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Jobs Theory Blog

How Would You Beat Retailers?

consumer goods retail

Welcome to our series, "How Would You Beat?" In each article, we pick a company and talk about how you could use jobs-to-be-done innovation methods to beat that company's product. We discuss innovation theory and explain the methods so you can put the theory into practice at your company.

In this article, we discuss how to beat retailers using Target as a case study. Target has no shortage of competitors in the retail industry, but it has done extremely well during COVID, pulling in $22 billion in revenue (up 21% in the past year) and holding a market cap of nearly $100 billion (up 65% in the past year). To get an insider's look at why Target is doing so well and the role jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) has played in its success, we sat down with our guest, Matt Bjornson. Director of Product Management at Target from 2016 to 2020, Matt is both a retail and jobs-to-be-done expert and he was responsible for turning around the registry group at Target. He knows how useful JTBD is for retailers, why retailers should be using JTBD innovation methods, and how retailers can use it to beat their competitors.

Digital vs In-Store Experience

To give a little more background on Matt and his jobs experience at Target, he told us, "I had long been interested in jobs-to-be-done theory. I've been in high-tech products for a long time and getting to know the writings of Clay Christensen who put forth the jobs theory was always something I wanted to do. When I became Product Director at Target over the registry experience, we had our jobs cut out for us, no pun intended. Target is one of the companies that most people think about when they're getting married or having a baby and they need all those things to support that new stage in their life. The business, overall, had kind of fallen on some pretty tough times. What was really interesting, from my perspective, about the opportunity, was that Target's business crossed not only the digital channels, but also the store and team member channels. The guests -- like the expecting mothers or the newly married couples -- would interact with our team members directly, as well as digitally.  That was a huge area of interest for me."

Matt pointed out that when he joined Target, about 80% of their revenue was coming from the stores and 20% was coming from digital sources, and they were dealing with a long period of little to no growth. Now, three years later, there has been a tremendous shift to 60% digital and 40% in-store. Guest behavior has changed and the entire eCommerce and retail industries have shifted to being more online. How did that happen?

Using Jobs-to-be-Done Language

The jobs pertaining to marriage, wedding registries and having children -- many of the jobs Target helps people to solve -- are some of the most important jobs people will solve in their lifetimes. These types of jobs are also extremely functional and extremely emotional. It was this type of thinking, particularly around the emotional and social aspects of those jobs to be done, that Matt said presented the biggest opportunity for growth.

"There's also this dynamic around expecting mothers wanting to appear like they have the confidence to take care of their child. Obviously, a baby is something that you have to keep alive, to continue to grow and nourish, and that was a huge opportunity that we saw with jobs-to-be-done. Previously, we would surface some of these ideas as part of the research activities we were doing, but the key benefits of jobs-to-be-done were the mental models and having a consistent language to think about it in."  

This JTBD language extends beyond product and design; it is also used by engineering teams, and even by HR during the hiring and firing processes. It helps you think about innovation in the context of speed and accuracy. According to Matt, implementing that consistent language encouraged the shift away from how previous product leaders had thought about the registry business.

"It's very different from traditional eCommerce where, you'd say, 'Hey, I'm going to (or some other retailer) and I'm making a purchase.' If you know someone in your family is having a baby, you could empathize. What do they really need to help them be a good mother, or help a baby get to sleep at night? That context surrounding those jobs is very different from something like, 'I need to bring a present to a wedding shower.' Those are two completely different ways to think about the same business. And as we shifted our thinking around that, it was really pivotal in reinforcing how we organized the teams, how we thought about our quarterly planning, and how we thought about our key metrics."

This was a multi-year effort requiring a lot of work, but they managed to go from zero growth when Matt joined, to 25% top-line business growth in year three by changing the way they thought about the jobs their customers were trying to solve.

How to Approach the Competition

This growth is impressive and it raises some interesting questions about the competitive situation Target was facing, particularly with the registry business. Who were the competitors? What was Target's approach to taking market share from them before implementing jobs-to-be-done? How did the mindset change after implementing?

As Matt explains it, pre-JTBD, they were using the concept of a feature factory. "Competitor XYZ releases this feature and there's this mad frenzy. Stakeholders are like, 'Why don't we have that feature?' As part of the shift towards jobs, we really reinforced the jobs that we were trying to solve, like 'prepare to bring a baby home,' compared to 'build a registry.' The team thought of some interesting things that no one in the registry space was thinking about and it gave us a new way of approaching our business."

Although Matt's team was known as the "registry team", they were actually focused on those big life moments which, as Matt pointed out, in retail, is a huge opportunity. The "baby" demographic is a critical segment for retailers like Target, Amazon and Walmart because customer habits change. They try new retailers, looking for new ways to get what they need easier, faster and better. That's where the JTBD language came into play.

Matt continues, "A lot of shared language was used with stakeholders and even with the guests. Ultimately, we wanted to bring the guests' language back into those jobs so that, as we look at the job steps and how well we're doing, then we can objectively use their language to frame how the teams were thinking about and approaching opportunities."

Defining Customer Needs

One of the primary benefits of JTBD is that it helps you empathize with your customer. Truly empathizing with their struggle rather than just suggesting products to buy can help align your teams and focus on OKRs. All too often, companies lay out their OKRs without thinking about what to do about their customers' struggles. The OKRs are too internally focused on the company's success instead of the customers' success. If you can bridge those gaps by making the OKRs relevant to what your customers are struggling with, that's when the real success happens.

From a retailer's standpoint, if you could map out all the jobs to be done that a human goes through in their life, from having a baby and finding a job to receiving medical care and even planning a funeral, retailers have a huge opportunity. However, the way they actually think about it is, "Hey, we've got a baby and that's a new customer. How can we get that customer to be a customer for life?" Banks think this way as well. If you're in college, they're going to send you a ton of credit cards because if you set up your account with them, you're unlikely to switch your credit card. They're usually focused on their own products, not on the needs of the customer.

Target was able to attain the impressive 25% growth rate because they started focusing on the jobs their customers needed to get done. That level of growth changes your equity value, your market cap, and is the difference between being public or private. As Warren Buffett famously said, "Growth and value are tied at the hip."

ecommerce purchase

Which Metrics Should You Track?

Which metrics was Target tracking on their way to 25% growth? Which metrics were leading and which were lagging? Which ones were the best indicators that their processes were successful? To help answer some of these questions, Matt tell us, "In general, retailers, like anyone else, are looking at the ultimate lagging metric: sales. I'm looking at how much was purchased off the registry on a weekly basis, and the categories that they purchased off of."

Matt goes on to explain that the registry on Target's website is actually very similar to eBay in that you have the ability to purchase almost anything you want. He uses the job executor and job beneficiary to illustrate his point. "We've got the executor of the job and that's the gift giver. They're the ones who are friends and family. You're having a baby and I'm going to your baby shower, or I'm helping you out with whatever helps a baby get to sleep at night. But you're the beneficiary and they have different functional, social and emotional jobs. As a beneficiary, you want to get things done, but how are you measuring progress?"

Will people still purchase off their registries things they don't need? How often are the customers visiting the registry and what items and item categories are they looking at? What types of gifts are they pairing? For example, maybe they're not only buying diapers, but also the creams and wipes. Or, if your job is to get your baby to sleep through the night, they might pair a swaddle with a couple of books for bedtime stories. You want to identify those additional items to see which stage of the job the customer is in.

On the gift giver side, Target wanted to figure out how to decrease the amount of time it takes them to put together the perfect gift and then use the gift receiver's reaction to that as a metric for whether the gift was good or not. Then you would want to track their experience as a parent, to find out if the registry actually succeeded in preparing them to have this baby. It's a completely different set of metrics than what you would normally look at in a purchase funnel. eCommerce platforms make it incredibly easy to measure user behavior, allowing you to track every single click to see if the customer ultimately makes the purchase. But all of this data can lead to very local optimizations. Businesses generally don't want to expend too many resources building something that they don't know for certain will succeed for fear of breaking the funnel. Instead, they AB test everything to death, not knowing if the choices were good until after they were launched.

That is the definition of a lagging metric. Because you're trying to measure after you launch, you want to decrease the cost of every launch, which leads you to these incredibly minute local optimizations that only can create growth if you have a ton of traffic to start with. If you're a new retailer and you don't have the audience of a company like Target, those local optimizations are going to get you nowhere. The question is, how do you get somebody to move from Amazon to your site in the first place? Your purchase funnel is not going to help you do that. The metrics of getting the job done can change your point of view and everything about how you operate as a retailer and eCommerce business, thereby helping to create much bigger growth margins.

If you're looking at the job of "get a baby to sleep through the night" from a registry perspective, that's where you can really help the gift receivers. The new parents (job beneficiaries) know that their goals is getting their baby to sleep through the night. The gift giver (job executor) can then give the new parents a gift to help the baby sleep through the night -- probably the best gift you can give any new parent.

Why JTBD Valuable Is So Valuable

Product managers, product directors or product executives out there might be wondering how to do JTBD and why it's valuable. We asked Matt about some of the most important things he learned about JTBD and what you should know about it if you're thinking of implementing it in your business. How to overcome some of the obstacles? Top 3 things to know about JTBD.

"I would say one of the first things every large organization talks about is how customer-focused they are. Jobs theory is really the best way to bring that to life because it's not just talking about the metrics piece of it. It's not just about the end result. You're really trying to tease apart why they're choosing Target. Why are they choosing Amazon? That "why" is the most important aspect of your sales. You can come up with personas or tool sets that you want to use, but until you understand why people fired you and some of the causal mechanisms behind that, you really don't understand your customer at all.

The other part of it is, who else am I really competing against?  I'm not competing with Amazon or Walmart. Maybe it's something completely different that you don't even know about, so I think that's where a lot of potential innovation can come from. 

As a product leader, you need to understand that this is going to take time, but the investment is worth it. You need to prioritize where to go first. I was fortunate I had a leader who supported my point of view. That obviously meant a lot, but that also allowed me and the team to go out and pursue this opportunity. But it took us time."

Matt concludes by saying, "I think the sweet spot is organizing teams around jobs. You can't go after everything, but those critical skills are the critical jobs that are so important and vital for your business. You deserve to invest in those if those are really priorities."

