5 min read

Jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) framework

There are many ways to structure your customer research, but we recommend using the jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) framework.

  • Something a customer wants to accomplish in a specific situation or circumstance 
  • A metaphor to refer to what customers want from the products they buy  
  • Something functional in a customer’s life, with emotional and social components 
Harvard Business School marketing professor Theodore Levitt explained it this way: "People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”

This framework forces companies to ask, “What job are users hiring my product for?” This is a customer-centered approach, where companies design protocols around meeting users’ real-life needs, or “jobs”.

For pre-launch companies, that means using this framework to validate market demand.

  • What problems do people encounter and hire products for?
  • What job needs to be done that no good products exist for? (DIY solutions by users are often a sign of unfulfilled jobs.)

For post-launch companies, the JTBD framework helps pinpoint where and how your product provides the most value.

  • What exactly is the job your protocol should be hired for?
  • And how can you optimize your protocol for that job?

Jobs to Be Done Example (1):

I want a mobile device that lets me listen to my music while I’m running. Customer’s Voice

This Job to be Done has been addressed by two important devices: the Sony Walkman and Apple’s iPod. In both cases, these products took large leaps forward in making music mobile, and, importantly, giving the user an option to customize the experience beyond merely selecting a radio station.

At their cores, the Walkman and the iPod are responding to the same Job to be Done, with the iPod taking advantage of new technologies and responding to user expectations regarding the portability of music.

Jobs to Be Done Example (2):

I want to easily shop for the book I want and get it quickly. Customer’s Voice

It’s almost hard to remember that, when it started, Amazon only sold books. For its customers in those early days, Amazon solved the problem of book availability. Whereas a brick-and-mortar store was limited in how many different books it could stock, Amazon could draw upon a much larger variety. Amazon, of course, has expanded to include a number of different divisions and different businesses, but the founding principle of a wide selection being quickly available remains large in all of its activities. Amazon continues to be an example of what you can build with a good idea (and a quarter of a million dollars from your parents).

Jobs to Be Done Example (3):

I want to shop for books in a welcoming environment where I can consult experts who understand my tastes.” Customer’s Voice

What Amazon doesn’t offer is an environment that welcomes readers and book lovers into a physical space. That’s why concrete bookstores still persist (although in a diminished capacity) even in a world with a website like Amazon. Smaller bookstores provide a personal touch that responds to a Job to be Done that a retailer like Amazon just can’t offer.

Physical bookstores stay in business because some customers want the experience of browsing the shelves or talking with the workers about new releases. This is especially true of the patrons who rely on smaller, independent bookstores. While these are becoming rarer and rarer, the bookstores that stay in business offer an experience that addresses a Job to be Done that a website could never hope to match.

Jobs to Be Done Example (4):

I want to connect to my classmates (and know who’s available to date). Customer’s Voice

Facebook. Whatever you think of social media, and Facebook specifically, you can’t deny how large it now looms in the lives of many of its users. While coding and algorithms might be complicated, the JTBD Facebook completes is a fairly simple one, and surprisingly simple to the Job completed by physical bookstores: the site makes it easier for users to connect with one another. At first exclusive to college students, Facebook is now used by millions of people worldwide.

Humans are social animals. Most of us crave some measure of connection and attention. Facebook facilitates and monetizes that craving.

One of the best ways to understand your customers’ JTBD is to speak with them specifically about their goals and challenges. We find customers are often very generous with their input when they learn we’re striving to address how they work and what they need to be successful.

"We're not competitor obsessed, we're customer obsessed. We start with what the customer needs and we work backwards." - Jeff Bezos

JTBD: finding your ideal audience

So who is your ideal audience? These are the users who:

  • Face the problem your product addresses.
  • Would pay to solve this problem.
  • Are unhappy with a competitor.
  • Have an urgent need to switch to you.

Here’s a framework for identifying your ideal audience based on how users view your problem:

  1. Urgency: How quickly do they want to solve it? 
  2. Agency: How willing are they to solve it? 
  3. Ability: How able are they to solve it?

Your ideal users have high urgency and agency and low ability. They can’t solve their problem on their own and are motivated to solve it quickly. 

Example: Take Shopify.

All kinds of businesses use Shopify—there isn’t just one demographic or industry it’s useful for. But its ideal audience is mostly made up of small businesses and entrepreneurs who don’t have tech backgrounds and want to easily sell products online. These users:

  • Want to begin selling goods online ASAP (high urgency).
  • Have the means and desire to invest in an all-in-one selling platform (high agency)
  • Don’t know how to set up an e-commerce business on their own (low ability)

Compare that to less-than-ideal customers, who include:

  • People who only want to sell products locally (low urgency).
  • Casual hobbyists and craftspeople—to them, selling things is more for fun (low agency).
  • Experienced programmers who can create an online shop from scratch (high ability).

Job Requirements

Using the JTBD framework, the product revolves around the job, which is a task with both functional and emotional job aspects:

  • Functional: The practical physical requirements that get a job done.
  • Emotional: The underlying desires and emotions required for jobs to feel complete.

You must define both to understand the job that needs to be done. 

Example: Consider DoorDash.

  • Functional: Quickly order food delivery online. 
  • Emotional: Convenience and security, thanks to the app interface and contactless payments. Many people don't want to call a restaurant or interact with a delivery person.

Your product must fulfill both functional and emotional jobs that need to be done—or customers are less likely to hire it.

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