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Unlocking Growth: A Jobs-to-Be-Done Approach to Building a Winning Market Portfolio

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Hosted by Tony Ulwick
Discussion Points
  • The Problem with Traditional Market Portfolio Strategies
  • Defining Markets Through a Jobs-to-Be-Done Lens
  • The Three Paths to Building a Strong Market Portfolio
  • Building Your Winning Market Portfolio
Duration: 60 Minutes


As a product leader, one of your primary challenges is building a strong market portfolio that drives sustained growth. To unlock new opportunities and expand your revenue, starting with a clear, consistent definition of your target markets is critical. In this webinar, innovation thought leader Tony Ulwick shared his insights on how jobs-to-be-done thinking can provide a powerful foundation for crafting a winning market portfolio.


The Problem with Traditional Market Portfolio Strategies 


Many companies struggle to build an effective market portfolio because they lack a consistent definition of their markets. Traditional approaches to market segmentation based on product categories, geographies, or demographic characteristics can be problematic. These methods often lead to missed opportunities and a lack of alignment within the organization. Ulwick pointed out in the webinar, “If we can’t agree on what a market is, how can we agree on what markets to include in our portfolio?”


Defining Markets Through a Jobs-to-Be-Done Lens 


The jobs-to-be-done framework offers a more stable, consistent way to define the markets in your portfolio. Instead of focusing on products or customer characteristics, jobs-to-be-done defines a market as a group of people trying to get a specific job done. A job statement has a clear structure: verb + object + contextual clarifier. For example, “parents trying to pass on life lessons to children” or “surgeons trying to remove an anatomical structure surgically.”

Defining markets in this way has several benefits for your market portfolio. It uncovers hidden opportunities by focusing on the underlying job rather than current solutions. It aligns the organization around a shared understanding of the portfolio’s target markets. It also provides a stable, long-term focal point for innovation efforts across the portfolio.


The Three Paths to Building a Strong Market Portfolio


 With a jobs-to-be-done market definition in place, Ulwick outlined three paths to build a winning market portfolio:

  1. Growing the core: Maximizing growth in your current portfolio of markets
  2. Exploring adjacent markets: Adding new job executors for your current jobs or addressing new jobs for your current job executors to your portfolio.
  3. Unlocking new markets: Identifying entirely new groups of people trying to get new jobs done to expand your portfolio

Ulwick emphasized the importance of pursuing these paths in order, starting with the core business before moving into adjacent and then entirely new markets to build a balanced, diversified market portfolio.


Techniques for Growing Your Core Market 


To drive growth in your core market portfolio, Ulwick highlighted two key techniques:

  1. Getting more of the job done: Using job mapping to identify opportunities to address underserved job steps across your portfolio of markets
  2. Getting the job done better: Using an innovation process like Outcome-Driven Innovation to pinpoint and prioritize unmet customer needs in your key portfolio markets.

Product teams can uncover powerful opportunities to create value across their core market portfolio by systematically analyzing the customer’s job and desired outcomes.


Identifying Adjacent Markets to Expand Your Portfolio 


Ulwick defined adjacent markets in two ways: pursuing new job executors for the current jobs in your portfolio or addressing new jobs for the current job executors in your portfolio. For example, a company with a portfolio of markets around helping parents could explore adjacent opportunities by targeting new job executors like teachers or coaches or by addressing related jobs for parents like preparing children for college.

To assess the attractiveness of adjacent markets to add to your portfolio, Ulwick suggested analyzing the size of the opportunity, the degree to which it’s underserved, and the company’s ability to create unique value.


Selecting Attractive New Markets for Your Portfolio


Ulwick explained how defining markets through a jobs-to-be-done lens enables an apples-to-apples comparison of new market opportunities for companies looking to unlock entirely new growth opportunities to expand their market portfolio. By analyzing factors like the number of potential job executors, the frequency of the job, and the degree to which it’s underserved, product leaders can prioritize the most attractive new markets to add to their portfolio.


Building Your Winning Market Portfolio 


Defining markets through a jobs-to-be-done lens and pursuing the three paths to building a strong market portfolio – growing your core markets, exploring adjacent markets, and unlocking new markets – offers a powerful framework for driving breakthrough growth. Product leaders can align their organizations around the most promising opportunities for value creation and revenue expansion across their portfolios by focusing on the customer’s underlying job and desired outcomes.

Explore additional resources to learn more about how jobs-to-be-done can help you build a winning market portfolio.

Tony Ulwick

Tony is the pioneer of Jobs-to-be-Done Theory, inventor of the Outcome-Driven Innovation® (ODI) process, and founder and CEO of Strategyn. Philip Kotler calls Tony “the Deming of innovation” and Clayton Christensen credits him with “bringing predictability to innovation.” Published in Harvard Business Review and MIT Sloan Management Review, Tony is also the author of 2 best sellers: What Customers Want and JOBS TO BE DONE: Theory to Practice.

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