As Clay Christensen realized, companies need to organize around their customers' jobs. Organizing the company around what the company needs to do can lead to disaster. Just look at Kodak, Blackberry and Britannica.

We always like to hear experiences like Matt's, and we're happy to see Jobs Theory in action with product teams adopting JTBD and implementing it with such successful results like Matt and Target have had. If you'd like to share your own JTBD story, comment below or reach out to us today. To learn more about the JTBD framework, we have plenty of resources available on our site. Sign up for one of our free how-to guides and try our software for free.

Posted by Jay Haynes in jobs to be done, how would you beat? , 0 comments

How Would You Beat Comcast?

USA nationwide communication network

Welcome to our series, "How Would You Beat?" In each article, we pick a company and talk about how you could use jobs-to-be-done innovation methods to beat that company's product. We discuss innovation theory and explain the methods so you can put the theory into practice at your company.

In this article we focus on Comcast and how to beat their broadband service provider, Xfinity, using jobs-to-be-done. Comcast is a huge company with a market cap of almost $250 billion and an annual revenue of over $100 billion. They own Xfinity, who accounts for about half of their revenue, as well as other properties like NBC Universal. Our first question is: Is jobs-to-be-done even useful in this type of market where there is, effectively, a regional monopoly and tons of regulatory authority with who can compete with Comcast?

What Is the Market for Beating Comcast?

Comcast has some of the lowest customer satisfaction ratings in the cable industry (which is not known for high customer satisfaction as a whole). Not only that, but they've also violated net-neutrality practices in the past, and they have plans to cap data. Overall, they don't seem to be a particularly customer-focused company, and it's not as if their internet services are particularly good either. Interestingly, the United States is ranked 13th in the world in internet speed behind countries like Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. It seems like this would present a great opportunity to beat Comcast, particularly their Xfinity service. So how could you use jobs-to-be-done and jobs theory to beat Comcast?

You'd have to start by trying to figure out what the market is. In other words, who is the key customer and what are the jobs at play in this market? In a job, the customer is the job beneficiary -- the person who benefits from getting the job done. The job itself is the the goal the customer is trying to achieve independent of any technology or solution. If you look at Xfinity, the customer is self-explanatory. But what's the job? When you think about this market as broadband service, this makes the job quite narrow and you begin to see why it's so hard to compete with Comcast. They have a regional monopoly because they own all the cables that provide broadband service, they lay the infrastructure (it's incredibly expensive to lay your own infrastructure) and, in many cases, the market is highly regulated. However, that's not the job because it's too dependent on solutions. Broadband service is a technology for some other goal that you're trying to achieve. Why do we want the broadband service? Well, we want access to the internet and we want fast internet speeds but the internet is a technology too, so is that really the job to define?

Platform-Level Jobs

These are what are called platform-level jobs. New markets are often created with new platforms. For example, no one needed to ensure aircraft worthiness before there were aircrafts. We now have the internet with all of its associated jobs and you can use the same framework and thinking to focus on the customers. The jobs here are "to access the internet" and "access the network." How do you go about completing this job as a society, not just as individual competitors?

When there are regulated monopolies like Comcast, there won't be 50 different internet providers in a single market in a single region. The capital expense to lay all the cable initially is copper, and then there's the fiber optics infrastructure, which is very expensive. So what are you willing to pay? There needs to be a good return on that investment. That's why there wouldn't be 50 companies building different fiber optic networks -- nor should society really want to spend all this money to build 50 different fiber optic networks when one will suffice. That's different than if you're competing building software. In that situation, you could certainly have 50 different software companies all competing to create very similar applications. 

The main job beneficiary in this case is the consumer or business trying to access the network. There's also the government that has jobs to get done. The government wants competitors to enter markets to lower prices on different products and services, such as broadband. The government is also responsible for allocating public resources so they can determine, for example, who has the right to lay fiber optic networks and what the cost should be. One of the problems is, though, how to keep moving forward when there is a company within the market that has a monopoly. How can the market be made more competitive? There's a technology -- either copper or fiber optics -- that can be used to help people access the internet, but are there other emerging technologies that could get that same job done?

Using Other Technologies to Compete

We're already seeing some competitors explore that area, launching new services and new technologies. There's the Boston-based Starry Internet that essentially piggybacks off of satellite networks. Their technology is more complicated than that, but it's a new, fast, inexpensive way to deliver the internet. They're also trying to provide excellent customer service, and they have a relatively high valuation. There is also Starlink, SpaceX's new satellite internet network, that's competing with the same technology as that offered by DirecTV. They're able to put more satellites in space and offer much higher speeds. Starlink's tagline for their beta is, "Better than nothing." How does that connect to getting the job done better? Why would you want just "better than nothing"?

As Clay Christensen liked to say, "It's not in consumption." The high price of getting a job like "access the internet" done today (and even just the price of the technology available to make it happen) makes it prohibitively expensive to get the job done so people and businesses don't even try. That's where non-consumption happens and that's what companies like Starlink are targeting. They're targeting the people who don't have internet access, very slow internet access, or are lacking other broadband opportunities. There are rural parts of California where there really isn't any internet. At one point, not too long ago, we'd have to use 3G, which was not very fast, and then have to use an antenna to amplify it. Trying to stream Netflix, let alone just checking your emails, was nearly impossible. This non-consumption opportunity happens to be a segment of the market who can't get the job done because they can't afford it.

trying to stream a show with slow internet

Is it possible to build new technologies that lower the price, increase the speeds and essentially compete with Comcast through a different route? You'd be targeting those consumers who are not Comcast customers and competing with Comcast by disrupting the market. Remember, disruption is where you enter the market with a technology that is initially worse and you target the low-end of the market. Then, over time, your technology improves and you eventually become a direct competitor. As far as these utilities and the jobs they're trying to get done, one job is "get me on the internet." But they're also targeting their shareholders and create returns for them. How can companies navigate this tension of providing returns to shareholders and providing value to their customers?

Shareholders vs. Customers

Every company is trying to do that, to some extent. Every company has shareholders, whether it be the public markets, the private investors, or just the company owners who aren't getting any outside capital. There are shareholders in every single company and everybody's trying to create equity value. The question is, what is the best opportunity to do so? With the Xfinity part of their business, Comcast seems to be taking a defensive posture. There's an example of a company in Chattanooga, Tennessee that tried to provide their own internet and Comcast sued them for doing so because they were infringing upon the fiber optic land. It's a complicated case but, the point is, when you start suing your competitors, that's clearly a defensive posture.

In one sense, you can say they're giving up on trying to get the job done better, and they're just trying to protect their turf, which is a viable strategy in this industry. Unlike other markets we've looked at where you can pick one need, or one job step, to get done better than the competition and grow from there, there's a barrier to entry in the internet access job. You can't just do the payment part of that job and not provide Internet service. You can't do the on-boarding part of "provide internet access" without actually streaming data back and forth across your network. In order to enter the job at all requires a significant investment by either laying your own fiber optic infrastructure, or creating a new technology altogether. That's where this defensive posture comes from. So what happens next? Is that all that Comcast can do to return equity value to shareholders? To have a defensive posture and keep competitors at bay who might be providing better service for their customers?

That''s a question that comes up in platform situations all the time. What additional jobs can you get done with the platform? That's exactly what you see with Comcast. They're buying NBC Universal because they realize they have a platform and that's where people are going to pay for more products and services -- for entertainment products and services. Even Apple, that makes operating systems and phones (which are platforms), is now building many of their own apps as well as their own content (with Apple TV). Apple is now making TV shows?

Of course, companies have to keep up on returns to shareholders and they have to create equity value to avoid going out of business. But do we really want that as a society? That's really the bigger question we're trying to answer.

As a specific example to illustrate this point, we should mention the situation with Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) in California that led to really bad consequences. PG&E is a utility. You can make a serious argument that internet access is a utility that levels the playing field. You don't want people to not have electricity, and you don't want people to not have access to the internet. But what happened with PG&E is it became a shareholder-owned utility. Because the part of generating returns to the shareholders was returning them cash in the form of dividends, in order to stay competitive in the capital markets, PG&E was taking cash and just distributing it to the debt holders and to the shareholders. What they didn't do is upgrade the safety of the infrastructure here in California to deal with climate change. As soon as we had the right conditions, things got really bad.

The result has been, for years now, fires spreading across the country. PG&E was liable for those fires that caused enormous damage and burned down entire towns and, as a result, they went bankrupt. Instead of collecting all of that cash back from those dividends and debt payments over the years and investing in a new infrastructure, they declared bankruptcy wiping out their shareholders. But they got to keep going. So that is a bigger question: what happens to these platforms? We see Apple and Amazon trying to get more jobs done on their platform, expanding to entertainment and making their own apps. Is that the better way to do it, or do we want more companies getting those jobs done more competitively?

Comcast's Main Competitor Is... the Government?

This all goes back to the idea of which jobs the government is trying to get done. One of those key jobs is economic productivity. They need to optimize and increase the economic productivity of a nation or a state because that's how they collect taxes. The more money everybody earns, the more tax revenue goes to the government and the more services they can provide. It's a beneficent cycle. When something becomes vital to economic productivity, it then becomes in the government's interest to support that and make sure it doesn't fail.

Electricity is an obvious example. Without power, we can't do most of the work that's done in any industry. During the pandemic, we're seeing that's even more true with a utility like the internet. Not necessarily more true than electricity because you can't have the internet without electricity, but there are many industries right now that are working from home and, without internet in the home, those industries would come to a standstill. School is now relying on the internet and if you can't educate your society you can't have a society that works. If those two things stop, your economic output goes to zero. If the government's going to try to get that job done, they're going to have to provide a solution to this internet access problem, especially if it's not working out with private companies. Perhaps the most fierce competitor to compete with Comcast is going to be the government.

