Contact Us

Jobs Theory Blog

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

View all posts by Jay Haynes