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What is Jobs-to-be-Done?

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Jobs-to-be-Done is best defined as a perspective — a new lens through which you can observe markets, customers, needs, competitors, and customer segments more insightfully.

When you look at marketing and innovation through a Jobs-to-be-Done lens, everything looks different:

  • The unit of analysis is no longer the customer or the product. It’s the “job” the customer is trying to get done.
  • Markets aren’t defined around products. They are defined as groups of people trying to get a job done.
  • Customers aren’t just buyers. They also include job executors.
  • Needs aren’t vague, latent and unknowable. They are the metrics customers use to measure success when getting a job done.
  • Competitors aren’t companies that make products like yours. They are companies with any solution people use to get the job done.
  • Customer segments aren’t based on demographics or psychographics. They are based on how customers struggle differently to get a job done.

When you think about your market from this perspective, you are much more likely to create and deliver extraordinary products and services.


Products come and go, but the customer’s job-to-be-done is stable over time. With a stable unit of analysis, you can define customer needs that are stable over time, too, which gives you unique, robust targets for value creation.

In short, using a Jobs-to-be-Done lens, you can take your understanding of customer needs to the next level. And with the right customer inputs, you can orchestrate the systematic creation of customer value across the organization.

This chapter explains nine tenets of Jobs-to-be-Done Theory and prepares you for applying these tenets to grow your own business. You’ll also find out how Arm & Hammer used these tenets to turn around a streak of lackluster product launches — and grow 30%+ year-over-year.

What is Jobs-to-be-Done Theory?

When looking at marketing and innovation through a jobs-to-be-done lens, a theory begins to emerge.

Jobs to be Done theory consists of a group of principles or tenets that form a foundation for making marketing more effective and innovation more predictable by focusing on the customer’s job-to-be-done.

The theory is based on the notion that people buy products and services to get a “job” done. Jobs Theory goes on to say that by understanding in detail what that “job” entails, you are far more likely to create and market solutions that will win in the marketplace.

The Core Tenets

You can confidently rely on these nine tenets as the building blocks for predictable growth:

Each of these tenets brings new insights into your company’s business practices — increasing the organization’s ability to create and market breakthrough products and services. Let’s look at each in more detail.


What is Jobs-to-be-Done Theory?

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02. Jobs are functional — with emotional and social components

As a customer uses a product or service to get a functional job done, they often want to feel a certain way or be perceived in a certain light by their peers, friends or others. The ways they want to feel and be perceived are called emotional and social jobs-to-be-done.

For example, when parents are trying to pass on life lessons to children (the functional job-to-be-done), they may also want to feel like they are contributing to the advancement of society or want to be perceived as good parents by their peers.

Understanding the emotional and social components of the functional job brings rich insights that can lead to the creation of a value proposition that highly resonates with customers — at both a functional and emotional level.


04. A Job-to-be-Done is solution agnostic

The core functional job is solution agnostic —this means it is  independent of any solutions or technologies.

Innovation isn’t about “a faster horse.” A “horse” is a solution to get a job done. The job (transporting yourself from point A to point B) must be defined independently of the solution (the horse). This is how new, breakthrough solutions can be conceptualized (like the automobile).

Customers don’t know what solutions will get a job done best — they couldn’t envision the car or the microwave or the smartphone. But customers do know what job they are trying to get done and can tell you all about it.

Lastly, since the job-to-be-done is solution agnostic, competitors are not only companies that make products like yours. They are any solution (paid and non-paid) that customers use to get the core job done. For example, the bicycle and the car are competing solutions for the job of getting from point a to point b.


05. Success comes from making the “job” the unit of analysis.

Making the job-to-be-done the unit of analysis means it is the job  —  not the product, the customer, the circumstance, the purchase process or customer demographics  —  that you need to study, dissect and understand at a granular level of detail.


06. A deep understanding of the customer’s job makes marketing more effective — and innovation far more predictable

The fundamentals of marketing and innovation are straightforward. If your team can agree on what a customer need is, what the customer’s needs are, and which customer needs are unmet or underserved, you are able to:
  1. Better position and sell more of the company’s existing products
  2. Improve existing products and services.
  3. Create new products and services.
Jobs-to-be-Done Theory makes this possible. With a deep understanding of the customer’s needs for any given job, you can finally know—maybe for the first time—all of the customer’s needs. This is truly transformational as most product teams (and most VoC practitioners) don’t even agree on what a need is and end up using customer inputs that derail the innovation process.