Having the government be the provider of the services hasn't always worked out well. In an extreme case, you get the Soviet Union. However, jobs-to-be-done can help us figure this out because, clearly, the world needs a better service than Comcast, especially during a pandemic where we're incredibly dependent on being online and being connected. If this shifts society to not commuting as often, not traveling to meetings as often, and doing everything through Zoom and Google Hangouts, that's fantastic. It lowers our carbon output. That's a good long-term benefit. To beat Comcast, who has this entrenched $50 billion monopoly with Xfinity, one way is through new technology. (Think satellite 5G.)

So what do you do from a competitor standpoint? It might involve helping the government rethink these platforms to allow different types of competition. Figure out what the jobs are that the government is trying to do, as well as the jobs the individual companies are trying to do. If you were to try and beat Comcast, the best bet would be to do it from a technological standpoint. Whether it's 5G or satellite or some combination of technologies, there needs to be more direct competitors to Comcast. Figure out what the core underlying jobs are of accessing the internet and consider the role of government and the jobs they're trying to get done. 

To learn more about jobs-to-be-done and how you can apply it to your business or markets, get our free How-To guides and try our jobs-to-be-done software for free.

Posted by Jay Haynes in jobs to be done, customer job, how would you beat? , 0 comments

How Would You Beat Trumpism?

american political debate

In each of our "How Would You Beat?" articles, we pick a company and talk about how you could use jobs-to-be-done innovation methods to beat that company's product. We discuss innovation theory and explain the methods you can use to put the theory into practice at your company. In this article, we're going to focus on something a little different than we normally do: we're going to talk about Trumpism. 

The events of January 6th -- when a band of Trump supporters rioted and attacked the US Capitol -- showed that Trumpism can be violent and seditious. They don't want to play by the rules of democracy. We want to see if jobs-to-be-done innovation theory can help us understand what Trumpism is, what we can do about it, and specifically, what companies can do about it.

What Is Trumpism?

The way we always start our explorations into how you would beat a product or a company is to figure out what the jobs are that the customers are hiring the product to do. Customers are trying to get goals done in their lives. When they struggle to achieve those goals, they go looking to hire a product to help them get it done better. Simply put, customers aren't buying products, they're hiring products to get a job done. So, to start, we need to set up our framework:

  1. Is Trumpism a product? If so, who was its customer?
  2. What job are people hiring it to get done?

We would argue yes, Trumpism is a product.  It is a solution to something people are buying into. They have something they're trying to achieve. The basics of it, of course, are political; they wanted Trump to win, so part of it is the job of winning an election. However, it goes much deeper than that. Why do people believe false ideas? It should be noted that this goes back to before Trump, as well. Many people have noted that Trump is not the cause, he's a symptom. But he is different. Some Republicans left the party because of Trump and there now seems to be a political civil war within the party.

If we think of the job as "win an election", the customers might be citizens who just like to be on the victorious side of an election. But there are also other politicians who want to win their elections and stay in power. That's another job, and some of them are using Trumpism to do that. There are plenty of other jobs that people are trying to use Trumpism to get done as well.

The Job of the Government

Politics and government really are just solutions to many jobs that impact people's lives. Now, there are lots of debates about how effective they are and what the role of government is in our lives but, clearly, what government is trying to do is find solutions to these jobs.

The government has been described as "an insurance company with an army." If you look at the federal budget, what it's trying to do is protect people from financial disaster. Before FDR and Social Security, half of people in the United States died in poverty because the Great Depression created a financial collapse. The solution was to create an insurance company --Social Security -- and contribute to it throughout your life so you're not going to be destitute when you're old. Then there's the military protecting our country and our government. Are these jobs that people were looking to hire Trump, or Trumpism, to do? Did he get that job done? How was his messaging set up to tell us that?

With what is happening in the world today, how can jobs-to-be-done innovation theory help us? Trump is clearly different. The rate at which he lied and spread false memes was unprecedented. But to understand exactly how different he was, we first need to talk about memes.

Meme Theory

Getting into meme theory a little bit, a meme is just a replicator that spreads through human brains. Richard Dawkins, back in the 1970s, coined the phrase "meme" to contrast it with a biological replicator, which we all know is a gene. We're actually seeing evolution in real time right now, because the coronavirus is spreading and mutating. There's even a new UK strain that's more asymptomatic and more contagious.

That same thing is happening with memes. The idea of "stop the steal" and "the election was stolen" are memes that spread very, very fast. That's a real problem. Companies have a responsibility to help stop the spread of false memes. And yet, what we've seen is that false memes are also very, very profitable.

Trumpism is reflective of people's belief that the government is failing them. We have a problem in this country where 47% of the population doesn't have $400 to their name. People are also lonely, which is ironic considering we're connected on a global network to almost every human on the planet. Humans evolved to be in large social groups and we're not meant to be lonely. Trump, and politics in general, has created these memes that people are more receptive to now because of this loneliness. But it wasn't only people who were economically anxious that showed up on January 6th. In the insurrection, there was a CEO, there was an Olympic gold medalist, there were people who were professionals and there were government officials. It's far more complicated than just Trump, but it is a result of companies now spreading false memes very rapidly.

To clarify, it's not every company; it's social media companies. Look at Facebook for example. Facebook, like a lot of companies, thought their mission was to get people to use Facebook as much as possible. We get the dopamine spike from comments and likes that makes you want more and more. They created algorithms -- part of their product -- that determines what people see in their feeds. The algorithms revealed that when you show people really divisive content, they tend to stay on Facebook longer. That divisive content includes false memes, such as the election being stolen (and many other things prior to January 6). Facebook decided, "Hey, that works, let's keep doing it." This is a problem of incorrect innovation theory.

The Role of Companies in Combating False Memes

We have a segment of society who is struggling with some fundamental jobs that you would normally expect government to do, but current solutions aren't getting those jobs done. They start looking for new solutions and this ultimately leads to Trump putting out messages that happen to work well as memes. But what's the difference between a successful message, like Nike's "just do it", and a meme? In a way, they're the same thing. They're human concepts that spread in human minds.

Companies have a responsibility to focus their innovation on jobs-to-be-done -- goals that someone needs to achieve independent of any product or service. There are tons of examples of jobs-to-be-done. No one wants records, or CDs, or iPods, or even Spotify.  They want to create a mood with music. No one wants navigation apps or GPS devices or maps. They want to get to a destination on time. With Nike's "Just Do It" campaign, the job they're trying to help people get done is "exercise." This is part of a bigger human job: "optimize my health." The difference between a message like Nike's and these political memes is, memes don't have to be true in order to replicate successfully.

Facebook and Nike have very different business models. Nike wants you to buy shoes and run a lot (to buy more shoes) and hopefully get healthier in the process. Facebook wants you to stay on Facebook so they can sell you more advertising and keep collecting your data. They're what's known as a two-sided market. The paradoxical problem is, in any case, in almost every market, the goal for a company should be to help the customer get their job done that makes their life better so they don't have to use the company's product anymore.

When companies lose their way, when they focus on their product at the expense of the customer's job, it allows these false memes to spread and that's a tremendous risk for companies. It's that risk that really sets apart Trumpism from Nike. The reason it's in Nike’s best interest to put out memes or messaging that are true, and that they live up to, is because you're going to make a decision about purchasing Nike much more frequently than you are purchasing Trump. If Nike doesn't live up to their promise, they're going to go out of business. Trumpism, on the other hand, just needs to make you make a decision once every 4 years. The time horizon is very long and it's hard to see if he's actually getting that job done. He doesn't have to live up to the memes he's putting out right away and he can provide scapegoats that make people feel more comfortable if they don't look too hard at what's really going on.

The Problem with Facebook

Going back to Facebook, if you look back at when they were founded, their original mission was to help connect people. You could argue that they were very successful at that, but when they started bringing advertisers onto the platform and making money from that, they refocused on helping advertisers acquire new customers and grow sales. Along the way, they discovered that being a meme acceleration engine, whether those memes are true or false, was an effective way to keep people's attention, generate a ton of advertising inventory, and also collect data about people so they could target the advertisers' message. That's not working so well anymore because people are realizing they're not being connected socially. They stop using the platform, advertisers get less inventory and eventually Facebook goes out of business. Facebook is vulnerable to spreading false memes in a way that Trump wasn't for the past 4 years after he got elected.

In other words, the idea here is that it's risky for companies to spread false memes because they're so focused on having their customers use their product more. History gives us really good examples of how this risk plays out. One of the best, most recent examples is Yahoo versus Google. Yahoo ended up being bought for about $4.5 billion by Verizon. Remember what Yahoo was doing at the beginning of its existence. Yahoo was the darling of venture. It was a hugely successful company and search engine. They wanted people to use their product so they had human-curated search results with classifications and categorizations (think sports pages, medical pages, vacation pages, etc.). But then, a competitor named Google came along and helped people find information faster and more accurately.

This is the key to jobs-to-be-done innovation theory. In every case, customers want to get the job done faster and more accurately, so they can get back to their lives. They didn't want to spend time on Yahoo because that's not a job. That wasn't the customer's goal and the risk for Yahoo was real. Google took over search and became a much more successful company, but now, with YouTube using essentially the same algorithms as Facebook, they're contributing to the same problem that leads to Trumpism. Companies can help stop the spread of false memes by focusing on a job that's important to customers.

There are, of course, the creative jobs that people want to complete: spend time reading a good book, being immersed in a TV show or movie, listening to music. But in all the other functional categories of jobs, such as consumer, business or medical jobs, people just want to get their job done and get back to their lives. Humans are social creatures and we want to live meaningful lives. Spending time with your product is not the goal of your customers.

addicted to technology

In the product, community and technology communities at large, if you're going to help advertisers grow sales, you need to find consumers who want to buy stuff who have that particular job. If we look at Facebook that way, why do they assume that people who are hanging out with their friends want to buy a product at that exact time? How is that helping them get their job done? Compare that to Google which people use to find information. Oftentimes, that information is used to help them achieve a goal. Just on that basic analysis, you have to think that Google will continue to win and Facebook will eventually lose.

Although Facebook has gotten very good at targeted advertising, they have been very successful on the other side of the market too: they keep consumers engaged, even though they're creating division and hatred. Google was extremely successful because, if you're an advertiser, you knew, down to the dollar, what it cost you to acquire a customer. Advertising is not inherently bad. If you're looking for a solution to some health problem, or there's a vacation you want to research, or some new skill you want to learn, advertising is really good. You're in the market. You're looking to get a job done. You're trying to figure out what solutions are out there. The problem comes when there is a false meme spreader system that keeps people on your site and gives you their data.

