How to Apply Jobs-to-Be-Done to Boost Your Marketing

Boost Your Marketing

Have you ever wondered what makes you buy a product or service?

Let’s say you’re an avid runner. Most of the time, you tend to run alone. But you prefer to listen to music to boost your mood when going for a jog — it gives you that extra energy when needed. While you already have a good pair you’re happy with, you sometimes get tangled up in the wires when you’re running. And before you know it you rip your earphones out.

So you go to the store and scope out a pair of solid, wireless earphones. But just as you’re about to head to the register, your friend calls. She says she’s planning to take up a new running routine, and asks if you’d like to be her running partner. You think about it for a second, then you put the earphones back and exit the store.

What just happened?

Well, a need was just met. Fundamentally, people buy products or services to meet certain needs. In this case, the job of getting a motivational boost was in the end filled by a friend. The job that was intended to be filled by earphones, was now filled by a friend.

The science of pegging down these needs — figuring out the jobs people want to get done — is what marketers are trying to do. Most companies segment by customer demographics. They then differentiate products or services by adding features. However, the features themselves aren’t necessarily what the customer is looking for. The customer is looking to solve a problem — get a job done — as effectively as possible.

To further explain the concept and explain how marketers put it to practice, let dig a bit deeper.

What is the Jobs-to-be-done Framework?

Jobs-to-be-done can be defined as a framework. It’s a way of looking at things. It’s the way you view markets, customers, needs, etc. Customers buy things because they have a job to get done. In essence, you could say customers “hire” a product or service to do a job for them. Once companies have nailed down what this “job” is, they can provide more tailored offers.

For example, the reason most people buy a lawnmower is to cut grass. But if you look into the matter, you’ll notice that the real intention is to keep the grass at a certain length. From this point of view, selling genetically modified grass that only grows to a certain length would do the same job.

In the JTBD-concept, normal unit of analysis is not customer or product. Instead, it’s the “job” the customer is trying to get done that matters.

User Personas: A Relic From the Past?

User personas, as used in user-centered design and marketing, are fictional characters. These represent a user type that might use a site, brand, or product in a similar way. According to this method, marketers  put a personal human face on abstract customer data. Marketers then divide personas into segments to represent an aspect of the market.

While this isn’t bad, it does miss the mark on one point: what the user actually wants. Demographic data doesn’t tackle this issue, but implicitly assumes a correlation. Just because John is a 33 year old IT-professional living in a suburban area doesn’t mean he’s interested in milkshakes.

JTBD, on the other hand, has a different approach from traditional marketing. Instead of targeting people based on demographics, JTBD puts an emphasis on user research and empathy for the customer.

This way, the JTBD-concept addresses the actual issue at hand: What does the customer want? As such, JTBD is a faster way to innovation. By directly going at the core of the problem, it avoids assuming that certain demographics share similar buying habits.

It is trying to find out why would John be a milkshake-buyer. As McDonald’s would find out — it might be because he’s a commuter. But more on that below. First…

Benefits of JTBD

As mentioned above, there are several benefits of JTBD. By taking the direct approach, it ensures to consumer find challenges that could otherwise have gone unnoticed.

Among the top three benefits of JTBD we have:

  • Discovering customers’ unmet needs

An unmet need, is when it’s important to customers, but not satisfied by current products or services. JTBD can help you to figure out these unmet needs by associating a product or service with a “job” that customers want to finish.

From that point, marketers can start the segmentation based on the unmet needs (desired outcomes). Knowing which needs are most important and least satisfied will point out the opportunities for value creation.

  • The job is stable

A job to be done is often what customers have been trying to do over time. Therefore, it is a stable unit of analysis. The things that changed are the products/services that help get the job completed.

Let’s take “listening to music” as an example. For decades, we have made many improvements on devices for this purpose. The only thing that has never changed is the actual need to listen to music.

