Find out what makes your customer “hire” your product.
You don’t have to listen very long to this podcast to know that I place the emphasis of product management on the creation of customer value. If we understand the needs or problems of our customers and solve them in a way that creates value for them, we, in turn, create value for ourselves and our organization.
A handy tool that has emerged to more deeply understand the needs of customers is the Jobs To Be Done (JBTD) framework. This tool helps product developers and managers to look at the actual customer problem in a more specific way, asking what job the customer hired the product for. Some quick examples include:
- Milkshakes “hired” by morning commuters to satisfy them during a long drive.
- Cordless drills hired by homeowners who need to hang curtains (they need a hole for a curtain rod, but their job is blocking light or adding beauty)
- Snicker bars that are hired to quickly satisfy an empty stomach when there isn’t time for other snacks or food
We’ve discussed the tool a couple of times in the past with practitioners involved in its development. First is Tony Ulwick, who along with Clayton Christensen, is credited as the founders of JBTD. That was episode 106. Second is Chris Spiek, who works with Bob Moesta, another co-creator of JBTD, who shared useful examples of applying the framework in episode 057.
It’s time for another look at JTBD and for that we are joined by Brian Rhea, a product practitioner who helps startups build better products.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[2:55] What is Jobs To Be Done?
The basic idea is that customers don’t buy products, they hire them to do a job or improve their life in the same way a company would hire an employee to help with a pain point in the business. It’s helpful to remember that people don’t care about your product; they care about themselves and the progress they want to make. They hire a product to help them do that.
[9:57] Can you give us some examples of JTBD in action?
Someone in a Slack group I’m in just launched a time tracking application. He was receiving support requests asking to bulk add time at the end of the month. He was confused about why people would want to do that, but we encouraged him to talk to his customers. He ended up finding out that his customers were forgetting to properly track their time and determined that what he really needed were regular reminders for people to track their time. Usually, these insights are held in customer support — they hear about the hacks people are using to get around missing features or functionality. Product managers should be talking to customer support regularly.
As another example, I was working with a camp management client whose system only supported PDFs. I heard that camp staff were converting JPGs to PDFs because people were taking pictures of their registration forms from their phones. We ended up adding the ability for the system to accept JPG files.
[17:30] How should someone get started with JTBD?
Start with interviews. A lot of times, people will think they need to start by identifying the job to be done and then find out how their product is helping people do that. That’s not the correct approach because products are hired for many jobs. You need to find out what those jobs are through interviews. There are two types of JTBD interviews — one that’s very task oriented and one that’s more qualitative and emotionally focused. I recommend the qualitative method for anyone who is new to JTBD. You are asking people to tell you the story of how they came to buy the product. You’re trying to understand all of the forces at play on that person. It’s your job as the interviewer to pull out of them the functional, emotional, and social reasons for their decision. When it comes time to write your marketing copy, you already have your selling points from those interviews. The people you should be talking to are the people who have recently hired or fired your product or a competitor’s product.
[25:02] What else should we know about the process?
You’re looking for patterns in the customer journey. For example, we are getting ready to paint our house. We’ve been thinking about it for the past six years. A hailstorm forced us to get a new roof, which made us think the house will look bad against the new roof. We started searching and found a few painters within our price range. House painters should be partnering with roofing companies around the time of large weather events. That’s an example of applying the JTBD framework. I recommend doing 6-8 interviews, following up on them, and then doing another batch.
- Brian’s website
- JTBD resources, including the interview timeline Brian discussed
- Connect with Brian via LinkedIn
- TEI 106: Jobs to be done – with Tony Ulwick
- TEI 057: Applying the Jobs-to-be-Done Framework – with Chris Spiek
“Perfection is the enemy of progress.” -Winston Churchill
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it on your favorite social network.