Jobs-to-be-Done Basics

The Job-To-Be-Done

From Finding the right job for your product

A “job” is the fundamental problem a customer needs to resolve in a given situation.

If the focus is on the product, one may miss genuine opportunities for innovation and making things better for the customer. We have to understand what the customer is actually trying to achieve.

Let us consider some of the examples given by Clayton Christensen in his paper above.

Product bought Actual objective
Milkshakes Avoid boredom during drive, stave off hunger
Ikea furniture Starter home, instant decoration
Gucci, Louis Vuitton Feel macho, pampered, prestigious
Metro newspaper Pass commute productively
Starbucks (and some cars) Mobile office
Hospital beds Save nurses’ time, improve profitability
Boat rides Entertain out of town visitors
Short board games Spend quality time with family
GM OnStar Peace of mind in case of accident
Swiffer floor cleaner Dustpan replacement, hassle-free cleaning
Scuba diving class Activity for honeymoon couples to do together
Kodak camera Share fun moments with family and friends
40% juice box Reduce guilt about buying unhealthy snacks

Once the true job is discovered, take a deep dive into it to make sure that it is done “perfectly”. Make improvements on all aspects such that it is easier, cheaper, faster, better for the consumer to use the product/service.

There is a spectrum:

  • from products being used regularly, but employed to do things different than what they were meant for, i.e. the functional purpose,
  • to ill-defined situations where job-to-be-done is not clear

Discovering JTBD


In case of B2B, make a product that improves the profitability of the customer, by either increasing revenue or reducing cost or both. This requires an in-depth study of the customer’s business from all sides and at different levels.

… “How did you decide that you were paying an acceptable price for this purchase?” and can yield useful insights about the levers that drive the customer’s profit engine.


Interviews and Surveys

If job is knowable, customer interviews and surveys may give insights. However, the important point is to focus not on needs but on the situation.

“Try to understand the situation and not the customer. The same customer finds herself needing different things, at different times. In contrast, the situation, or the job, is a simpler, more stable point of focus because it exists independently – disembodied, as it were – from the customer.”

“The reason it is so important to understand the situation that precipitated purchase is that this yields insight not just into the functional dimensions of the job to be done, but the emotional factors as well: fear, fatigue or frustration; anxiety or anger; panic, pride or pain; and so on. Products don’t engender emotions. Situations do. Hence, to provide the complete set of functional, emotional and social experiences in purchase and use that will sum up to nailing the job perfectly, the situation – rather than the customer – must be the fundamental unit of marketing analysis.”

Observation and Empathic Observation

  • Customers know the JTBD, but no product exists as yet and an imperfect product is being used
  • Observe users and identify potential uses of new technology
  • Immerse yourself with the customer to gain deeper understanding (empathic discovery)
  • Find the JTBD first and then think how it can be resolved using new technology, or some other means


Sounds a lot like Lean Startup methodology … release a product quickly and work with customers to try and identify a job where it is useful. Once job is discovered, focus on doing that job perfectly.

When it (coevolution) is undertaken, interviews, observation and empathic participation all can be used to figure out the job.

Situation Case Report

describes the situation the customer found herself in when the product was hired or used … tracking down the whole story behind the specific events of purchase and use

Forces diagram

Customer adopts a new product/solution/service when she wishes to affect change in her life; make it better somehow than it was before. There are 2 sets of forces at work between these 2 states (the before and after).

JTBD Forces Diagram JTBD Forces Diagram

  • Push of the situation
  • Pull of the new solution
  • Anxiety of the new solution
  • Habit of the present
  • When (Push + Pull) > (Anxiety + Habit), a switch occurs

Timeline diagram

JTBD Timeline Diagram JTBD Timeline Diagram

  • First Thought Passive looking
  • Event 1 Active looking
  • Event 2 Deciding
  • Event 3 Buy
  • Consuming Experience
  • Satisfied or unhappy

Using the ideas in the Forces and Timeline diagrams, it should be possible to distill the job the customers were trying to get done when they hired the product and how frequently the job seems to arise in the lives of the customers.

This also helps understand what other “job candidates” were considered as potential hires. This defines the real competition in the customer’s mind.

Describe the “hiring criteria” that were used when comparing the candidates. These are the experiences, features and functions that constituted the basis for hiring one product over another. Order the criteria in order of importance, and each cell describes how well each candidate performs on that criterion.

Job candidates Criterion 1 Criterion 2 Criterion
Candidate 1  
Candidate 2  

This sort of table should quickly expose opportunities for innovation, and give a comprehensive competition analysis from a user’s point of view.

Business Plan and Marketing Mix

(only) Once a job is clarified, the business-planning process should delineate the functional, emotional and social experiences that the customer will require in purchase, use and after-sale follow-through. The “Four Ps” of marketing — Promotion, Product, Price and Place — offer a useful way to structure the business plan to ensure success.

only when the job is well-understood that the business model and the products and services required to do it perfectly become clear. Then, and only then, can the company “take off.”


Build a purpose brand – one that links customers’ realization that they need to do a job with a product that was designed to do it.

FedEx, Starbucks, Google, BlackBerry, craigslist, QuickBooks, TurboTax and OnStar, were built in just this way with minimal advertising at the outset. Each is associated with a clear purpose, these brands pop into customers’ minds when they need to do the jobs that these products and services were optimized to do.

Dual advantage of a purpose brand:

  1. it guides customers to the right products
  2. clarifies which features and functions are relevant to the job and which “improvements” will prove irrelevant
  3. targeted advertising


Understanding the job for which the product was meant to be hired allows teams to eschew the expensive improvements that don’t matter in favor of relatively simple ones that do. Don’t waste time offering features or improving on dimensions of performance that are irrelevant to the job.


Understand what other job candidates are competing against from the customer’s perspective, to ensure that the price is right. Without knowing the job one cannot know whether the offering is over- or underpriced.


Examples of JTBD helping in placement:

  • milkshake-dispensing machine placed in front of the counter and equipped with a prepaid swipe-card system. Instant service was an important experience to offer customers hurriedly heading for work.
  • 40% juice drink placed in snack foods location, and sales improved markedly. When compared to the job candidates in the snack aisle, a drink that had 40% real fruit juice solved the emotional component of the “good parent” job much better than the competing candidates.

Job Story Structure

[ The pain point or aspiration the customer faces ] + [ How they imagine their life being better when they have a solution to help them with that pain point]


  • Free me from the difficult choices I have to make as I try to figure out what products won’t harm my newborn, so I can enjoy parenthood rather than being stressed out by it.

Not about tasks or activities

  • Its about the struggle to make progress
  • Not about the product

Is not about an individual

  • It is about a market opportunity

Build long-lasting businesses

  • As jobs transcend time

Model of customer motivation

  • Vector of progress
  • Predict what customers will buy in the future
  • What data to gather
  • What systems do customers belong to