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What is Jobs-to-be-Done?

The Most Effective, Customer-Centric Product Roadmapping Method

Jobs-to-be-Done (also known as JTBD or Jobs Theory) is an innovation and product roadmapping method that is rapidly being adopted, and for good reason: it is proven to work. The method and theory have a long history. Some of JTBD is not new, but the power of the method is that it brings together all the elements that your product, marketing and sales teams need to win consistently in your market. It is a complete innovation method that starts and ends with the most important person: your customer.

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Who Should Use JTBD?

JTBD is a method to help your product teams coordinate with your marketing and sales teams. It helps your product team prioritize your roadmap to generate more revenue faster. It helps your marketing team create messages that will resonate with customers so your sales team can sell more of your product faster. It enables your executives to confidently make product roadmap investment decisions and mitigate your product roadmap risk.

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Theory, Techniques & Examples

This page explains JTBD theory and illustrates the techniques using detailed examples in consumer, business, and medical markets. You can apply the theory and techniques in your market as well.

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Introduction

 

“Your customers are not buying your products. They are hiring them to get a job done.”

CLAY CHRISTENSEN
Harvard Business School

How Would You Beat Apple and Google?

A good way to test if a method and theory will work is to apply it to a real-world situation. Imagine you are on a product, marketing, or sales team and your mission is to beat Apple and Google Maps? How would you do it.

In the introductory video below, we show you how you could use Jobs Theory and our methods to beat Apple and Google Maps. This seems like an impossible task since Apple and Google have about 100% market share in this market and they are fierce competitors with combined $2 Trillion (yes Trillion with a T) market caps and $200 Billion in cash. But it is possible by focusing on how and why customers struggle to get their job done when using Apple and Google Maps.

This video is a great way to start with JTBD. It includes detailed examples of how to use the method to beat your competitors.

Table of Contents

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How to Define Your Customer

Your customer is the key to your success. Learn how to avoid lethal customer definition mistakes that result in your competitors stealing your customers and your market share.

 

TRADITIONAL APPROACH

Personas Don’t Cause People to Buy Products

To understand your market, you need to understand your customers in depth. Who are your customers? How should you define them? Companies often use personas to define their customers. At first this seems to make sense because customers are real people. A persona is a fictional representation of a customer using some characteristics like demographics, geographics, or psychographics. In business-to-business markets, these personas can be based on characteristics like industry verticals or company size. But personas can be limiting because persona characteristics don’t cause people to buy your product. Your customer’s struggle to get their job done is why they buy products, regardless of their persona characteristics. Old people, young people, large companies, small companies can all struggle in the same way to get a job done. This is why personas, while sometimes useful, can be misleading. 

Another way to define customers is to use the dictionary definition: a person who purchases a product or service. At first this seems to make sense, since getting someone to purchase your product is how you generate revenue. But this definition is also limiting because the key customer in your market might not be the person who actually makes the purchase. For example, in business-to-business markets, software is often purchased by the company for the end users, who don’t actually make the purchase decision.

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Understanding Your Market’s Three Types of Customers

The key customer in any market is the person who benefits from getting the job done. This is who we call the “job beneficiary.” The job beneficiary is the critical customer in your market because they have the most to gain from the job-to-be-done being satisfied by your product. The second customer to consider is the "job executor". This is the person who helps execute the job on behalf of the beneficiary. For example, IT managers help employees use business software by installing it on company servers. The third customer to consider is the purchase decision maker. For example, finance executives will often decide which software to purchase based on financial and budgeting considerations. 

In consumer markets, the job beneficiary, executor, and purchase decision maker are frequently the same person. A consumer benefits from “getting to a destination on time”, they execute this job by driving themselves, and they make the decision to purchase products and services to get the job done. 

Medical markets are the most extreme example of the differences between job beneficiaries, executors and purchasers. Every medical product and service is ultimately designed to help patients. This is why medical markets exist: because patients need to get medical jobs done including optimizing their health, curing a health condition, and diagnosing a health condition. But patients rarely execute their own medical procedures and rarely purchase them on their own because they use insurance. For example, in order to obtain a blood sample to diagnose their health a patient (the job beneficiary) goes to a phlebotomist (the job executor) to get a blood sample, and the procedure is paid for by the insurance company (the purchaser). 