  • Avoiding audience mismatch and an unclear marketing message

Audience mismatch and an unclear marketing message are two common mistakes that make your campaign go flat. This is where JTBD works its magic. Once you can identify the customer’s real needs, you will be able to target the right audience.

Apart from utilizing it in marketing campaigns, companies can also apply JTBD in other aspects. For example, focusing on product leadership, operational excellence or customer intimacy.

How to Apply JTBD to Marketing?

Marketing is about promoting and selling your products or services. A marketer’s job is to understand what “jobs” appear in customers’ lives. What tasks are they looking to solve? In other words, the job of the marketer is to tell the story of what a product does for the customers.

By reinforcing the association of product and a job to be done, marketers can boost the sales of their products in a way that engages more brand loyalty.   

For instance, let’s look at what Arm & Hammer did with their baking soda. They began to notice how people were using baking soda for various purposes. Such as adding it to detergent, deodorizing the refrigerator or as an air freshener. Learning from that, the company added new products derived from the original baking soda. And today, the baking soda constitutes no more than 7% of Arm & Hammer’s revenue.

Reading that example, can you critically apply it to a marketing plan that fell flat? Ask these JTBD-related questions:

  • Has your marketing campaign pointed out the association between product and customer’s need to get job done?
  • What are the purposes of your marketing campaign in accordance with the jobs your product is being hired for?

By answering these questions, you are ready to conduct a new strategy for your products.

Examples of jobs to be done


Several years ago, McDonald’s wanted to increase their milkshake sales. They did all they could do to improve the product, but the sales didn’t increase. At all. Taking a step back, they changed the way of their approach by asking buyers what they used the milkshake for.

After having done a careful research following the JTBD-concept, McDonald’s found that people typically bought milkshakes for breakfast. They wanted something that was filling and long-lasting enough to last their uneventful trip to work. The solution? McDonald’s made some changes in their stores to promote milkshakes for breakfast, and increased the density to make it last longer. Eventually, the sales of milkshake had increased by 7x.


Using a JTBD approach in their commercial, Snickers have left its consumers with the impression of satisfying hunger, as in the replacement of an energy bar, throughout the years. This is well-portrayed in the 1989 commercial:

Yes, it’s cheesy. But it worked. Snickers fills a clear job — quickly taking care of hunger.


Have you ever wondered why Spotify became so big? iTunes already offered on-demand music. But Spotify added much more.

Spotify was created by applying the JTBD-concept. The founders did some research in the industry and found that people using music apps not just for listening to music, but to create their own list and share with others. Adopting this idea, they gave birth to Spotify which IPO:ed earlier this year at $26.6 billion.

Applying jobs to be done

So, how does one actually apply jobs to be done? No worries, we’ve got you a basic template that you can build upon for client interviews. You could offer your existing clients a discount or a special offer if they agree to a one-hour interview.

This goes through general questions, as well as the stages of the decision process. Simply adapt it to suit your needs, and record the answers.

Often, it can take a while to get people to open up. Therefore, try to keep talking for at least 45 minutes or so.

General Questions
  1. What are the things about your work that keep you awake at night?
  2. What are things (jobs) that you are having problems getting done?
  3. What do you value in your work?
Finding the first thought
  1. Tell me what made you start searching for [a solution to X problem].
Passive thought
  1. What did you think when you realized you need [a solution to X problem].
Active search
  1. How did you try to solve X problem before you found our company?
Consideration set
  1. Did you imagine what a solution to X problem might look like?
  2. Did you ask anyone else about what they thought about X problem? What was the conversation like?
  3. Where did you heard about [YOUR COMPANY]?
  4. Did you consider other competitors?
  1. Tell me about the decision process? Why did you choose [YOUR COMPANY]?
Prolong contract
  1. What would make you to choose [YOUR COMPANY] again?
  2. Could we contact you again?


There you have it! Get some customers on the line, and you’re sure to get some useful insights about how to shape the future of your product or service.