The hope is that companies really have a big role in stopping this. The minimum they should do is stop supporting politicians who spread false memes like "Trump won the election", and stop donating to insurrectionists. Beyond that, what they really need to focus on is helping people make their lives better through helping them get their jobs done...but not by using their products

Helping Customers Get Their Jobs Done Better

We talked about how one of the reasons Trump was able to be successful is because he was able to spread false memes very quickly that interested him. Not to go too deep into Susan Blackmore’s The Meme Machine and the work of Richard Dawkins and how they define memes, but essentially a meme could be a phrase, a picture, a video or anything that contains an idea and is inimitable. In order to replicate, memes need a distribution engine and they need receptive hosts. They need hosts that find these ideas and phrases attractive, and then they need a distribution mechanism to spread them around. In the old days, you could use word of mouth to spread a meme (and this continues to happen today), but Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the mainstream media are now the primary distribution engines for pushing these memes through society.

One way that companies can help stop the spread of false memes is to redesign their engine so false memes don't help make them successful. Another way is to change the conditions of the host. If people are able to get their basic, fundamental jobs done better -- financial security, economic and social stability -- and if companies can help get those jobs done more successfully, then there won't be that segment of the population struggling so much they're willing to look at these false memes to get the job done. You change the environment that makes these untruths attractive.

We need to focus on humans and how we're intersecting with these technologies because we're totally unprepared for the acceleration of these false meme spreading systems and their hosts. The problem is that, in evolution, that kind of high-speed change and growth never ends well. In fact, that's exactly what the coronavirus is and it's an evolutionary unstable strategy. The coronavirus is highly contagious and lethal and we fought back immediately, developing a vaccine within one year. We just don't have any equivalent to that in this false meme spreading. Hopefully what jobs theory and jobs-to-be-done can do is help companies figure out that path to a vaccine for false memes. 

Building human connections is an entire job domain that is incredibly complex. If Facebook were to say, "We'd like to help make human connections," and they wanted to do that successfully, they would study all the jobs in that domain. We know from jobs theory that even a simple job like getting to a destination on time has 15 different steps and over 100 different needs and variables in the job. Jobs are complex, but that's one of the values of theory: it helps you break down that complexity.

While we're wildly unprepared for all of the changes that are about to happen, the good thing is that human jobs are really stable. They don't change over time. They have inherent stability that gives us the ability to figure out how we need to innovate against those jobs. That is our path to success. It's the path for companies to really help people's lives and potentially stop Trumpism.

What You Can Do

If you're a leader at a company, focus your employee incentives around getting the customers' job done better. If leaders, especially product leaders, set their metrics for their teams around the job they're targeting and defining the jobs as meaningful human jobs, that can change people's lives. Employees will be more successful and the business will be more sustainable over the long run.

This doesn't necessarily mean killing advertising. Identify your customers' problems and figure out a way to connect them with your products and services that will help them solve those problems and make them happier. Advertisers would like that a lot more than paying for impressions that don't lead to sales. This would increase the efficiency of advertising, increase the satisfaction of consumers who are trying to find things to get jobs done in their lives, and be better for everybody. Jobs-to-be-done innovation theory can make meaningful contributions to help stop the spread of Trumpism and other false memes. 

Hopefully you found this content insightful. To learn more about Jobs Theory, reach out get our free How To Guides and try our jobs-to-be-done software for free.

Posted by Jay Haynes in jobs to be done, customer job, job statement , 0 comments

How Would You Beat Home Depot?

competing in the home improvement market

Welcome to our series, "How Would You Beat?" In each article, we pick a company and talk about how you could use jobs-to-be-done innovation methods to beat that company's product. We'll discuss innovation theory and explain the methods you can use to put the theory into practice at your company. Today, we're going to look at how you would beat Home Depot.

We like looking at large corporations and certainly Home Depot would be one of those. They have a $290 billion market cap and are one of the dominant companies in the home improvement market. In 2020, they earned $33 billion in revenue in Q3 alone, which was up 23% year over year. This raises a very interesting question: In the middle of this pandemic, and with millions of people out of work, how are they still growing?

How Is Home Depot Growing?

If you were a new entrant coming into the market, a startup, or even an existing competitor, how would you compete with Home Depot using jobs-to-be-done? What jobs are people hiring Home Depot to help with?

Home Depot is in the home improvement market so, very simply, we could say the job is "improve your home." Given that we're all in a lockdown right now and spending more time at home, we start to see why Home Depot has been able to grow. If we're socializing at home, schooling at home, working at home, and just generally at home more than we have ever been before, we're going to be inclined to improve it and to make it work for our unique situation. So how does Home Depot help you do that? How are they helping you get the "improve your home" job done?

The reason why they're growing is that people are taking funds that they've previously allocated for things like travel and vacation, and since they're not traveling or going on vacation anymore, they're using those funds to improve their homes instead.

"Home improvement" is one way of looking at the market. If you're going to compete with Home Depot -- if you're Lowe's, for example -- you're in a direct, head-to-head competition with them. You're going to be looking at what Home Depot is doing, making the necessary adjustments and likely asking yourself, "Do they have a product that we don't have in our inventory? Are they offering a service in their stores that we don't have?” That's the traditional, direct method of feature-to-feature competition. What we like to do is to use jobs-to-be-done to help companies think a little differently. 

Competing with Home Depot

If you're going to compete with Home Depot, how would you go about it? First, we'd want to break down all the jobs that people are hiring Home Depot to do. Start with a simple job: improving the home office. What are the jobs that people are doing in their home office? Once you've answered that question, then you can go through your entire home. What are you doing in your kitchen, for example? Or what are you doing in the bathrooms and showers? Your living room? In other words, the job is more than just "improve your home." Improving your home is almost a solution to all these other jobs.

Perhaps your job is "make my bedroom look nicer." You might look at that job specifically and realize that, yes, you want your bedroom to look nicer, but really, the core functional job would be "getting a good night's sleep." That's true in every part of your house. "Preparing a meal" is a good example of a job in your kitchen. The point is, there are solutions to these jobs that don't require direct competition with Home Depot. 

If you look at that high-level job of improving your home as a domain, all Home Depot really helps you with this gathering the materials. There are a bunch of other steps in that job covering everything from figuring out how to improve it, to designing that improvement and actually executing it. I cannot tell you the number of things that I would like to improve about my home that I just don't have the time to do, even if they're really simple (this includes maintenance jobs too).

Your home needs to provide shelter. To do that, you need to keep out water. You need to keep your HVAC system working appropriately and that requires regular maintenance. Unfortunately, none of the existing solutions for those things last forever and that's a whole other domain; there are the improvements to the current condition of your home... and then there's the ongoing maintenance of all these things. 

This holds true for something like landscaping as well. You can go to Home Depot to buy a rake, or you can hire a landscaper. This brings up an interesting point about segmentation: some people have the time to do more of the job steps on their own, and those are the people who use Home Depot to gather materials.

I'm sure I'm not just speaking for myself when I say that when you have a family, and you have two adults who work full time, speed and accuracy is critical for the home improvement job. You do not have time to personally take care of all of the maintenance a home requires. It almost makes you regret owning a home in the first place. This job is incredibly underserved. Even finding help to do it is time consuming. (I can't get a contractor to call me back for next to anything.) There's so much opportunity in this in this domain, quite frankly, it's surprising that Home Depot earns as much revenue as it does when this job is so underserved.

What Is the Actual Market?

Another good way of thinking about this is, what is the size of this market? Sure, you could say people are buying materials to improve their home on their own and that's one market. But is that really the market?  We have to think about it more broadly. Home Depot is serving multiple customers, as well as serving the homeowner who wants to go and build their own garden, do their own kitchen improvements, etc. They have services to help you with all of that. However, they also provide a bunch of stuff to contractors who are doing that for you.

As we mentioned, with jobs like "optimize your home" and "maintain your home", those can be further broken down until you decide Home Depot is actually going to be a part of your solution. In jobs-to-be-done, the job beneficiaries are the reason the market exists. This market doesn't exist because of a contractor; it exists because homeowners have a home. They're the job beneficiary. They're the core element. Obviously, homeowners are hiring contractors to help, but also, in the jobs-to-be-done jobs theory framework, they're hiring contractors as part of the solution. 

home improvement contractor

You could add a layer: "optimize my home subscription service." Whenever I have anything go wrong, I just want to make one phone call and have this single service provider come and take care of it. Again, if you've got a busy family, who has the time to take care of this stuff? That's where the big market opportunity is. Imagine different real estate models, different types of homeowners in different communities where you're outsourcing the maintenance, repairs and optimizations.

Condos and co-ops are great examples of this. You pay a maintenance fee and somebody takes care of most of the infrastructure. They don't take care of the inside of your apartment and all the little nooks and crannies, but they make sure the HVAC system is working, the plumbing is working and that the roof isn't leaking. You even see this at the high-end of the market in the case of seasonal homes, or hotels doubling as homes because people want to outsource everything.

If you were to going to compete with Home Depot using jobs theory, you would want to look at all these different markets that they're in. There isn't a single market here. Home Depot is providing all the stuff around your home, but when you're in your home, there are tons of other jobs, from "preparing meals" to "getting a good night's sleep." You can start to see how there's a disconnect just by searching for stuff on Home Depot. A good example is, if you search their site for something like "home office", you'll probably see a bunch of ceiling fans in the search results. That might relate to achieving comfort, but it doesn't necessarily address any of the jobs that you're trying to do with your home office (and it might actually make your home office worse). It  might not be a good solution to get the job done.

Capturing Market Share

If you were trying to compete with Home Depot and take market share, go through each of the true markets, or jobs, involved in being productive at home. One example is "renovate the kitchen." What you might really be focused on -- what the market actually is -- is "prepare a meal." One of the most innovative meal prep solutions ever was the microwave. Think of how much changed with the microwave. New foods were created specifically for the microwave. There's a newer product, called the Brava, which is a type of oven. It's another solution to prepare a meal that uses light instead of microwaves to heat water. (It's really good, I have to say. They're not paying us anything, I just happen to like the product.) Then there are services like Blue Apron and Gobble who deliver prepared meals right to your door.