It is critical to distinguish between beneficiaries, executors, and purchasers when building your product roadmap because if you target the wrong customers, you put your company at risk that a competitor takes your market share. 

For example, before software-as-a-solution products, IT departments installed CRM software for salespeople. Salespeople use CRM systems to get the job done of “acquiring new customers.” Salespeople are the job beneficiaries in this market because they benefit from getting the job done with software. IT managers are the job executors who help salespeople acquire customers by installing and maintaining software. But once SaaS products were available, IT managers, the job executors, were unnecessary. 

With JTBD, you can map beneficiaries, executors, and purchasers in your market to ensure you are targeting the right customers. This means that your customer and their needs decide what should be in your roadmap, not characteristics or personal opinions. JTBD removes the subjectivity so you and your team can measure what matters to your customers.

Example

Who is The Customer for Apple & Google Maps?

Let’s look at an example, with Apple and Google Maps. Who are the customers to target in this market? The underlying Job-to-be-done is to get to a destination on time. This example shows why creating customer personas to define your customers can be flawed. Let’s say you create two personas, Kate, is younger, urban with a college degree. Paul is older, rural, and has a high school education. Could the two very different customers with very different personas and characteristics both struggle to get to a destination on time in the same way? 

The answer, of course, is yes. And the reason they each struggle has nothing to do with their persona characteristics. It has to do with the nature of how they execute the job.  In this case, they both struggle to get to destinations on time because they both make frequent and unfamiliar stops. In other words, these two very different customer personas actually have the same unmet customer needs in this market. If you defined your customers in this example using personas, you would miss a large segment of customers who are underserved and likely looking for a new solution.

If you are defining your customer, make sure you identify the three different customers: the job beneficiary, the job executor, and the purchase decision maker. In consumer markets, these are all often the same person. In complex markets, you need to identify all three. For example, in the medical JTBD of “obtaining a blood sample” the patient is the beneficiary, the phlebotomist is the executor, and the insurance company is the purchaser.

If you were developing a product in the market for obtaining a blood sample and you target the phlebotomist, you risk a competitor developing a solution for the patient that enables them to take their own blood sample without a trained expert. And this is exactly what is happening in this market.

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Learn the JTBD Market Definition Technique:
How to Answer “What is the Job-to-be-Done?” >
The 3 Types of Jobs-To-Be-Done Your Customers Have >

outcome driven innovation

product or service

How to Define Your Market

In business, the market always wins, so defining your market correctly is critical to your success. JTBD shows that most companies get this wrong. Defining your market incorrectly can be lethal for your product roadmap. 

 

TRADITIONAL APPROACH

Don't Use Your Product To Define Your Market

Defining your market using your product is very common. In fact, this is how it is taught in business school textbooks. But history is full of examples of product-based market definitions leading companies to build failed product roadmaps

For example, Blackberry thought there was a market for keyboard devices and they built a product roadmap based on keyboards. Britannica thought there was a market for encyclopedias and built a product roadmap based on content for bound volumes of books. And Kodak thought there was a market for film and built a product roadmap based on improving the quality of film. At first product-based market definitions seem to make sense, since people were buying a lot of mobile keyboard devices, encyclopedias, and film. 

But here is the flaw: products always change. This is a key concept in Jobs Theory: unlike products, your customer’s goal, their JTBD, does not change. This is why you should define your market and build your product roadmap using your customer’s job rather than your product. Because a JTBD is a stable target to hit.

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Your Market Is Your Customer's Job-To-Be-Done

Defining your market using your customer Job-to-be-Done has profound implications for your product roadmap. Think of your product not as something a customer is buying, but as something that is helping them solve a problem or achieve a goal. In other words, your product helps them get a “job” done. This has been said in lots of different ways. 

Clay Christensen of Harvard Business School, has said that “your customers are not buying your product, they are hiring it to get a job done.” Theodore Levitt, also of Harvard, was famous for saying “customer’s don’t want a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.” Steve Jobs said, that teams should “start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology.” And Thomas Edison said, “Anything that won't sell, I don't want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.” 

