature contributes to improving the customer’s struggle to get the whole job done.

The first factor can be estimated using the new satisfaction score assigned in Step 3.

The second factor matters because your customers are not just trying to meet one need, they are trying to get the whole job done. If you’ve done the full research and collected all of the customer needs in the job (usually there are around 100), you’ll be able to see what portion of the job you are improving by meeting one or multiple needs with a given feature.

You can use these two factors to calculate the value of each feature idea. It gets a little complex, so get in touch if you want to know exactly how to do it.

After calculating the value of each feature, stack rank your list of feature ideas, putting those with the highest value and lowest cost at the top.

Step 6: Present to stakeholders
Road map presentations to stakeholders are often the most feared meetings of the year.

Product Managers have spent time with each stakeholder, understanding their goals, and collecting feature ideas from them. They’ve discussed feature requests from customers and salespeople as well as new tech that has come on the scene.

Based on estimated impact upon KPIs and cost estimates, this long list of ideas is prioritized and presented.

The stakeholders look for their ideas and fight for them. Fierce debate ensues. Passionate speeches are given. Horse trades are made.

Hours later, the team emerges from the room, exhausted and demoralized, but the road map is finalized! Everyone is getting something and no one is getting everything.

Those who think they got the raw end of the deal are onto their next mission–destroy that road map on which none of “their” features got prioritized.

Who wants to go through that every year or quarter?

A Jobs-to-be-Done roadmap presentation is very different. Here’s an agenda:

  • Remind the stakeholders of the job your customers are trying to get done.
  • Show the unmet needs, backed by qualitative and quantitative research.
  • Unveil the plan–a set of solutions to your customer’s most important and least satisfied needs.
  • Demonstrate your calculation for how getting more of the job done generates customer value, drives the willingness to pay and usage of the product i.e. meets business goals.
  • When someone offers a new idea that isn’t on the road map, evaluate it–does it meet a high priority need? Does it do it faster and more accurately than our existing ideas? Is the cost lower?

Because you’ve gone through the Jobs-to-be-Done planning process, you have objective criteria for judging ideas, reducing the need for debate and mitigating the risk of building the wrong product. Since the criteria is driven by your customers instead of your colleagues, it’s very difficult to argue against. Is there someone on your team who does not want to satisfy customer needs?

Step 7: Assess new ideas against prioritized needs
Plans fall apart when new information arises that undercuts the premise on which the plan was built. If the premise relies on ever-changing customer feature requests, sales requests, new technology, and stakeholder ideas, it’s easy to see why the plan would also constantly need to change.

When plans are built on stable customer needs, the constant flow of new data does not alter the premise and so the plan does not need to continuously change.

Instead you have a simple way to evaluate each request, each new technology, each new idea:

“Does this meet the prioritized needs better than our existing ideas and for similar or less cost?”

If no, you don’t change the plan at all. If yes, you don’t need to “pivot” or rip up the whole plan. You simply refine your existing plan–solve this list of customer problems–by swapping in a new solution for an old one.


The end of the year can be painful and frustrating if you don’t have a clear planning process that aligns your company and leads to a stable, reliable road map. I hope you find these tips for using Jobs-to-be-Done to be helpful with your annual planning.

Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions so we can help you go into the holiday season with confidence and have a prosperous new year!

Posted by Jared Ranere in Jobs Theory Blog, Roadmap Planning, 0 comments

[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.

Posted by Jared Ranere in Customer Needs, Innovation, Jobs Theory Blog, Video, 0 comments

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.

Posted by Jared Ranere in Customer Needs, Idea Generation, Product Strategy, 0 comments