These solutions are all in the same kitchen-improvement market as Home Depot, even though it doesn't seem like they're directly competing with Home Depot. The end job that customers are trying to get done is the same. These other solutions aren't home improvement retailers but they still present a real risk to Home Depot nonetheless. For instance, if you're using these other solutions, you might not have to renovate your old stove like you originally thought you would. And you might not even be motivated to anymore because now another solution gets the job done so much better. 

Anybody who listens to our podcast knows this situation is analogous to the one we were talking about before the pandemic: airlines should be buying web conferencing companies. They're both targeting the same job, it's just that salespeople are acquiring customers with very different platforms. This holds true for Home Depot as well. Even though they're not in the business of making new, innovative types of ovens, those ovens are helping people get the job done. These new ovens might not be as big of a threat to Home Depot as, say, Zoom was to United Airlines, but the competitive mentality is the same. What are those underlying jobs? How can you think outside the box (or, literally, outside the Home Depot store)?

One of the reasons why retailers continue to compete with Home Depot is because they can sell those products like the Brava. Under their existing business model, any new appliance that's out there as an innovation to help you do something in your home, Home Depot can sell it and make some money off of it. They may miss out on big opportunities to innovate and get the whole job done, but they seem firmly entrenched in the preparation aspect of most of these jobs. By that, we mean the types of jobs where you have to make lots of decisions about how you're going to get the job done, and then acquire whatever materials you might need to do that.

If you're going to prepare a meal at some point, you need to make lots of decisions. How are you going to cook meals on a regular basis? Are you going to use a Brava? Are you going to use a microwave? Are you going to use an oven? An induction range? How am I going to do this? And then you have to acquire those things. That's the risk for Home Depot: they're not in the part of the job that you do every single day. However, their model continues to work as major innovations come onto the scene because they can always become a part of the solution.

The Role of Retailers

So what is the role of retailers? In this home improvement job, retailers are targeting just one step, not the whole job. In "prepare a meal", they're not actually helping you right now to make the meal, or even choose which meals to eat. You can see clearly that with Brava and their business model. It's very much a type of subscription model. They're not just selling you the oven, they want to sell you everything you put in that oven which is providing recurring business. Preparing food is the job that people actually have to do every single day and that's a really big market relative to the market for, say, retiling your kitchen.

Home Depot isn't targeting the whole job and that presents a tremendous opportunity for competitors. As we mentioned before, if you created a service to help homeowners maintain and optimize their home, Home Depot could become a competitor, but right now they're just getting one step done. It's critically important when analyzing a competitor or trying to enter a new market to go through all the different jobs steps. What does it really take to get the job done? You want to know where to focus that home maintenance. You want to be aware of everything going on in your house, from water and electricity to sewage and garbage.

That’s a great way to look at how jobs-to- be-done could be applied specifically to home improvement. You can dissect that job, look at all the different job steps, see what would happen with it, and then you can go into the individual jobs as well.

What Is the Willingness to Pay?

Returning quickly to what we mentioned earlier about segmentation being based on the willingness to pay, in the case of the hotel-type homes offering the plug-and-play maintenance services at the high-end of the market, those are the people willing to pay a lot to get that job done. They consistently spend money on those services to stay on top of maintenance. Then, thinking about the "Do It Yourself" end the market as the lower end, those people aren't willing to pay nearly as much to get this job done. They'd rather just notice it themselves, not spend money on somebody who's monitoring the situation for them, and then actually execute the solution on their own. They just want to spend money on materials they need. In the meaty middle of this market are the people who aren't willing to spend as much to get the whole thing done for them with a single service, but they recognize they're short on time and they're willing to spend more than just the cost of materials. 

It brings up something we don't talk about much, which is the need to create a solution that's profitable. This boils down to a single question: how can you create a service that's almost as good as what the high-end is getting, but at a more economical price point that's still profitable for your business? There should be a business model innovation opportunity as much as a product innovation opportunity. You may use technology to scale whatever the solution is, but it's not a brand new solution because it's already in the market. The high-end is using it and you just need to figure out how to make that cost effective for a different segment.

Map the Job Steps First

The key is, whether you're innovating your business model, products or services, mapping out all those home improvement job steps is the first thing you should do because those are never going to change. With the exception of big platform changes, such as connecting your home to the Internet or building a smart home, most of the improvements people are making to their houses now are the same ones they were making 100 years ago. We're humans. We live in a home. That was true 100 years ago, it's going to be true a 100 years from now. If you're in this home improvement market, break down those jobs and understand what they are before focusing on innovating.

One last note, looking at Home Depot's jobs, for example (or any home improvement retailer's job), the goal is to grow sales. There's a service that identifies a home maintenance project that people wouldn't be doing otherwise, thereby increasing sales of materials. You're getting a job done for the retailers that they might be willing to pay for. If you can give them information about people who are willing to buy materials, and you give them the pole position to sell those materials to them, that's worth money for them. This is one way to decrease the cost of delivering that service.

This is a great example of cooperating with competitors in trying to shift the market. Use jobs-to-be-done to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Is Home Depot competitive if you're in this market?
  • Are they a direct competitor? Are they a threat?
  • Are they a cooperator or a partner?

When you map out and really understand the job steps, then you can place the competitors in the market and realize where you need to differentiate yourself for particular job steps and how to satisfy customer needs for each by partnering with other companies. You can't do everything, which is why you need to find partners along the way. That's often where market evolution happens.

To learn more about our jobs-to-be-done software try it for free today or reach out to get one of our free how-to guides.

Posted by Jay Haynes in jobs to be done, customer job, how would you beat? , 0 comments

Do You Know Your Customers' Jobs-to-be-Done?

what is your customers' job to be done?

Today, people are asking about jobs-to-be-done because it's a trendy topic. Specifically, they're asking, "What is the job?" If you're on a product, marketing or sales team at a company, jobs-to-be-done can help you identify your customers' job, not your company's job. If you're going to build an innovation process that helps your company grow using jobs-to-be-done, you want to look at who the customer is, whether it's a real person at a company, a consumer, or even an entire market. Those jobs your customers are trying to get done are what you want to focus on, not your company's job. That's the key difference with Jobs-to-be-Done Theory.

Understanding Your Customer's Jobs-to-be-Done

History is littered with failures. These are the businesses that focused on their own job instead of focusing on the customer's job, with their own job often being some version of "improve your current product." If we look at Blackberry, for example, they had a mobile device that was a bestseller. It was good. It had a keyboard. They sold a lot of them and they made a ton of improvements to that product. But then the iPhone came out and it got the customers' jobs done much, much better. People stopped buying Blackberries. Suddenly, Blackberry, who had optimized that product and gotten people to buy a device with a mobile keyboard, was losing tons of market share super fast.

Understanding why people buy products and services is the core underlying idea that Clay Christensen at Harvard Business School articulated so well: People don't buy products, they hire products to get jobs done. What that means is, you need a good job statement to define the market you're in.

There are different types of jobs: functional jobs, consumption jobs and emotional jobs. When you're doing your market research, you'll want to start with a great understanding of your customers' job. We often like to say that, very simply, your customers' job is a goal they're trying to achieve or problem they're trying to solve. For example, drivers need to get to a destination on time. Parents need to get a baby to sleep through the night. Doctors need to restore artery blood flow. Salespeople need to acquire customers, etc., etc. There are lots of examples but the point is, if you have a good job statement, and it can pass that wake-up-in-the-morning test, then you're more likely to create a customer experience that will benefit your customer and, ultimately, help accelerate your growth.

JTBD and Disruption Theory

One of the most dangerous things you can do is to focus on your internal metrics only. Internal metrics are great as indicators for your success, but if you start to believe that the only problem you need to solve is how frequently people use your product, or what your profitability is, you can easily lose sight of what your customers' job is, and the ways you can get it done better than your competitors. While you may miss out on opportunities that are more profitable in the short term, over time, you'll end up taking a larger share of the whole market.

This is similar to classic disruption theory where you are the incumbent and you have a successful product. You keep making that product better and better for premium customers. A new product comes in at the low end part of the market, but it's not as good and it doesn't serve your premium customers and their needs. However, it does do well with the low-end of the market that you don't care about. You "flee upstream"  to get the most profitable part of the market because that's what you need at that point to solve your problems as a business. Eventually, you come to believe that the disrupter doesn't matter. That their product is worse. That it's not useful. And, eventually, they catch up to you because they're getting a different part of the job done -- or they get the whole job done better -- and now they take your premium customers as well. smug businessman

It's really important to ask yourself a couple of questions. First of all, who is your customer? Second, how do you target the largest market size possible without going after pure profitability? In other words, how do you get the job done as best as you can in the most profitable way?

The iPhone Case Study

Apple's iPhone is an interesting example looking at it through a few different lenses. First of all, it was a new platform to get jobs done and, of course, it had to compete with the Blackberry. In other dimensions, it clearly wasn't good for typing; it was worse to type on an iPhone than it was to type on a physical keyboard on the Blackberry.  But Blackberry thought of its market as keyboard devices. So what was the iPhone? It was disruptive because it still managed to enter the market, even though it was a very high price point for a phone. Famously, Steve Ballmer dismissed the iPhone saying no one was gonna pay $500 for a phone.

As it turns out, it wasn't really a phone: it's a small computer. Clay Christensen even missed this. He said the iPhone would never be successful because it wasn't disruptive. This, of course, was probably one of the biggest mistakes in business analysis history because iPhones created the most valuable company in the world -- ever.

The iPhone was disruptive to the computer because it enabled people who weren't buying a laptops to now have a personal computer. It was a computer for people who weren't near their computers. If you're on the subway, if you're taking a jog, suddenly you have a computer in your pocket and your laptop can't do that. Steve Jobs famously said, when he launched it, that it was an internet communicator, it was a phone, and it was an MP3 player. It was all three of those things, but really, it was a computer platform that was going to get more and more jobs done over time. This is just one of many great case studies where you could apply jobs-to-be-done theory, looking at the market from this perspective.