These are all the same idea. Your customer has a goal to achieve or a problem to be solved. We now call your customer’s goal/problem a “job-to-be-done” or JTBD. Customers “hire” your product to help them achieve the goal, solve the problem, and get the job done. There are big advantages to defining your market and building your product roadmap using your customers JTBD. First and foremost, your customer’s JTDB doesn’t change over time. Second, you can prioritize where your customer’s struggle the most to ensure you launch features that help them overcome their struggle. And third, your team doesn’t have to use opinions about product ideas in your roadmap. You can objectively quantify how each idea helps your customers get the job done.

Example

Firing iPods, Hiring Streaming Services

Let’s look at an example. In order to execute the job of “creating a mood with music,” consumers have "hired" a huge range of products: piano rolls, Victrolas, LPs, eight-track tapes, reel-to-reel tapes, cassettes, CDs, MP3 players, and streaming apps. If you define the job with reference to the technologies or products customers have used, you will be trying to hit a moving target. But the job of creating a mood with music has never changed and will never change. This gives you a stable target to hit for your product roadmap. 

In 2006, Microsoft thought there was a huge opportunity to take share in the “iPod” market. This product-based definition of the “iPod” market led Microsoft to create a product roadmap for the Zune. And it was a total failure. They lost nearly $300 million in one quarter alone. Why did the Zune fail? Because there is no such thing as an “iPod” market. The true market is the customer’s job of “creating a mood with music.” 

You can see how Microsoft's fatal mistake was defining (and then sizing) the market based on the traditional market definitions listed here, which all use a product as a critical element. If your TAM or SAM is based on a product, you should redefine them using your customer's JTBD. 

We all fired records and hired CDs. Then we fired CDs and hired iPods. Then we fired iPods and hired streaming services. Why? Because the true market is to create a mood with music and each new product got the job done faster and more accurately than the previous. As JTBD shows, the new products were hired because they satisfied unmet customer needs better than the competitive solutions. This is why building a product roadmap using your customers JTBD is so critical. Because it will lead your team to build features that get the job done faster and more accurately than your competitors. 

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Learn the JTBD Market Definition Technique:

How to Answer “What is the Job-to-be-Done?” >
The 3 Types of Jobs-To-Be-Done Your Customers Have >

See a Real-World Example:
How Kellogg School of Management Used Jobs-to-be-Done to Identify Customer & Competitor Insights >

jtbd create a mood with music

traditional market definitions

 

Market Sizing

Calculating the size of your market accurately is extremely important. Companies that size their market incorrectly get destroyed by competitors. History is littered with dead companies that made fatal market sizing mistakes.

 

TRADITIONAL APPROACH

Don’t Use Your Product Price to Size Your Market

Almost all traditional market sizing equations use the price of your product as a key variable. For example, the Total Addressable Market (“TAM”) is often defined as the number of buyers times the price of a product. Why is this a mistake? Because your customers are not actually “buying” your product, they are “hiring” it to get a job done. As a result, the size of your market opportunity is based on your customer’s willingness to pay to get their job done better, regardless of the price of your product. This is why companies like BlackBerry, Britannica, and Kodak failed when they invested in the wrong product roadmaps. They sized their markets (and thus projected their revenue from their roadmaps) based on the price of their products. How much are you willing to pay for a roll of film or a set of 26 encyclopedias today? Probably $0 because these are both obsolete products.

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Your Customer’s Willingness to Pay Is Your Market Size

Remember a critical insight from Jobs Theory: your customers are not buying your product, they are hiring it to get a job done. Every product in history has been replaced by a new product that got the customer’s job done better. Yours will be too. Defining your market based on your customer's JTBD lowers the risk that your product roadmap fails to generate the revenue growth you need.

To size a market opportunity, don’t analyze the products currently in the market. Instead, define your market as a goal customers are trying to achieve (a job-to-be-done). You can identify the range of your customers’ willingness to pay to get that job done using a quantitative survey that asks the right market sizing questions. This range of willingness-to-pay can be plotted on a graph from low to high. We call this the Need Curve because it looks like a traditional economics demand curve, but instead of plotting price and quantity of product, it plots the number of customers willing to pay to get their job done. The area under the Need Curve is the size of your market.

