3 Jobs-to-be-Done Examples to Help You Innovate with Less Risk

The jobs-to-be-done framework will help you create new products that people really want.

It’s a tool that helps you understand what causes people to buy particular products.

What Does “Jobs to Be Done” Mean?

Here’s the best definition of a job to be done :

A job is the progress a customer seeks in a particular context.

Another way to think about jobs to be done is to see them as the problems customers are trying to solve in very specific circumstances.

Christensen explained the reasoning in an article called Marketing Malpractice:

Theodore Levitt used to tell his students, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!” Every marketer we know agrees with Levitt’s insight. Yet these same people segment their markets by type of drill and by price point; they measure market share of drills, not holes; and they benchmark the features and functions of their drill, not their hole, against those of rivals.

(By the way, Theodore Levitt is author of Marketing Myopia. This an article that has had a big impact on what marketing means today. The article highlights the importance of defining your industry—that I find clearer under the name “category power“.)

Understand the Outcome and Causality

The jobs-to-be-done framework highlights the core of what outcome customers want to accomplish. The approach keeps the focuses on the outcome and understanding the activities surrounding this outcome. It helps to understand what are the causality of customers’ behavior. Instead of speaking in the abstract, it focuses on the reality, on a context.

Here is how the Christensen Institute summarizes the framework:

The jobs-to-be-done framework is a tool for evaluating the circumstances that arise in customers’ lives. Customers often buy things because they find themselves with a problem they would like to solve. With an understanding of the “job” for which customers find themselves “hiring” a product or service, companies can more accurately develop and market products well-tailored to what customers are already trying to do.

1. The Quintessential JTBD Example of Milkshake Marketing

Here’s the first example of the job-to-be-done framework that I really like:

The Milkshake Marketing case study.

This is the story that Clayton Christensen tells when he wants to illustrate the power of understanding how jobs emerge in people’s lives. It’s about customers who “hire” milkshakes for breakfast in fast-food restaurants.

The example is great for two reasons:

  1. The reason why customers buy the milkshakes for breakfast is surprising;
  2. It shows the importance of understanding customers’ jobs in a particular context.

I’ll leave it to Clayton Christensen to share the example:

More about the Milkshake Marketing case study here:

  • http://www.vapartners.ca/milkshake-marketing-for-startups/
  • https://strategyn.com/2013/01/16/market-segmentation-is-soured-by-milkshake-marketing/
  • http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/clay-christensens-milkshake-marketing
  • http://www.wiglafjournal.com/product/2011/05/are-you-ready-for-milkshake-marketing/

2. Photoshop vs Instagram: What Is the Job to Be Done in this Example?

It’s interesting to look at the differences between Photoshop and Instagram. Both can be seen as photo editing software.

So why are they still both successful?

Photoshop is the reference for photographers who want to edit their pictures. The software does one job very well. It’s amazing at editing high quality shots. Even though it takes time, you can virtually do everything with Photoshop.

But what happens when the context changes?

Smartphones turned hundreds millions of people into photographers. The number of pictures taken every day skyrocketed. And so there’s not enough time to edit all of them with Photoshop.

But still… These new amateur photographers want to feel like they’re taking professional shots. This was a challenge when the cameras built in smartphones—and the algorithms behind them—weren’t as great as they are today.

You could use Photoshop. But it was too time consuming.

People wanted something fast, mobile, and social. Something that helps them do the job when they’re using their smartphones.

This is exactly what Instagram was about when it started.

3. The iPod Example: Difference Between “Jobs” and “Benefits”

The jobs stand on the market side, while the benefits stand on the product side.

Here’s an example I use often to explain what jobs to be done are:

Let’s remember the iPod for a minute. When Apple released the iPod. It used a catch phrase that has become a marketing case study:

“1,000 songs in your pocket.”

It’s a compelling way to illustrate that when people don’t know what the feature means “5 GB”, it is useful to tell them about the benefit instead:

Example of benefits vs features

But what is the difference between a job to be done and a benefit ?

In a recent conversation I had with Karen Dillon, author of Competing Against Luck, a book about the jobs-to-be-done framework, she clarified the meaning of a job vs. a benefit:

“So features and benefits are geared to solving a job. But if they aren’t well match to the job someone is hiring a product or service to do, it doesn’t matter how good they are, they won’t attract and keep those people struggling with a job.”

An example of job to be done that we have is to motivate ourselves with music when we go running.

In that context, we were used to hire a big Walkman. See Monica from Friends doing this in 1994:

Example of job to be done: Feeling motivated while doing some sport

The job remains the same in 1994 and in 2001—when the iPod was released. The customers still want to achieve the same progress: to motivate themselves with some music when they go running.

But in the iPod offers better features, which means better benefits. Overall, the user experience is better tailored to do the job of feeling motivated when you go running. The iPod is smaller, easier to use, and it allows you to have more than one CD (12 songs) on your playlist. You don’t have to listen to the same music over and over again or be bothered to change the CD.

Here’s a summary of the example:

Feature: 5 GB
Benefit: 1,000 songs your pocket
Context: when you go running
Job to be done: you want to motivate yourself with some music

More Resources and Examples about Jobs to Be Done:

  1. Replacing The User Story With The Job Story: A framework to apply the Jobs-to-be-Done approach to user stories
  2. https://medium.com/the-founders-blog/when-jobs-to-be-done-backfires-f70dd0ac4498#.q7j13bvke
  3. https://medium.com/@zbigniewgecis/8-things-to-use-in-jobs-to-be-done-framework-for-product-development-4ae7c6f3c30b#.y0ovaqula