Reach out to us today if you'd like to learn more about how to accurately identify your customers’ job-to-be-done, and try thrv for free.

Posted by Jay Haynes in jobs to be done, customer job, job statement , 0 comments

Find the Jobs-to-be-Done Statements that Actually Work

identify customer job to be done

How do you create a good jobs-to-be-done statement? This is critical because you're using language to define what your customers want and what your market is. We know that people hire products to get a job done, so understanding your customers’ job to be done -- whether you have a product or service -- is incredibly important. This is where jobs-to-be-done theory can be extremely helpful.

Functional Jobs vs Emotional Jobs

Before going any further, it will be helpful to first answer a couple of questions:

  1. How do you define a core functional job?
  2. How do you distinguish the functional job from the emotional job?

Well, first of all, we need to know who the customer is. There are job executors, job beneficiaries and purchasers. A job executor is someone who's actually helping to get the job done. The job beneficiary is the person who benefits from the job getting done. The emotional job, on the other hand, is how people want to feel while they’re executing a job. These are important distinctions.

How to Structure the Jobs-to-be-Done Statement

In any market, you want to structure the jobs-to-be-done statement with an action verb and an object. Using an example from a consumer market, we know that consumers don't want Apple or Google Maps, they want to get to a destination on time. “Getting to a destination on time” is a good example of a customer’s job to be done. “Play MP3s” would be a bad example because, of course, an MP3 is a solution to a problem and you don't want to have solutions in your job statements. The power of jobs-to-be-done thinking is being able to define the job(s) independent of any product or service.

Continuing with the action-verb-and-object paradigm, and thinking of jobs that have action verbs but no objects, let’s analyze another bad example of a customer job to be done: communication. “Communicate” seems like an obvious human goal -- something we all do all the time -- but it has no direct object. The reason why it’s not a great job for your team to focus on is because, without a direct object, you might wonder, “What are we communicating?” Are we trying to communicate an idea, a legal argument, a thesis in school? Are you trying to communicate to your partner about relationship issues? Are you trying to communicate a sales pitch? What you're communicating would drastically change the features that make sense on your roadmap to get that job done better.

In “communicating a sales pitch”, you might either want to help somebody with their deck, communicate a value prop, or figure out if somebody is responding well to a price point. None of those things will matter when you're trying to resolve a relationship issue. It's a totally different job with an entirely different set of needs.

There are lots of apps that help us communicate generally, right? Every single SMS application -- Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, email -- is a general communication application. What is the problem with using “communicate generally” as a job to be done? The problem is that those applications are all, essentially, commodities right now. How much are you paying for email? How much are you paying for SMS as a consumer? The answer is probably zero. They're not great markets to get into. Think about this: why would WhatsApp sell for $19 billion to Facebook if it was just about “communicating generally”?

This is an interesting question. You could look at this and say, “Well, what would you pay for an application that would help you communicate better on relationship issues?” That’s a much more specific question and it will certainly require a much more sophisticated answer. It presents a fascinating market opportunity and it’s also a great example of why, when you're structuring a jobs-to-be-done statement, you need an action verb and an object to help define your market.

Accurately Define Your Market with the Right Verb

What specifically is the market you're going after? In B2B markets, we can see examples of where the verb itself is really important. For instance, sometimes we see companies try and structure the job as “manage cash flow” or “manage customers” or “manage employees” or “set up a CRM.” Those are examples of bad jobs-to-be-done statements because those verbs are not the goal. They don't even define the goal.

team manager leading employees

Why do you want to manage cash flow? Why do you want to manage employees? That's what the underlying job is. In this case, you would change it to “optimize cash flow” because you're not just trying to manage it; you want to optimize it for your company's cash flow and profitability. Same thing with “managing employees.” You're really trying to optimize your workforce and optimize your employees so that they can help you create growth and equity value within your company. Are the verbs representative of the end goal, and are the objects representative of what you're actually trying to achieve? That's a much better way to think about the verbs you're using.

Avoid Busy Work

One indicator that you're probably not using a great verb for your jobs-to-be-done statement is if your verb implies that the customer has to do something that could become busy work. “Manage customers” implies that no matter what happens every day, you're going to have to wake up and do something with your customers. But nobody really wants to do that, right? What you really want to do is retain or upsell your customers. You don't want to just communicate with them idly. In fact, your customers probably don't want to be communicated with idly either. They don't want to be managed. Customers want to have support, and “provide customer support” has a clear goal. Bottom line: avoid customer jobs-to-be-done statements that imply busy work without any real positive result at the end of it.

To learn more about identifying your customers’ job-to-be-done and creating a great jobs-to-be-done statement, get in touch with us today and try thrv for free.

Posted by Jay Haynes in jobs to be done, customer job, job statement , 0 comments

Jobs-to-be-Done Exercises to Uncover Your Customers’ Jobs

team exercises using jobs to be done

According to Jobs Theory, your customers are not buying your products, they are hiring them to get a job done. A job-to-be-done is a goal your customers are trying to achieve independent of any product or solution. Their struggle with achieving this 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.

There are countless 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.

The key question then is, how do you figure out what your customer’s job is?

3 Jobs-to-be-Done Exercises

Here are 3 jobs-to-be-done exercises your team can do to uncover your customers' job-to-be-done:

1. Draw on your personal experience. Ask yourself what goal you’re trying to achieve when you use your own product. This is especially effective in consumer markets where it’s likely that you have had an experience similar to that of your customers, and also in B2B markets where you’ve once held the role your customers hold (e.g. your customer is a marketer and you once had a marketing job).

For example, perhaps your product is a CRM and your customer is a salesperson. If you’ve been a salesperson in your career, you can ask yourself, “Why did I use a CRM? What was my goal?” Because you’ve had a similar experience to your customer, you are likely to get pretty close to understanding their job-to-be-done by drawing on your own personal experience. Many startups are successful because the founder had experience trying to get a job done, got frustrated when it didn’t go well or took too long to do, and came up with an idea to solve their own problem. Because the founder had walked in their customer’s shoes, they understood the job and the unmet needs well, and it so happened that lots of other people had the same unmet needs.

Before you do any research, ask yourself what you would want your product to help you do even if your product never existed. Even if you and your team don’t get to an answer you all agree on, it will give you a good hypothesis with which to kick off your research.

2. Ask your teammates who have had the same experience as your customers or have spent a lot of time with your customers and know them well. Perhaps you haven’t had experience walking in your customers shoes but your teammates have.

Let’s take the CRM example again. Maybe you’ve been a Product Manager your whole career but you have salespeople at your company. Ask them, “Why do you use a CRM? What goal would you be trying to achieve even if the CRM didn’t exist?” Perhaps your colleague says, “Because my manager makes me.” Here it can be useful to use the 5 Whys. Ask why until you get to an answer that doesn’t include a mandate from a manager or another product or technology. You’re looking for the salesperson’s underlying goal.

3. Interview your customers. When you or your colleagues don’t have the same set of experiences as your customers or, even with similar experiences as your customers, you can’t all agree on the job-to-be-done, it’s time to interview your customers. Start with people who use your product and expand your interview set to include people in the same position who likely have similar goals but don’t yet use your product.

Conducting a JTBD Interview

Here’s a brief interview guide for identifying a job-to-be-done.

Start by letting the interview participants know how valuable their input is, that you are conducting the interview to understand why they are using your product or service, and what their key goals are. Initially you want to ask, “Why do you use our product or service?”

JTBD customer interview

Don’t settle for the customer describing attributes of the product they like. Ask “why” until you get to the key goal they are trying to achieve in their personal or professional life. Make sure their goal doesn’t include your product or another product.

These are a few helpful prompts that’ll keep your interview on the right track:

  1. “Do you ever wake up in the morning thinking, ‘I need to use this product today.’ If so, why? What do you need to get done?”
  2. “What would cause you to ‘fire’ our product/service? What failures are unacceptable?”

If the interviewee’s goal is professional (related to their work):

  1. “What would get you fired from your job if you failed at achieving it?”
  2. “What would get you a bonus if you succeeded at it wildly?”

When you hear the respondent explain a goal that is independent of your product, phrase it as an action verb plus an object and confirm that this is their goal. Here you are trying to confirm that you have the language correct.

Follow-Up Questions

Once you’ve identified one or more JTBDs, ask these follow-up questions to better understand, and clarify, their goals:

  1. How do you measure your progress towards [JTBD]?
  2. How successful is your company at achieving [JTBD]?
  3. Do you spend money today in your attempt to achieve [JTBD]? What do you spend money on?
  4. What are the key obstacles you face in achieving [JTBD]?
  5. Are you currently looking for new solutions to help you achieve [JTBD]?
  6. Is there anything particularly slow, time-consuming or frustrating about achieving [JTBD]?

No matter which exercise you use to identify your customers' job-to-be-done, at the end of the day, make sure you’ve identified a clear goal with an action verb, a direct object, and no solutions in the statement. To learn more about what makes a great job statement, read, “How to Answer the Question, ‘What’s the Job-to-be-Done?’”.

Posted by Jay Haynes in jobs to be done, JTBD exercises , 0 comments

Product Roadmap Framework: The Ultimate Risk-Mitigation Strategy


Today we're going to talk about adopting a product roadmap framework. This is for teams who are trying to create product roadmaps. If you've ever tried to create one, it can be extremely difficult. There are different ways to prioritize roadmaps. There are different ways to prioritize what features you should focus on. There are different prioritization frameworks.

What we want to discuss is not just a list of different features -- there are lots of ways to do that with lots of different applications. The reason you really want to focus on prioritization is because of the cost of delays and the cost of building a roadmap. It's a ton of risk to build your roadmap and you want to mitigate that risk. What you really want to do with your roadmap is to achieve your business goals through product development, of course. This means you've got to have as inputs in your product roadmap the right product strategy. You have to have specific features you're building that are going to address unmet needs. Generally, your team has to have the right approach to prioritizing your roadmap.

Who Could Use a Product Roadmap Framework?