If you use Jobs-to-be-Done to size your market, you will be able to justify investments in your product roadmap to ensure that you exceed revenue growth goals. Instead of launching products into markets that are about to disappear, you will be focused on stable markets and where you can win. And you can feel confident that your product roadmap investments will accelerate your company’s growth.

Example

From $30 Billion to $0

The market sizing chart shows how the need curve can be used to size your market. It plots different values for customer willingness to pay. The area under the curve is the size of the market. The need curve will be unique in your market, and it will reveal the true size of your market. It determines how much revenue and profit growth you can generate in your market.

Let’s look at an actual example of a fatal market sizing mistake. In 2006, Microsoft thought there was a big opportunity to launch an iPod competitor. They calculated that Apple had sold 200 million iPods at about $150 each. So, using traditional market definitions and market sizing calculations, this was a $30 billion market, which is very large, even for Microsoft. They built a product roadmap of features to compete with the iPod, which even included, ironically, a “podcasting” feature.

The team felt they had a product roadmap that could win because Microsoft had hundreds of millions of existing customers. And their iPod competitor, the Zune, could connect to their Windows operating system, which was by far the dominant operating system in the world. They built out their product roadmap and launched the Zune. It was, of course, a tremendous failure. They lost $300 million in one quarter. And within a few years, Apple’s iPod revenue was effectively $0.

What happened? Did the market go away? Of course not. People are creating a mood with music in larger numbers today than ever before. This is because the JTBD, and thus the true market, is to create a mood with music. In this market, like in all, markets, the leading product, the iPod, became obsolete just like all of the products before it: records, cassettes, and CDs. When a new product emerged (streaming apps) that got the job done faster and more accurately, customers switched to the new product. This happens in every market, including yours. This is why you should use your customers JTBD and their willingness to pay to get the job done as the foundation for your product roadmap. It will ensure that you don’t build the Zune.

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Customer Needs

Satisfying your customer’s needs better than competitors is the key to building your product roadmap. But most companies and product teams don’t agree on what a customer need even is. This is a serious problem that JTBD helps solve.

 

TRADITIONAL APPROACH

Don’t Ask Your Customers What Product They Want

Does everyone on your team agree on how to define a customer need? If you don’t agree, you are not alone. Research has shown that 95% of all companies do not have an agreed-upon definition of a customer need. Without an agreement on customer needs, teams often ask customers about what products they want. This is a mistake. Why? Because your customer’s can’t envision what great product should result from your roadmap. But they can absolutely tell you what problem they need to you to solve, in other words, how they struggle to get their job done.

For example, you could ask 1,000 consumers what products they want and they would likely never come up with the microwave. They don’t have the technical expertise to understand what makes a microwave work. But they can tell you everything about preparing a meal (a JTBD) and how they struggle. This is true in your market too: your customers can explain their struggles, if you know how to frame the conversation.

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A Customer Need Is an Action and a Variable in the Job

In Jobs Theory, a customer need is clearly defined, allowing your entire company to communicate in the same way, using the same language when you are building your product roadmap.

A customer JTBD is a goal they need to achieve, independent of any product. For example consumers don’t “want” records, cassettes, or iPods. They want to “create a mood with music.” This is the job-to-be-done. In every JTBD, there are a set of steps that a customer has to take in order to complete that job and achieve the goal. And within each job step, there are actions a customer has to take using variables in the job.

These actions and variables are the customer needs, and like the JTBD they are independent of any solutions. The customer actions in a need are defined by action verbs (e.g. determine, identify, gather, calculate, reduce, ensure, etc.) and the variables are defined by job. For example, in the job of “getting to a destination on time” the variables include, arrival time, departure time, travel time, the route, alternative routes, traffic, weather, errands, stops along the way (e.g. errands or fuel), etc.

Most JTBDs have 10 to 20 steps and 50 to 100 customer needs. In other words, while your customer’s JTBD is complex, it is knowable. And because the JTBD and the customer needs are independent of any product or service, your customer’s needs are stable over time and will not change. This is the power of JTBD and Jobs Theory: when you are building your product roadmap, your team will have a stable target to hit.

