Using The Jobs To Be Done Framework To Improve Your Marketing

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Written by Jared Mitcham

I recently came across two articles from the Harvard Business Review about a concept called the "Jobs To Be Done" framework. It is a framework that businesses can use to make sure they are resonating with their audiences in the services and products they offer. It also can be used to guide marketers as we create campaigns and organic content.

In this blog post, I'm going to present the main ideas of the article and explain what they might mean for marketers looking to create content that attracts your ideal audience.

You can find the original articles here:

Myth: The More I Know About A Customer, The Better I Can Offer Them A Product Or Service

The HBR article starts off with an alarming statistic about the rate of failure for products launched. Despite the amount of money and resources allotted to customer research and product launches, a startling number of products fail.

"Thirty thousand new consumer products are launched each year. But over 90% of them fail—and that’s after marketing professionals have spent massive amounts of money trying to understand what their customers want. What’s wrong with this picture? Is it that market researchers aren’t smart enough? That advertising agencies aren’t creative enough? That consumers have become too difficult to understand? We don’t think so. We believe, instead, that some of the fundamental paradigms of marketing—the methods that most of us learned to segment markets, build brands, and understand customers—are broken. "

In other words, companies have gotten so data obsessed that they can drown in too much data and miss the most important information that can help them connect with customers.

But what are the most important pieces of information?

Truth: Discovering Circumstances And Jobs Leads To Better Results

The authors break down the most important keys in the following paragraph:

"There is a better way to think about market segmentation and new product innovation. The structure of a market, seen from the customers’ point of view, is very simple: They just need to get things done, as Ted Levitt said. When people find themselves needing to get a job done, they essentially hire products to do that job for them. The marketer’s task is therefore to understand what jobs periodically arise in customers’ lives for which they might hire products the company could make. If a marketer can understand the job, design a product and associated experiences in purchase and use to do that job, and deliver it in a way that reinforces its intended use, then when customers find themselves needing to get that job done, they will hire that product."

The author insists that the key piece of information is the "job" or task that the customer is trying to accomplish. 

"With few exceptions, every job people need or want to do has a social, a functional, and an emotional dimension. If marketers understand each of these dimensions, then they can design a product that’s precisely targeted to the job. In other words, the job, not the customer, is the fundamental unit of analysis for a marketer who hopes to develop products that customers will buy."

The customer also has specific circumstances that are the catalysts motivating them to seek your product or service.

One example given in the article is of a fast food chain that wanted to improve milk shake sales. They first focused on the product (the milk shake) and asked people if they had suggestions to make it taste better. After tweaking the product, there was no noticeable change in sales. 

Then they chose to focus on the "job" the customer was seeking to achieve by hiring ("ordering") their product ("milk shake"). They discovered that a large number of customers bought milk shakes in the morning because they had a long boring commute and they knew they would be hungry by the time they got to work. 

Another group of milk shake purchasers were parents who were buying milk shakes for their children as a way to placate their desires and feel like loving parents. 

But the problem is that in most organizations both of these unique customers, circumstances, and jobs get averaged together and their unique identities get lost in the mix. The result is an "average" product that doesn't really do the job well. 

Therefore, the key insight from this article is that as marketers, we must work hard to understand the "job" that customers want to achieve when they hire our product. We also need to take time to discover the circumstances that surround the customers choice to hire our product to do the job.

Insights For Marketers From The Jobs To Be Done Framework

As marketers who seek to create content that attracts potential customers, what practical take aways can we implement from the Jobs To Be Done Framework?

1. Be Wary Of Averages And Overemphasizing Customer Characteristics

It can be easy to get bogged down in customer characteristics such as demographics and psychographics. But this information rarely gives you insight into why your customer is hiring your product. When you build a product to match an "average", you may end up creating a one-size-fits-none product.

2. Interview Your Customers Looking For Circumstances And Jobs To Be Done

Based on their research, identifying the circumstances surrounding the purchase provided better insights as to the job that the product was being hired to accomplish.

Even though you may not have anything you are trying to sell, if you are offering a service of some kind, people are still going to choose to "hire" your service to accomplish a specific job. So interview the people who have used your service and seek to discover the circumstances that led to their decision and the job they were hoping to accomplish.

3. Design Your Product or Service To Accomplish The Job Its Being Hired To Do

Once you discover the circumstances surrounding the customers decision to "hire" your product or service, you should develop and tweak your offering to make sure that it actually accomplishes what your customer wants.

A bored commuter is hiring the milkshake to occupy his or her time during a long commute as well as stave off hunger until they can eat again. With this knowledge in mind, you can make your milkshakes thicker (so that is fills you up more), improve your process to make ordering faster (for commuters needing something "quick" on their way to work).

Parents were hiring milk shakes to show their children love and do something nice for them. Therefore, the fast food restaurant could make smaller and affordable milk shakes that are kid-sized or offer the ability to upgrade their kids meal with a milk shake rather than regular drink. 

4. Create Content That Taps Into Emotional And Social Aspects Of The Job

In addition to being "task-oriented", many jobs also have emotional and social aspects that can be tapped into for creation marketing content.

For example, a community college cited in the article realized that their online program was attracting people who needed a particular job done. Their customer was primarily in their 30s, working, and attending online classes after the kids went to bed.

The community college began to align their processes to make enrolling and completing a degree as easy and quick as possible for these students. But they also realized that there were emotional and social desires at play.

In one of their advertising campaigns they filmed a bus giving out diplomas to students who couldn't make it to graduation and asking them "Who did you do this for?". Some people answered, "I did it to make my mom proud" or "I did it to create a better life for my kids".

The campaign combined all three aspects, the functional, emotional, and social aspects that the customer was hiring the product to achieve.


To summarize, it's important to discover the job that your customers are hiring your product or service to accomplish. Once you discover this, your marketing content can highlight how you can help your customer accomplish their functional jobs as well as fulfill their emotional and social jobs.

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