Let's talk a little about product teams who could use a product roadmap framework. Maybe they have created a roadmap already, they have a document that everybody's working on, but the product leaders -- the various product managers and the internal stakeholders -- have habitually disagreed on what the prioritization should be. You create the document and then you go into a meeting and you bring your whole internal team there (even the newly onboarded employees). You start to discuss, "Oh, this is what we should do, right?" And you find out that there is rampant disagreement and you end up debating like crazy. Often this can happen because you don't have a clear view of the goals of your product and the goals of your roadmap. When you don't have that -- if things are unclear and you're not all speaking the same language -- a framework can be really helpful.

A Product Vision Based on Customer Needs

It's a step-by-step process to adopt Jobs-to-be-Done as your product framework. But ultimately, it is going to massively increase your product development efficiency because it's also going to mitigate risk. This comes from having a product vision. What should your product vision be based on? Well, of course, it should be based on what your customer wants and what they need: your customer needs to get their job done. They're hiring your product to get the job done. Your product vision has to be based on what your customer is trying to do, not what your products are trying to do. That's the first step.

The next step is to agree on what that job is. You've got to get everybody in your team to agree on what that job is. Every job has a whole series of steps and each step has a whole series of needs. Jobs are very, very complicated which is why it's incredibly important to have that be the first step. Determining what you're going to develop means prioritizing where the struggles are in those needs. And that's the next step: identifying those struggles, where the jobs are underserved, and where your competitors are weak.

It's easier for your team to pick a product strategy. This means agreeing on 2 questions: "Where should we focus?" and "What platform are we going to use to get the job done?" It's much easier to agree on your product roadmap prioritization because what you should prioritize is what your customer struggles with. We always shorthand this and joke that product teams actually shouldn't prioritize their roadmaps. Your customers should prioritize your roadmap. The things your customers are struggling with are what you should focus on.

Problem-Based Roadmaps

For decades, there have been product managers talking about problem-based roadmaps. It seems like once every five years or so, we see certain blog posts really take off because of this. And it's always a product manager positing that there should be a problem-based roadmap, that instead of having a list of features, you should just have a list of problems and the stakeholders should get excited about the problems you as a team will solve. Once you determine what those problems are, then the team can go away and investigate the technologies that could be best put to use to solve that problem. They can investigate the cost of implementing them and they can create the priority order of features that they're going to launch that will solve that problem. But the rubber meets the road in how you define a "problem."

customer problem product roadmap framework

Whose problem should you solve? First of all, should you be solving your problems as businesses? Or should you be solving the customer's problem? Secondly, what level of abstraction makes sense for problem solving? Is it a problem like a customer can't find a particular button on your page? Or, do you want to solve the problems that they have independent of your product -- the problems that they have whether you launch into the market or not? Jobs-to-be-Done can help you focus on that. But how?

How Does JTBD Help?

The first step, of course, as we mentioned, is figuring out what the job is. Then, you figure out all the steps to the needs. That's going to give you a much better definition of a customer problem. A customer problem is a goal your customers need to achieve independent of any products or solutions. That's the key. There are plenty of examples of this throughout history: no one wants Apple or Google Maps, they want to get to a destination on time; no one wants a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole; no one wants a swaddle blanket, they want to get a baby to sleep through the night; no one wants a stent, they want to restore artery blood flow, etc, etc.

You need to identify the problems that work at the level of abstraction that you have a risk-mitigated way of solving. What do we mean by risk mitigated? It means you can launch a solution at a cost and a time that allows you to hit your growth goals. So let's say you need to hit a certain growth number, by a certain date, in order to generate the revenue you need to survive as a company. If you have a product idea that will launch three months after that, your company will probably go out of business before you launch it.

When we talk about mitigating risk, it's the risk that you have the wrong idea. It's the risk that the idea will cost too much or take too long to build such that you can't launch it in time to have the right impact on your business. If you have an idea to get a baby to sleep through the night and that's it, and you think you can just make that faster, more accurate, and you can bring that to market at the time your company needs, then go for long as you know it's going to do that better than competitors. But most teams don't have that kind of runway. They can't solve problems that are quite that big and only wait until they solve it to launch.

We recommend you break the problem down into smaller components so you can solve more discrete things. This is where the Jobs-to-be-Done framework can come in handy; it helps you figure out what those more discrete risk-mitigating problems are. For example, to get a baby to sleep through the night, you might need to figure out how much you need to feed the baby before bed. That's a much smaller problem than the whole problem of getting a baby to sleep through the night. It's what we would call a "customer need." If that customer need is unsatisfied, then that's an opportunity for you to get people to switch to using your product if you can demonstrate that you can help them figure out that problem faster and more accurately than the competitors' solutions.

Not only do you need to figure out how big your features are, but you have to figure out how big the problems are that you're going after, and that's a tremendous help in determining what to prioritize in your short, medium and long term.

Posted by Jay Haynes in ROADMAP PLANNING, jobs to be done, product roadmap , 0 comments

3 Tips for Adopting the Product Management Frameworks

product roadmap framework building analogy

Product Management frameworks are exciting to learn and frustrating to implement. As a product manager myself and a framework teacher, I totally understand the appeal. Being a product manager is a messy job. You’re constantly trying to explain to your peers what you do. You didn’t go to school for it. And every day you have to motivate really smart people who don’t report to you to align with your vision and decisions. In the least, frameworks provide a comforting structure. At best, they align and focus your team, leading to operational rhythm and achieving your goals much faster than you anticipated.

As a Jobs-to-be-Done trainer and consultant, I’m obviously a huge fan of frameworks. In the past few years of helping dozens of large and small companies with Jobs-to-be-Done, I’ve repeatedly seen the enthusiasm of learning something new followed by the struggle to implement the lessons. Those who overcome the struggle reap the rewards.

The phenomenon is not unique to Jobs-to-be-Done. Here’s a pattern you have likely experienced with any framework:

  • Hype: Your team reads some articles or even a book about a framework and gets amped about using it to fix broken processes, operations, decision-making, etc. and hit the targets you’ve been missing.
  • Thrill of Education: You bring in expert trainers to teach the framework to your team. The session is one or more days, and your team happily attends. They believe this new framework has great promise, the training will be a nice change of pace, and you ordered great food. At the end of the workshop, momentum is at its peak. The trainers were inspiring, and the team is excited yet a little intimidated about putting the framework into practice.
  • Cannon Shot: The day after training you and your colleagues are shot out of a cannon. You spend the morning unburying yourself from the emails you didn’t answer while you were in all-day sessions. You look on everyone’s calendars to find time for the “Framework Implementation Meeting.” The next available slot is in two weeks. (While you were in the session the rest of the company slammed you with meeting requests). While you wait for the follow-up meeting, your team falls back into its operational patterns. That’s ok, you think, they need to finish their current projects, and there’s a bunch of research to do before we can really use this framework. The follow-up meeting can wait.
  • Land of the Forgotten: This is where your dreams of fixing your broken processes fade. Your follow-up meeting got rescheduled. Finance told you to wait for next quarter to get budget for the research. Half of your resources are working on tech debt. Growth has slowed so much there are whispers of re-org--definitely not a good time to start something new. Your team, your work, your company, and your career remain on the descending path they were on before you learned about the framework.

Don’t let this happen to you. I’ve learned from experience so you don’t have to. Here are three tips to implementing frameworks. Break the pattern and use frameworks to improve your team and achieve your goals.

1. Don’t Add, Change

Frameworks can be extremely powerful, but they cannot add hours to a day. Not only is it unrealistic to ask a maxed-out employee to add something to their plate without taking something off, it’s demoralizing. We’ve all been on the wrong end of that equation, and as a product manager, you’ve already learned this lesson from your engineering team.

Engineers can only handle a finite number of story points in a sprint. If you want to prioritize a new item, you have to de-prioritize something else.

The same is true for Product Managers. You are not superhuman.

To help your team adopt a new framework and the work that goes with it, change their responsibilities.

Change their metrics of success. Change the way they write specs and user stories. Change the meeting schedule. Change the deployment schedule. Change your criteria for decision-making. Change the process for decision-making. Change one of these things, all of these things, or a new thing not listed here, but change something.

Presumably, the reason you got excited about the framework in the first place is that something wasn’t going right on your team and you thought the framework could fix it. Articulate that something. Isolate it. Before you introduce the new framework, offer it to your team as the candidate for change and tell the team, “I expect the framework to replace this thing we do today.” If you do it right, adding the framework decreases the work.

2. Use The Framework Right Now; Waiting Is a Slow Death

The training session ends, everyone is excited, and they think, “I’m really looking forward to spinning up a new project that will be right for this, but I have to finish my current project first.”

Two weeks alarm! Your team interrupts their current project to put out the fire. It takes another two weeks to clear the smoke. Now, they’re back on the project. At lunch one day, someone remembers, “Weren’t we going to adopt that framework?” “What would be a good project for that?” “We should talk about that when I’m back from vacation.” You get back from vacation to 500 emails. The framework is forgotten.

Waiting to implement a new framework will kill it.

Meanwhile, you continue with your old processes, decision-making, and operations that you thought were so broken that you needed a new framework. And every day you do that, you are spending money on development that isn’t achieving your company goals because they were chosen under the old, broken decision-making rubric. Your budget dwindles and you tighten your belts, “We can’t implement something new now; we’re in crisis!”

Here are two ways to avoid this death spiral:

  • Come up with a project (or multiple projects) that will use the framework before you train your team in it.
  • Don’t wait for a special project. Insert the framework into whatever your team is doing today even if you can only make incremental improvements, which brings us to tip number three.

3. Perfect is The Enemy of The Better

Often when you learn a framework, you learn it from an expert who has spent years using, advancing, and teaching it. The framework is full of new terms with very precise definitions. There are specific research, analysis, and decision-making techniques. There are wrong ways of doing things with seemingly disastrous consequences. Leading practitioners have long-standing arguments about the right way to do things. The experience can be intimidating, like you’re walking on a minefield. One wrong step and BOOM.