Example

How To Identify Customer Needs

Let’s look at an example of how you can identify your customer’s needs. Imagine you are on a product team and you had to beat Apple and Google Maps. The first step is to identify all the needs in the customer’s job of “getting to a destination on time” to make sure your product roadmap is going to result in a product that is better than your competitors, in this example, Apple and Google Maps. 

To identify customer needs, start by identifying the steps in your customer’s JTBD. Job Steps outline what your customer needs to accomplish to achieve the goal (ie. get the job done). And Jobs Steps fall into six categories: understanding steps (i.e. understanding the problem), preparation steps (i.e. preparing to get the job done), execution steps (i.e. taking actions to achieve the goal), assessing steps (i.e. monitoring how well the job is going while executing it), revision steps (i.e. making changes to get the job done better), and conclusion steps (i.e. ending the job successfully). 

All jobs follow this job step pattern. For example, getting to a destination on time follows this pattern: An understanding step is to “estimate the departure time.” A preparation step is to “plan the stops.” An execution step is to “travel to the destination.” An assessment step is to “assess if the destination will be reached on time along the route.” A revision step is to “reset the route as needed.” And a conclusion step is to “park the vehicle.” The technique to determine job steps is to ask customers about what process they use to get the job done (i.e. achieve their goal). You can ask them about the steps to understand the goal, plan and prepare to achieve the goal, etc. 

Once you have identified all the steps in your customers job, you can identify the customer needs in each step. Ask customer what makes executing each job step difficult, time-consuming or inaccurate. Listen for the variables in the job. For example, when consumers plan stops to get to destinations on time, they have to know variables including the routes to the stops, the optimal sequence of stops, and the open times at the stops. And with each variable, your customer has to take an action. For example, when planning stops a consumer has to determine the optimal sequence of stops. 

Since customer needs are metrics, you can survey your customers to identify how much effort it takes them to satisfy their needs. The level of struggle is a Customer Effort Score (CES). If it is too difficult, the effort is high, and the CES is therefor high. You goal is to create customer value by making it easier (faster and more accurately) for your customer to satisfy their needs. 

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customer needs are actions and variables

how to identify customer needs

Learn the JTBD Customer Needs Technique:

How to Identify Your Customers’ Needs >

 

Unmet Needs

Satisfying your customer’s unmet needs with features in your product roadmap is the fastest path to success. Prioritize unmet needs in your roadmap to target the most underserved customers. These are the customers most likely to buy your product.

 

TRADITIONAL APPROACH

Don’t Research NPS Scores, Opinions or Trends

Companies often do research to figure out what customers want. These methods include NPS (net promoter scores), customer opinions about product features, or trends like emerging technologies (e.g blockchain). But there are critical flaws in these methods: they don’t focus on your customer’s struggle to get their job done independent of any product, service, or technology. The iPod had very high NPS scores, but this didn’t help Microsoft launch a successful competitor because it didn’t show them where customers were struggling to “create a mood with music” (the JTBD).

If you ask customers about products, they will give you answers about products. This is what Henry Ford meant when he famously said “If I asked customers what [product] they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” Instead of asking customers about your product (or your competitor’s) ask them about their struggle to get their job done. This is how you can identify unmet customer needs, and segment customers based on their unmet needs. This is the key to your product roadmap’s success.

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Quantify Your Customer’s Unmet Needs with a Survey

Customer needs are powerful because they are quantifiable. Every customer need in your customer’s JTBD has an action and a variable that are independent of any product. For example, no one needs the “Add a stop” feature in Google Maps. What they need is to “determine the optimal sequence of stops.” In this example, “determine” is the action and “optimal sequence” is the variable. And in every JTBD, your customers want to get their job done as fast and as accurately as possible. As a result, you can measure the speed of your customer’s action and the accuracy of the variable in every need.

