Innovating With The Jobs To Be Done Concept

Steve WunkerOctober 9, 20198 min

Many companies try to innovate by looking backward. They focus on what they are already selling or doing and on how their customers currently behave. By focusing on jobs, you look deeper—at what really drives behavior. This perspective can totally change the innovation landscape, and it ensures that ideas connect with customers’ true motivations rather than with what they happen to be doing today. A Jobs approach sets you up to win both today and into the future.

Focusing on Jobs to be Done, rather than on past customer purchase behavior, allows you to define a broader solution space with more opportunities for innovation.

Designing a product that satisfies functional jobs in a superior way is a necessary first step. If you also appeal to customers’ emotional needs, whether your customer is an individual consumer or a large corporation, you can make your product a breakthrough success. This requires designing offerings for specific customers on specific occasions.

Be wary of getting into feature wars with your competitors. Features are easy to copy, and adding too many can ultimately make for a frustrating user experience. Similarly, focus on satisfying high-priority jobs, looking first to the jobs that are both important and under-satisfied in the eyes of the customer.

Where Job Drivers Come From

Job drivers come in three flavors: attitudes, background, and circumstances.

To help understand the differences among these three categories, let’s talk about Stan, who is shopping for a new car. Like other car buyers, Stan has certain key jobs to be done, such as avoiding breakdowns, having a comfortable ride, and ensuring his personal safety. It seems settled. Stan should get a Toyota Camry. They are reliable, sufficiently comfortable, and safe. How could he go wrong with one of the top-selling cars in America?

Stan’s attitudes—his social or personality-based job drivers—begin to differentiate him from other car buyers, causing a shift in which jobs are more or less important. As it turns out, Stan has an MBA from a prestigious school. Many of his peers and colleagues are wildly successful. These factors drive Stan to show off his own level of success. Not a problem. We can put Stan in a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, a top-of-the-line luxury sedan. It satisfies the same primary jobs as the Camry but also allows Stan to display his wealth. Saving money is a less important job for Stan, given his earning prospects, so the Mercedes it is.

As it turns out, Stan’s background—his long-term job drivers—will also play a role. Stan lives in New England at the top of a steep hill. These geographical factors drive Stan’s need for a more powerful car that can get him up the hill during the snowy winter months. The Mercedes will not do after all. Maybe the Porsche Cayenne SUV would be a better fit for Stan. With its advanced traction capabilities, the Cayenne satisfies Stan’s needs for power. Looking at the reviews, the Cayenne is less reliable over the long term than the Camry, but Stan gets a new car every few years anyway. His emphasis is on short-term reliability, so a new Cayenne should pose no problem.

There is a final twist in the story, though. Stan’s circumstances—his immediate or near-term job drivers—make the Cayenne impractical. Stan happens to be shopping for a car during lacrosse season. This year, Stan volunteered to coach his son’s lacrosse team, and he is worried that he may have to haul some gear in the back of his car. The Cayenne may not have the cargo room. Ultimately, Stan decides on a larger luxury SUV, the Cadillac Escalade.

What Stan’s story tells us is that even customers who have similar jobs will make different decisions about what products they use to satisfy those jobs. The Camry buyer and the Escalade buyer may both care about safety, reliability, and cargo space, but their job drivers cause them to define those terms differently and place more emphasis on one set of jobs over the other. The job drivers are facts, such as Stan’s pedigree. They are not jobs themselves, but they have a big impact on which jobs are important. At the same time, job drivers can cause entirely new jobs to matter, such as Stan’s need to show off. Ultimately, it is a combination of jobs and job drivers that differentiates customers.

Using Job Drivers To Segment Customers

Good marketing revolves around customer segmentation. Not all products are well suited for all customers, so defining distinct segments of customers enables marketers to target certain products at particular segments. Then there can be a good fit between what is offered and who is buying it.

A customer segment—whether it consists of your customers, competitors’ customers, non-customers, or a mix of the three—has a degree of homogeneity in what it needs and how it buys and consumes. The more that a segmentation has to cover all aspects of a customer’s experience—from how she gains awareness about a product to where she buys it to what she wants to choose—the less focused it will be. Sometimes segments do not need to encompass such diverse territory. A product development team, for instance, may care deeply about what customers are trying to get done, but they are not concerned with how customers view advertising to find out about new offerings. The company can address that challenge later. For now, the team just wants to segment customers by how they consider and use products.