07. Innovation becomes predictable when “needs” are defined as the metrics customers use to measure success when getting the job done

In order to determine if your new product idea will help a customer get a job done better and/or more cheaply, you must be able to evaluate competing ideas against a stable set of metrics. The metrics we use to conduct this evaluation are the customer’s desired outcomes. In other words, we define customer needs (desired outcomes) as the metrics that customers use to measure success when getting the job done. These metrics are extracted from customers through customer interviews. Customers typically use between 50 and 150 metrics to explain the successful execution of the job. Capturing all of them is the key to success.

Since the customer’s job-to-be-done is stable over time, the customer’s needs, when defined as desired outcome statements, are also stable over time.>With a stable set of “needs” in hand, you can:

  • Quantify which needs are underserved and overserved.
  • Discover segments of customers with different unmet needs.
  • Use the metrics as a baseline against which you can test product ideas and concepts before they are developed.

Knowing which product or service concept will get the job done best early in the product planning stages (prior to development), is the key to predictable and profitable innovation.


08. People want products and services that will help them get a job done better and/or more cheaply

We have learned that people aren’t loyal to companies or brands. They are loyal to getting a job done better (faster, more predictably, and with higher output/throughput) and/or more cheaply. They replace existing products and services with those that help them achieve these goals.

We have learned that some people are willing to pay more to get a job done better, while others are willing to pay less to get a job done worse. Knowing what types of customers exist in your market (and in what proportions) forms the foundation for a new way to think about your growth strategy.

The possibilities are highlighted here in the Jobs-to-be-Done Growth Strategy Matrix:
Sustaining Strategy Chart


09. People seek out products and services that enable them to get the entire job done on a single platform

There are many products and services available in the market that only get part of a job done. Customers are left to cobble together solutions in order to get the entire job done. But customers don’t want to cobble together the solution. They want a complete solution presented to them.


Arm & Hammer Animal Nutrition Grows Y2Y Revenue 30%+

First, their real customer was the dairy producer, not the nutritionist. By shifting the focus to this customer, Arm & Hammer was able to understand the “job” the dairy producer was trying to get done had little to do with nutrition — and was squarely focused on optimizing dairy herd productivity. The market they were in was dairy producers (a group of people) trying to optimize dairy herd productivity (job-to-be-done).

With this new insight, Arm & Hammer interviewed a dozen dairy producers and uncovered 165 unique desired outcome statements the dairy producer was trying to satisfy. The team then surveyed more dairy herd producers to quantify the degree to which each outcome was under- or overserved by existing products in the market. This was the data they needed to guide their decision making around their new products and take the guesswork out of their innovation process.

The team was surprised to see how many opportunities there were — and how few of them were directly related to nutritional ingredients. These insights told the team to build a new messaging strategy that focused on the specific outcomes that would deliver value to the dairy producers, rather than their traditional approach of focusing on nutritional features.

This change in messaging strategy alone led to year-over-year revenue growth of 30%+.

As Arm & Hammer VP Scott Druker explained.

We started to see results from our new messaging and positioning strategy almost immediately. It contributed to an outstanding year. In the end, we grew greater than 30%…. Every one of our products had double-digit growth. We far outpaced our competitors.


Knowing that customers buy products to get a core job done leads to a few insights:

  • Your focus is not on reacting to customer feedback or product trends in the market. It is to create solutions that improve people’s ability to get the core job done.
  • Markets are not defined as categories of products/services (e.g., the animal nutrition market). They are defined as groups of people trying to get a job done (e.g., dairy producers optimizing herd productivity).
  • Competitors are not only companies that make products like yours. They are any solution (paid and non-paid) that customers use to get the core job done.

When your company thinks about a market from this perspective, you are much more likely to create and deliver extraordinary products and services. Product managers can more successfully conceptualize new products, improve existing products, and prioritize backlog, for example. Marketing managers can use this approach to design web pages, campaigns, and sales pitches that convert, and create content that attracts leads. Executives have the insights they need to align the organization around a common vision, inform M&A activity, and discover new markets to enter.

All thanks to a new lens and a better understanding of the customer’s needs .


Learn who your customer is through the Jobs-to-be-Done Framework.

At this point, you’re probably wondering how you can get started with applying these tenets to your own marketing and innovation practices.

In the next chapter of this playbook, you’ll learn how to identify your real customer and frame their job-to-be-done — just like Arm & Hammer did. We’ll include more case examples, as well as downloadable tools to help you along in the process.

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