In order to determine which customer needs are unmet, you should conduct a customer survey and ask customers if it is difficult for them to satisfy the need today. For example, how difficult is it for consumers to determine the optimal sequence of stops in their day? If it is difficult, consumers will tell you in the survey. And if a high enough percentage of customers say the need is difficult to satisfy, then the need is an unmet customer need. This makes sense because customers who struggle (i.e. who say it is difficult to satisfy the need) are the ones most likely to buy the features you build in your product roadmap that satisfy the need faster and more accurately (i.e. with less customer difficulty). You can think of your survey results (i.e. the percentage of customers who struggle) as the probability that customers buy what you are building in your product roadmap.

Example

Using Unmet Needs to Beat Apple and Google Maps

If you were building a product to beat Apple and Google Maps, you would want to know where customers struggle the most. In a survey, 86% of consumers said that determining the optimal sequence of planned stops in a busy day was difficult with Apple and Google Maps. It is not hard to see what this is true. 

For a busy person with multiple meetings, appointments, and errands throughout a day, determining the optimal sequence using Apple Maps or Google Maps would require entering destination A, calculating the time and the route to destination B. Then entering destination A, calculating the time and the route to destination C, comparing the two A to B and A to C routes, determining which was quicker and repeating the process for every possible combination of destinations.

With Apple Maps and Google Maps satisfying the need to determine the optimal sequence of planned stops is manual, time-consuming and likely highly inaccurate. It is not surprising that 86% of consumers said it was difficult. This is the power fo JTBD: you now have a quantifiable unmet customer need you can use in your product roadmap. The probability that consumers adopt your new solution to satisfy this need is high if you help them overcome their struggle. 

You can do this analysis for every need in your customer's JTBD to ensure that your product roadmap is focused on satisfying unmet needs better than your competitors.

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unmet needs customer struggle

determining the optimal sequence of stops

Learn the JTBD Unmet Needs Technique:

Finding Unmet Needs with Jobs-to-be-Done >

Product Strategy

Every product roadmap is the result of a product strategy. Choosing the wrong product strategy can be fatal. Just ask all the failed companies throughout history. 

product strategy award

 

TRADITIONAL APPROACH

Don’t Focus on Your Competitors' Activities

A product strategy is a plan to beat your competitors. How do you create a strategy? In 1996, Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter wrote a famous paper called “What is Strategy?” Companies often use Michael Porter's definition of strategy, since he was a pioneering academic in the field, famous for analyzing industries to determine competitive strategy. In Porter's view, “The essence of strategy is choosing to perform activities differently than rivals do.” Activities can include manufacturing, engineering, distribution, marketing, and selling.

What is missing from these “activities” is your customer. This is why Porter’s definition is outdated: he didn’t include your customer’s job-to-be-done in his definition of strategy. Your customer’s needs, not your activities, should be the focus of your product strategy. Your customer does not care about your activities. They care about getting their job done.

jobs-to-be-done-theory

A Product Strategy Is Choosing Your Target Customer, Their Job, and Your Platform.

Creating a successful product strategy includes making three choices. First, which job beneficiary are you going to target? This is the key customer in any market: the person who benefits from getting the job done. Second, which job-to-be-done are you going to target? Your customer’s job is your market. And third, which platform you are going to use to satisfy customer needs differently than your competitors? This is the essence of your product strategy because you will win in your market by satisfying customer needs better than your competitors.

Once you determine which beneficiary and JTBD you want to target, analyze the unmet needs in the job to determine which needs are the biggest struggle for your customer. These unmet needs represent the growth opportunity in your market. Analyze the unmet needs to determine if you can use your existing product platform to satisfy the needs, or if you need a new platform. This is the essence of product strategy.

Example

Airlines vs. Video Conferencing, Zune vs. Pandora

JTBD product strategy is very powerful because it can reveal unseen competitive threats. For example, United Airlines likely doesn’t think that video conferencing is a strategic threat. But if you analyze one of the airline's most important customers --salespeople, and their job-to-be-done -- you can see the threat. Salespeople are hiring airlines to acquire customers. “Acquire customers” is a very complex job-to-be-done with over 100 needs. Airlines satisfy some of these needs with a product platform that includes aircraft and airports. Video conferencing satisfies the needs of salespeople with web conferencing. These are two different product strategies targeting the same customer and the same job. 

