What Is Jobs to Be Done? A brief introduction for small business owners.

Why Jobs To Be Done?

 Have you ever heard of the phrase, please describe your ideal client? Did you panic?

Did you freeze or did you say something like, well, she’s 35 and she drives a minivan and she really likes red and she shops at Barnes & Noble or something like that. Which is great, but none of those things have anything to do with why she was your ideal client. Right? 

I want to talk today very briefly about the concept of Jobs To Be Done.


There are a lot of great resources out there, but I just wanted to give a short and simple description of how it works for people who weren’t really ready to go down the rabbit hole yet.

 Why should you care about Jobs To Be Done?

 Basically it can help you determine why people are hiring your service or not. And it’s just a unique way to go about getting to know your customers and to understand how you could best serve them.

 I’m going to give you a brief overview of the concept and then I’m going to share an example to just help explain it a little better. And then I’m going to share resources because I have a whole lot of links. All of which are free for you to read if you really do want to go down the rabbit hole with me because it’s great, you should come.

Customer Situations and Progress

The first mistake is that we try to use the descriptions of people as a reason for why they buy something. So for example, just because I drive a Honda Odyssey (sliding doors, woohoo) and I also just bought a whole bunch of balloons at party city last week, doesn’t mean that I bought those balloons because I have a minivan. This is the whole concept of correlation does not equal causation. To pull out my nerd glossary and drop a little jargon on you.

So I bought the balloons because my son had a birthday last week and we like to decorate the night before so he can wake up to a happy surprise on his birthday. So I actually bought the balloons for the look on his face on his birthday. Right? That’s really why I bought them. That has nothing to do with the fact that I drive a minivan.

Clayton Christensen, who is one of the pioneers of Jobs To Be Done said this, “What they really need to hone in on is the progress that the customer is trying to make in a given circumstance. What the customer hopes to accomplish. This is what we’ve come to call the Job To Be Done.” So the key here is the job is talking about what someone is really hoping to accomplish, what progress they’re trying to make in the situation.

And one aspect, I don’t want to get too far into it, but jobs themselves don’t really change over time. We just come up with better solutions for them. For an example, if a job is to get me from point a to point B with as little effort as possible, past solutions include horses, rowboats cars, trains, taxis, Uber, driverless cars.

An Example

So what I love about Jobs To Be Done is that it allows you to approach getting to know and understand your customers by taking into account their motivation, the context of the situation and their emotions. And yes, this does involve talking to them. So you approach it by looking at what situation and the context they were in when they bought or hired your service and also when they fired it. So here I’m just going to use myself and my business as an example. Like what’s an example of a Job To Be Done? Right. All right. So what I do is I help small businesses by interviewing people’s clients and extracting information from those interviews for different purposes.

People come to me and for lots of reasons like to get testimonials to get an external perspective on the value of their business from somewhere other than their own brain. And how do I know this is because they talked to me when we get on the phone and I take notes and I pay attention to why they’ve said they needed to hire me or possibly might need to hire me. And so these are both the beginning of possible job descriptions that my clients need help with. So we’re going to look at the desire for testimonials.

What Caused Them To Act

First, what situation are they in that caused them to act? They’ve been busy serving clients and they haven’t had time. Right. But what happened to make them notice? They didn’t just out of the blue, all of a sudden it became really important for no reason.

So what were the events that could have triggered them noticing that they needed testimonials? Well, they might have been doing a website update and they needed to update their website and they’re like, oh my testimonials are like two years old. I need new testimonials. Or they might have an event or a speaking gig coming up and they know that a lot of people are going to be looking at their website and they just want fresh content and fresh testimonials. Or maybe they don’t have any on there at all. And they might be launching a product or service and they might need, they might be wanting to get testimonials from the people that are about to serve or they might want new testimonials for copy for selling launch. Another reason was they might be pivoting and they might realize that all of their testimonials are talking about an old service or an old product and they don’t have anything talking about what they’ve been doing for the past year.

Right? So those are events that can trigger them noticing that they don’t have testimonials. They’ve got this new deadline that made them aware. Why is knowing the triggering event useful? Because it tells me when people might be looking for a service like mine, which can inform my marketing and help me understand what frame of mind my potential clients might be in when they’re looking for help.

So if we’re going to try to define their Job To Be Done for this situation, one way you could say it would be that my customers want to show their potential customers they can be trusted so those potential customers will feel comfortable hiring them.

Jobs Stay the Same

So a couple other things about “Jobs”.

They don’t necessarily depend on the solution. The job stays pretty constant over time. Like I mentioned with the point A to point B example earlier and they don’t really include activities. It is more about the progress they made or want to make versus the way you make the progress. And you can’t just have a job be describing what you do in your business. It’s about them not about you. And your business might do more than one job. I know mine does, so that’s totally common.

Jobs Are A Starting Point

All right, so now what? We’ve got this figured out. What do I do with this information? You can do a ton. This is really the starting point that you can build off of and learn from and one way of thinking about it is that the job becomes the higher level mission. How can I be in service of this job for my clients?

How can I have alignment in my business so that it is all happening. The marketing, the actual product delivery, the follow-up, the whole thing. How is it in service of doing this job and letting them know that that’s what I’m trying to help them do. So you have to examine your business through the lens of this job.

Another tool is called a job story, which I’m going to share a great article about by Alan Clement over at Intercom. And you can read all about it. I can’t go into it here because this video would never end. But I wanted to point out that you’ll notice the only descriptor I’ve used to define my clients is that they’re small business owners. My clients have all different kinds of businesses, from agencies to accountants and all over the place. So it’s not about the type of business for me and none of that matters because that’s not a defining characteristic and it doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not they would need my service.

Next JTBD Video

So I just wanted to do a quick overview there of the basic concept. There is much more to learn. For example, one of the things I’m excited to talk about in another video – I love the way that Jobs To Be Done allows you to examine who your true competition is. To me when I learned that it kind of just, it was big, it was a totally different way of thinking about your competition. So, thank you for watching. If you have any questions, you can reach me at heykaryn.com I’d be happy to answer any questions. Seriously I could geek out on this all day. If you found this content valuable, please like and share and I’m going to have posts or links to recommended reading and articles mentioned and other ones. Thanks and have a great day!

Want to Read more about Jobs To Be Done?

Read These:

Using Jobs To Be Done For Copywriting

New Book: Intercom on Jobs To Be Done

Customer Interviews: Voice of the Customer and Jobs-to-Be-Done

Know Your Customers “Jobs to be Done” (HBR – linked above)

Designing Features Using Job Stories (linked above) 

Happy Reading!

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