Jobs To Be Done Theory & Product Transformation

When I joined Bing Ads about six years ago, it was a fairly dark time for the product. We were losing around $2B per year. I came on-board, and along with other team members, we were able to turn things around and create a profitable, growing product. Jobs to be done (JTBD) theory is how we got to where we are now.

Theodore Levitt famously said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.” This means your product exists in a context, and the more you understand this, the better your chances for a big win.

Shake It Up

Typical “big brand thinking” was once described by Clayton M. Christensen. He used the example of a fast food brand that wants to sell more milkshakes. They do market research, competitor research, brand work and launch a bunch of new flavors – but sales don’t budge. Why? Simply put, the absence of the jobs to be done framework.

So, a new marketing team comes in and looks at the context surrounding milkshakes. They discover that many people buy shakes in the morning for their commute. Why? Milkshakes don’t stain like a greasy breakfast sandwich. Plus, milkshakes take time to consume, so it’s perfect for a long commute. Then they added in berries to the shakes. They marketed directly towards commuters with promotions like prepaid cards — and sales boomed.

As a result, the key to success is seeing that even milkshakes exist in context.

Map The Job

When you understand the context, you can make customers happier. Customers “hire” your product to do a job – it can be functional, emotional or associated with product consumption.

To help us understand, innovation expert Tony Ulwick developed a job map around the jobs to be done theory. It goes like this:

Define → Locate → Prepare → Confirm → Execute → Monitor → Modify → Conclude

Break it down this way, and you can spot inefficiencies or expense – and that’s where the opportunity for disruption appears. Even the biggest, most advanced products in the world do jobs that can be done even better in some way.

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