It can make you feel like using the framework requires perfection and a tremendous amount of work. You can’t use human-centered design without observing your customer in their natural setting. You can’t be Lean without lighting your road maps on fire, allocating all of your engineering resources to instrumenting every pixel of your application to measure user behavior, and hiring a coach for every team. You can’t use Jobs-to-be-Done without doing dozens of user interviews, running lengthy surveys, and executing a detailed analysis of every competitive feature against every customer need.

All of the above activities are valuable and help you mitigate the risk of investing in the wrong product ideas but none of them are necessary to get started with a framework.
You can use a framework before executing all of the research, training everyone in your organization, and building out the infrastructure to support it. Remember, the framework was appealing in the first place because something about your current work habits was broken and you were not realizing your aspirations. Even if you start with a small piece of the framework, even just the way of thinking, it will be better than what you were doing before. Start with that while you invest in full implementation.

For example, if you’re implementing Jobs-to-be-Done, before you do all the research, create a hypothesis about the job your customer is hiring your product to do. Make sure it doesn’t include a solution. Then pick a feature your team is *currently* working on (don’t wait for a new one, see above). Ask, “How would this help our customers get the job done? Which struggle with the job does it help our customers overcome? Does it satisfy that need faster and more accurately than their current solution?” Then refine the feature based on these answers to try and satisfy the need better than the competitive solutions.

Because you didn’t do your customer interviews yet, maybe your job will not be at the perfect level of abstraction or you’ll articulate it in a way that’s not exactly in the customer’s language. Maybe the need you identified is not the *most* unmet need because you haven’t done your survey yet. Perhaps you’ll miss an element of the existing solution that makes your speed assessment a bit off. But at least you’ll have a justification for developing the feature that is clearly connected to a customer problem, builds your team’s customer empathy, aligns your team with the customer’s goal and a clear goal for your feature, and potentially leads you to refine your feature and increase your likelihood of success with it. Those are a lot of benefits even though you are still far from implementing the framework perfectly.

In parallel, you can do all the work related to getting the full value of your framework, but don’t wait for that. In the meantime, your team can perform much better than they do today.

Posted by Jared Ranere in ROADMAP PLANNING , 1 comment

How Google Sheets Took Share From Excel Using Competitive Positioning


By definition, most product, marketing and sales people don’t work at market leading companies. In order to build a business, we need to get people to switch from using some other product or get them to add our product to their solution set. We know this goal is achievable because we’ve heard great product success stories: Salesforce beats Siebel Systems, Spotify overtakes Pandora, and, one of my favorites, Google Sheets vs Microsoft Excel. 

In this post, we’ll use Jobs-to-be-Done to understand how Sheets’ competitive position made it clear to customers when they should switch and why, and in the process took share from Excel. Through this story, you’ll learn how JTBD can help you define a differentiated competitive position that leads to growth.

But first, what does competitive positioning mean?

Identify Competitive Positioning

Competitive positioning is how you differentiate yourself from competitors so that your customers will know when and why to choose your product over your competitors.

In his 1985 book, Competitive Strategy, Harvard Business School professor, Michael Porter, identifies 4 different competitive positions that can be used to achieve a competitive advantage. The basic idea is that you can use your advantage on costs to target the broad market or a niche market, or you can use your product differentiation to target the broad market or a niche market.





  1. Cost Leadership Position - Target the broad market with lower costs than your competitors. Either maintain a high price and generate higher margins or lower your prices and take more market share. 

  2. Cost Focus Position - Focus on a narrow or niche market with a low cost product.

  3. Differentiation Leadership Position - Satisfy needs with your product differently than your competitors in the broad market.

  4. Differentiation Focus Position - Satisfy needs with your product differently than your competitors in a narrow or niche market.

What was Google Sheets' Competitive Position Within This Rubric? 

The Google Blog post announcing Google Sheets in 2006 is titled, “It’s Nice to Share.” It talks about how Google wants to help people “quickly and easily share information in real time,” and closes with:

So don’t be surprised if you are soon invited by someone to share a spreadsheet. (We're rolling this out as a limited test.) Your kid's sports coach, your aunt in Omaha trying to organize a major family reunion, your friend who promised to compile a list of all your favorite hiking trails (and now wants you to help), or your project team which now has a way to keep tasks and status in one place for all to see.

In the official product announcement, Google highlights the drawbacks of traditional spreadsheet software, “Ever found yourself trading email attachments with several colleagues, trying to collaborate on a document, only to have someone chime in at the last moment with corrections to an outdated version?” They then explain that on Google Sheets & Docs, users can “easily collaborate with others, online and in real time.”

When it launched, Google Sheets was free. Excel, of course, could only be used by people who purchased a Microsoft Office license.

From this messaging, we can see that Google targeted a broad market (the variety of customers mentioned in the blog post) with lower costs (free). But, they also differentiated their product. They used a combination of Porter’s Cost Leadership and Differentiation Leadership positioning strategies to win. 

If you were Google’s product team, how would you maintain confidence in this positioning strategy when publications like MIT Technology Review are writing, “Leading technology bloggers’ reactions to Google Spreadsheets… have ranged from lukewarm to hostile.”

How do you determine the positioning strategy and marketing strategy that will win, on what dimensions to differentiate your product, and what features to focus on during the next product offer to avoid getting caught in the dreaded feature catch-up trap with your leading competitor?

And let’s assume you don’t have unlimited funds like Google so your answer can’t be, “Hire the smartest people in the world, pay them enormous salaries, hope for the best, and if they don’t succeed no big deal because we still have AdWords.”

This is where Jobs-to-be-Done can be a huge help in mitigating the risk of choosing the wrong competitive position and helping your team stay confident that they are on the right path.

In JTBD, your competitor position is defined by answering the following questions:

  1. What customer will you target?

  2. What Job will you target?

  3. What Job Steps will you target?

  4. What product platform will you choose to satisfy unmet needs in the job steps differently from your competitors?

These questions put the focus on the “Differentiation” half of Michael Porter’s quadrant. Once you answer those questions, you can then set your price based on the customer’s willingness to pay to get the job done, the cost of developing your solution, and your target profit margin. 

You can conduct market research to answer these questions. The research gives you insights that help you stay confident in your position decision and your product roadmap even when you will never catch up to the feature set of the incumbent.

Here's how it works: 

  • Define your customer

    In JTBD, your key customer is the Job Beneficiary--the person who benefits from the job getting done. Google made an explicit choice to target consumers and general information workers as opposed to the financial analyst professionals that were Excel’s power users. This is the first way in which they differentiated their position from Excel--a different customer choice.

  • Choose jobs to target

    A job is the goal your customer is trying to achieve independent of any solution. The fact that people want to achieve these goals is the reason why markets exist. In Jobs Theory we define a market as a group of people trying to get a job done as opposed to a group of people who purchase a particular product. Since products change over time but jobs do not, this market definition gives product teams a stable target. As technology changes they are still trying to help customers achieve the same goal and can think through how the new technology will get the job done better as opposed to feeling like the market for their product has disappeared.

    The key is to choose jobs that people struggle with and which have a market size large enough to achieve your revenue goals. The market size is calculated from the willingness to pay to get the job done and the number of people who want to get it done. Here, Google made another distinct choice, targeting jobs like, “organize an event” and “get projects done with a team.” The biggest insight into their strategy is the fact that there are no jobs along the lines of “make a complex financial decision,” which is a major focus of Excel and the complex feature set that power users such as financial analysts use. To feel confident in this choice, you can conduct research to find out how many people need to get the jobs done, how much they are willing to pay for it, and how difficult it is for them to get the job done. Google chose jobs that very many people are willing to pay a little bit to do (still a large market).

    When you look at the job steps you can see the struggle for the customers Google chose is of a very different nature from the struggle of financial analysts.

  • Choose job steps to target

    Job Steps tell the story of what a customer needs to do to get a job done. You can interview customers to determine the job steps.

    Here’s a hypothesis of the steps in “get projects done with a team”:

    1. Define the goal of the project

    2. Identify the tasks

    3. Figure out assignments and timing

    4. Execute the tasks

    5. Assess progress

    6. Adjust assignments and timing

    7. Deliver the project

If we were to conduct interviews, we’d likely find that this job is considerably more complex with more steps. But for the sake of this post, we want to see how different this job is from “make a complex financial decision.” Here are some of the steps in the financial decision job:

    1. Define the outcome of the decision

    2. Collect financial data relevant to the decision

    3. Analyze the data

    4. Build models for forecasting

    5. Assess the outcomes of each decision

    6. Choose the decision that leads to the optimal outcome

    7. Provide evidence for the decision

    8. Gain agreement with stakeholders

Once you break down the steps, you can see how focusing on different jobs leads to prioritizing extremely different feature sets. To help people complete projects, Google’s feature set related to sharing and collaborating helped with the steps: “identify the tasks,” “figure out assignments and timing,” and “assess progress.” Excel’s feature set helps with “analyze the data,” “build models for forecasting,” “assess the outcomes,” “choose the decision,” and “provide evidence.”  

To feel confident in this decision you can run surveys to determine how difficult each job step is for customers trying to get that job done. If a step is difficult for a customer segment whose market size is large enough, you know your position will work even if it means de-prioritizing features that are traditionally viewed as important to your product.

The target job steps lead to the platform choice.

  • Choose a platform to satisfy needs differently.

    When you have job steps in focus, it’s clearer why Google chose to prioritize sharing and collaboration features, which led to the decision to build their spreadsheets on the web rather than as a desktop application running locally. Excel needed to do complex computations quickly to help with the target job steps in the financial decision job. Desktop applications were better at running those computations than the web. And of course, Excel is a legacy product architected before the web. By choosing a different platform Google could satisfy the unmet needs better for their target customers and their jobs (e.g. get projects done with a team).

By answering all of these questions differently than Microsoft, Google created a highly differentiated position for a product in a similar category, which is why they could confidently take their roadmap in a very different direction and take share from Excel with far fewer features.

When you think about how to differentiate your competitive position, figure out how you answer the key questions differently from your competition, collect qualitative and quantitative data about market size and customer struggle to build confidence in your position, and then keep your product and marketing teams focused on making strong decisions that align with the strategy.

Posted by Jared Ranere in jobs to be done, competitive positioning , 0 comments

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