Jobs and job drivers are critical factors for segmentation. Whereas many (poor) segmentation schemes focus on who people are or how they are behaving, jobs and job drivers explain why they are acting a certain way and how they might consider new offerings. In a public sector context, they explain why people want certain benefits and why they prioritize things as they do. Without knowing the “why,” facts are sterile. For example, a credit card company we worked with once segmented its customers based on life stage, which seemingly made sense, except that life stages had almost no correlation to card spending, use of revolving credit, and other key metrics. So it then segmented customers based on their card spending or revolving, which did tell the company about who is profitable but explained nothing about why these people acted as they did. A deeper look revealed that there are several distinct types of high-spending customers, such as people who consume a lot, business travelers, and small-business owners. These individuals have entirely different job drivers, and it was folly to lump them together into a one-size-fits-none segment of high spenders. Knowing that high-spending cardholders were between the ages of 35 and 50 and had large incomes was nice, but knowing that the reason some spend so much was because they travel on business at least once per month yielded a trove of opportunities for the company.

Case Study: Planet Fitness

Gyms also illustrate how the distinct categories of job drivers can factor into segmentation. In the past, many gyms attempted to distinguish themselves based on features. They would look at factors such as season, location, member age, and member gender to determine whether to promote perks such as free tanning or on-site juice bars. More recently, however, gyms are being built and marketed around underlying jobs and job drivers. Take Planet Fitness, which ranked third on the 2014 Forbes list of America’s best franchises and boasted a growth rate of 26 percent from 2008 to 2012. Much of the company’s marketing is focused on the underlying attitudes of its members, many of whom are looking for an accessible gym that lets them stay healthy. They want a venue where they do not feel as if they are getting in the way of—or being judged by—real fitness buffs. The company’s advertisements loudly boast Planet Fitness as the home of the Judgement Free Zone with “No Lunks” and “No Gymtimidation.” At the same time, Planet Fitness understands the circumstances of its members, many of whom are younger, casual exercisers focused on finding ways to save time and money. It offers $10-per-month memberships, Pizza Mondays, and Bagel Tuesdays. Collectively, these benefits allow members to cut their meal costs while also integrating a workout into their commute. Although the company’s offerings might be scoffed at by advanced athletes and fitness buffs, they meet the circumstances of the casual gym members that they are targeting. Finally, Planet Fitness meets the long-term needs that reflect its customers’ background by dedicating a high percentage of its space to cardio and strength-training machines that emphasize easy-to-attain everyday fitness. Although some athletes need access to full-size pools and free weights to meet strict training goals, most casual gym members prefer a more accessible gym experience.

A strict demographic segmentation never would have illuminated the need for the Planet Fitness model. Similarly, companies that segment based solely on customers’ jobs may also miss a key piece of the puzzle. Trying to distinguish customers based simply on their jobs tends to result in customer segments that are impractical. Often, a few key jobs will be almost universally important. Going back to our car purchase example, it’s rational for everyone to say that being able to stop a car in a short distance is an important job. In reality, however, most people aren’t going to purchase a car because of the quality of the brakes.

Why Jobs And Jobs Drivers Deliver Greater Clarity

On the other hand, looking at a mix of jobs and job drivers begins to create a clearer picture of how various customer types are distinct. Imagine a couple with a newborn baby. While other customers may say that safety is important, it is likely much more front and center for this couple. At the end of the day, safety—including the ability to stop quickly—may be more of a deciding factor for them. At the same time, the number of children they have may raise or lower the importance they place on having adequate room to transport cargo. On a more emotional level, their attitudes may also play a major role in the decision-making process. Maybe they just do not see themselves as minivan people. They are already accepting that a new child will require them to make a number of lifestyle trade-offs, so perhaps the new car is an opportunity to cling to a vestige of whimsical fun. Ultimately, each customer type will have a unique combination of jobs and drivers of varying importance that lead them to their buying decisions.

A segmentation built on jobs and job drivers will help to group these customers together, creating valuable insights into how prevalent a particular customer type is and what customers might eventually be willing to buy.

More of this approach is featured in my new book JOBS TO BE DONE: A Roadmap for Customer-Centered Innovation.

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