How product managers can build great products by focusing on their customers’ unmet needs
Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) is a valuable tool for product managers and innovators, and there are different thoughts on how to actually put it into optimal practice. Our guest, Jay Haynes, is helping that problem by creating the first and only JTBD software for product, marketing, and sales teams. He founded THRV (pronounced Thrive) to make that happen. Also, Jay has three decades of innovation experience and has helped Microsoft, Dropbox, eBay, Twitter, American Express, Oracle, Target, and others.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[1:54] What is Jobs-to-be-Done?
Jobs-to-be-Done is a method to build great products that customers love. The core idea is that customers are not buying a product; they’re hiring a product to get a job done. A job to be done is a goal a customer needs to achieve, and it’s independent of any product. For example, we don’t want iPods, cassettes, or CDs; we want to create a mood with music using whichever product best helps us accomplish that job.
[4:16] What problem does Jobs-to-be-Done help product managers with?
It helps us fail less. If you start with a brand-new idea, you have no way to judge whether the idea is useful. JTBD lets you start with your customers’ unmet needs instead. Then you can more quickly and efficiently come up with ideas, which will be much more valuable once you understand their problems.
[6:04] How do we get started with Jobs-to-be-Done?
Everything starts with the customer. You need to know who your customers are. It’s amazing how many teams disagree on whom their customer is. Many companies define their customers using personas, which can lead us away from the core customer who benefits from getting the job done. Instead of limiting yourself to personas, group your customers into job beneficiaries, who are the people who benefit from getting the job done. For example, Nest the thermostat company focuses on the job beneficiaries. Traditionally, thermostat manufacturers sold to contractors, not homeowners. Nest redefined their customer and decided to sell directly to homeowners. This was smart, because homeowners are the job beneficiaries, benefiting from the thermostat, which performs the job of creating a comfortable home.
Often, especially for B2B products, we have multiple different groups with different needs interacting with our product. In addition to job beneficiaries, there are job executors, who help the beneficiary get the job done, and purchasers, who purchase the product. Job executors perform consumption jobs like installing the thermostat, while job beneficiaries perform function jobs like using the thermostat. Both are important, but increasingly consumption jobs can be done by the job beneficiary. Focusing on the job executor isn’t good for your long-term growth, because someone is going to figure out how to get rid of the job executor, like Nest did. Focus on the job beneficiaries, because they’re your true market.
[15:07] What’s the next step?
Next we go to the market. The market you’re in is the most important decision you can make as a product team. If you have to choose between being a great entrepreneur in a terrible market or a mediocre entrepreneur in an awesome market, choose the awesome market. If you haven’t thought about what your market is and what your customer’s job is, you’ve made a critical mistake.
There are no product-based markets. There are only markets for getting jobs done. For example, when Apple created the iPod, they defined their market based on the product. They sold $30 billion of iPods, but today the iPod market is zero. The market isn’t for iPods; it’s for creating a mood with music. Pandora experienced enormous success by finding a different way to create a mood with music.
Speed and accuracy are the measures of success for Jobs-to-be-Done. The Kodak Brownie camera was one of the most successful products in history because it made photography fast and easy. All you had to do was point the camera and push a button.
[21:47] Once we know our customer and market, what’s next?
Next you need to identify your customer’s unmet needs. Jobs-to-be-Done theory breaks down your customer’s goal into very specific customer needs. We all know innovative products should satisfy unmet customer needs, but companies and product teams often disagree on what a customer need is. Let’s look at an example of how Jobs-to-be-Done can help define customer needs.
Suppose the job to be done is getting a customer to a destination on time. First, break down the steps the customer has to take to get the job done. There are six categories of steps based on George Pólya’s problem-solving technique:
- Understand the problem: estimate the departure time
- Plan to solve the problem: plan the stops along the route
- Execute the solution: travel to the destination
- Assess how problem-solving went: when you run into traffic, assess whether you’re going to get there on time
- Revise: reroute if there is bad traffic
- Conclude: park the vehicle and walk to the destination
These job steps help you identify the customer needs, which are actions your customer has to take with some variable in the job. All jobs have actions and variables. In this example, variables include the optimal sequence of stops, when each location is open, and the route to each stop. Like the job, these variables are independent of the solution. Next, you have to figure out the actions your customer must take with those variables. The customer has to plan the optimal sequence of stops. When you combine a customer action with a variable in the job, you have a customer needs statement that is independent of any solution, stable over time, and measurable. It’s easy to measure how well the customer need was met—did we help the customer determine the optimal sequence of stops? How fast and accurate was it?
[27:43] How can Jobs-to-be-Done help segment customers?
Unlike traditional personas that segment based on demographics, Jobs-to-be-Done helps you identify needs-based segments that struggle to get the job done in the same way. In our example, one segment might be customers who are traveling to multiple, unfamiliar stops each day. They all have the same struggles to get the job done, but the segmentation has nothing to do with demographics.
[30:05] What’s another big piece of Jobs-to-be-Done?
Jobs-to-be-Done is very useful for product roadmapping, which is prioritizing your features. Roadmapping is the most important thing teams do because it captures everything—who is your customer? Why are they struggling? Why are you prioritizing these unmet needs? How are you going to beat your competition? Jobs-to-be-Done can help teams agree on their roadmap because it helps them focus on getting the job done faster and more accurately for customers. Jobs-to-be-Done mitigates risk and helps you make sure you have the right roadmap.
Action Guide: Put the information Jay shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide.
- Read Clayton Christensen’s book Competing Against Luck
- Learn more about Jobs-to-be-Done from THRV
- Take a free course on Jobs-to-be-Done
“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!” – Theodore Levitt
Phil Schiller’s Grand Unified Theory of Apple: The job of the [Apple] watch is to do more and more things on your wrist so that you don’t need to pick up your phone as often. The job of the [iPhone] is to do more and more things such that maybe you don’t need your iPad, and it should be always trying and striving to do that. The job of the iPad should be to be so powerful and capable that you never need a notebook. Like, Why do I need a notebook? I can add a keyboard! I can do all these things! The job of the [MacBook] is to make it so you never need a desktop, right? It’s been doing this for a decade. So that leaves the poor desktop at the end of the line, What’s its job?… [The iMac’s] job is to challenge what we think a computer can do and do things that no computer has ever done before, be more and more powerful and capable so that we need a desktop because of its capabilities. Because if all it’s doing is competing with the notebook and being thinner and lighter, then it doesn’t need to be.” – Phil Schiller
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