Which one will win? The coronavirus pandemic and lock down just accelerated what was already happening. Web conferencing is getting better (and will continue to get better) at helping salespeople acquire customers without the need to get on a plane. These customers are very valuable to airlines, so web conferencing is a serious competitive threat to airlines. 

You can also see why JTBD product strategy is effective when analyzing products that changed over time. Microsoft and Pandora choose very different product strategies to target the same customer (consumers) and the same JTBD (create a mood with music). Microsoft chose the same platform as the iPod (a hard drive device), but Pandora chose a different platform (streaming to apps). The product roadmap for Microsoft’s Zune resulted in a $300 million loss in one quarter alone, while Pandora’s product roadmap helped them grow to 90,000 new users per day. In this example, a streaming platform clearly satisfied the unmet needs in the job faster and more accurately. This is the key to product strategy: building a roadmap that will get your customer’s job done better than your competitors.

Competitors

To beat your competition, identify where they get your customer’s job done slowly and inaccurately. Using JTBD, you can beat even the biggest competitors in the world.

beat your competition female runner

 

TRADITIONAL APPROACH

Don’t Do Feature-to-Feature Comparisons

In traditional competitive analysis, product teams often compare their own product's features to a competitor's features. If Product A has all of the features of Product B plus a few more, then Product A has the advantage. More features equals more competitive advantage.

Focusing on feature-to-feature comparison is the wrong way to think about competitive differentiation. Why? Because your customers don’t want more features, they want your product to help them get their job done faster and more accurately. Microsoft’s Zune had more features than Apple’s iPod, yet it failed to take any meaningful share of the market because it didn’t get the job done faster or more accurately. Streaming services (like Pandora and Spotify) actually had fewer features, but they got the job of “creating a mood with music” done much faster. Pandora only had one end-user feature: click play to listen to music for the mood. Pandora’s algorithms did the rest.

If you've ever been on a team that is playing feature catch-up, you know it's like bailing water out of a leaky boat: every time you release a feature and think your work is done, your competition releases something new, racing ahead of you yet again. You will always be a step behind.

jobs-to-be-done-theory

Identify Your Competitors' Weakness Using Unmet Needs

Your customers are analyzing your competitors every day. When they struggle to get their job done, they’ll look for new competitive solutions to get their job done faster and more accurately. In Jobs Theory, a competitor is any solution that helps get a job step done. This approach can help you identify your real competitors in each job step, as opposed to relying on industry-based competitors.

Competitive weakness is satisfying a need slowly or inaccurately. Since needs are structured with an action and a variable, you can measure the speed of the action and the accuracy of the variable when customers use your competitor’s solution. You can use the JTBD analysis to analyze not only your competition, but also your existing product in order to identify where it needs to be improved. As a result, you can add those improvements to your roadmap before a competitor attacks your product and takes your market share by getting the customer's job done faster and more accurately.

Example

Planning Stops With Apple and Google Maps

Imagine you were trying to build a product to beat Apple and Google Maps. How would you analyze these products to figure out what features you should put in your roadmap? 

People hire maps applications to “get to destinations on time.”  One of the job steps is to plan the stops. And if you have a busy day with multiple stops, you need to determine the optimal sequence of stops to make sure you stay on time with your meetings, appointments and errands. 

“Determine the optimal sequence of stops” is a customer need in this job-to-be-done. It has an action (determine) and a variable (the optimal sequence). To analyze Apple and Google maps, you assess the speed and accuracy of determining the optimal sequence using those products. 

If a user were to try to determine the optimal sequence of stops using Apple or Google Maps, it would take multiple steps. For example, a user would enter destination A, enter destination B, calculate the route and time, repeat for destination A to C, re-plan if going from A to C first was faster and less variable, and repeat this process for all possible combinations of stops. This manual process is very slow and the accuracy is low if the user could even successfully determine the optimal sequence at all. 

This is a weakness in Apple and Google Maps. You can do this analysis with your competitors (and your product) to identify where your customer struggles to get their job done with the competitive solutions in the market. Remember, a competitive solution is anything that helps a customer get a job step done and satisfy customer needs in the job. In the image on the left, you can see all the steps in the job of getting to a destination of time, each with a competitor overlaid on the job step. This helps you visualize your competition, and it reveals which job steps have fewer competitors.