How to use JTBD to build a proposition customers will love

Our step by step guide to proposition refinement using iterative customer testing
Sanjna Kirtikar

What does Jobs to Be Done customer research look like?

Great customer research is meant to explore attitudes, motivations, and behaviours, to better identify and understand needs and purchase decisions. While this form of research can be conducted through both quantitative and qualitative methods, we will be focusing on the use of qualitative interviews. These one on one conversations help to uncover the thought process of a customer on a more human level, with deeper insight into the struggles and desired outcomes that drive behaviour. 

Jobs to Be Done (JTBD) is a lens that helps us identify the highest value insights. Using the frameworks and question techniques we outline in this article helps us understand if an idea will resonate with its intended audience. It helps us dodge the surface appearances and false positives that so often plague traditional research outcomes; just because a customer says they like an idea does not mean that they will buy it in the real world. 

Read more about our JTBD approach. 

So, how do you know if you’re asking the right questions?

In order to get the most valuable insights out of your interviewees, it helps to ask open-ended questions that prioritise understanding them as a whole, rather than focusing  exclusively on understanding their reaction to a product.

This can be done by introducing a particular area of focus (e.g. a market or category of products), and asking interviewees to share their experiences, challenges, and aspirations related to the topic. We can also explore previous and current solutions and how they feel about the way things currently work. This helps us to identify the unfiltered motivations behind existing behaviour, what draws them into taking up new solutions and what stops them from adopting a new approach. 

But what about testing an existing idea?

Let’s say you have already spent some time hearing about your target audience’s views and habits. Now it’s time to show them a new product/solution. This goes well and they seem to like the new idea and only have good things to say… does that mean the proposition is perfect and ready to launch? Not necessarily...

Sometimes, interview responses need to be taken with a pinch of salt. Does the person actually like the idea or do they just like the newness of the idea? Is there long term utility, or is the marketing just fresh and shiny?

To ensure the responses reflect reality, it helps to press on to decipher which JTBD are being met, if any. For example you could ask, “why do you think so?”, “how exactly does it help?”, “you think it’s a good idea but is it useful to you personally?”. At this stage it can be more useful to focus on identifying the elements or threads of a concept that resonate compared with those that don’t. You can do this better by displaying different versions of the concept or marketing material helping to tease out reactions based on comparisons between them.

Our step by step guide to iterative customer testing

It doesn’t take a lot to get started with this approach, we’d recommend a handful of interviews for each of the following stages. 

Stage 1: Identify the JTBD

The first set of interviews should aim to identify the customer Jobs to Be Done in your particular focus area. The conversations can be framed to understand the goals and struggles related to this field, and the current solutions and strategies used to accomplish these jobs. 

The Four Forces of Progress (below) helps to map out this behaviour.

Participants can be asked to brainstorm potential solutions that solve for the gaps in their personal experience.

Then, they can be introduced to a new solution and asked about initial impressions, concerns, and any motivations to switch. This feedback can help get a clearer picture of the drivers of demand and barriers to overcome for the proposition. Having spent the initial stage of the interview exploring the customers’ world, it will be key to identify if they are able to link your idea back to any of the struggles they have already mentioned. This information can be tied back to the JTBD to determine which ones can best be targeted by the proposition. 

Example: You have an idea for a new app for a D2C customisable pillow service.

You ask questions such as:
  • What pillows do you use today?
  • Do you have different types of pillows for different purposes?
  • How do you feel about your current pillows?
  • When did you last buy new pillows, what prompted this purchase?
  • You said you compared different options, why did you discount those alternatives?
  • How do you feel about your current pillows?

The feedback helps you determine that some of the JTBD of the pillow market might include:
  • Reduce neck pain
  • Find comfort for side sleepers
  • Regulate temperature

Stage 2: Align the proposition to the JTBD

Feedback from the previous stage can now be used to refine the proposition and analyse if there are multiple versions of the product that could speak to different customer jobs. If such a distinction exists, variations of the proposition can be created to better target different customer needs. 

These refined ideas can now be shown to participants to see how they compare and how and why preferences develop. Feedback can also be collected on what areas need additional clarification as well as if the design elements and messaging are successful in explaining the proposition.

Example: We now want to explore what features the app could incorporate to better speak to consumer needs.

For example we could create 2 separate mockups of the app:
  • One that uses a quiz to provide recommendations to users
  • One that allows you to build your own pillow, independent of a quiz or recommendations

After showing participants description of the different app features, you can then ask how they might compare:
  • How would you feel about using either feature on the app?
  • Would you be more likely to replace your current pillow if prompted by the quiz or by building your own pillow?
  • What would be the main benefits for you/What would be the main concerns?
  • Which feature do you like better?
  • How can either feature help you find a product that helps solve your challenges?

The feedback helps you determine which app feature better leads consumers to products they prefer
  • The quiz helped participants identify their needs in a more specific way
  • The recommendation sections helped showcase product options they were unaware of
  • Building your own perfect pillow was fun but included many external features such as colour or packaging that didn’t solve the JTBD

Stage 3: Finalise proposition features

After reviewing how different variations of the proposition land with participants, you can determine which elements of the solution have greater appeal and which to drop. The chosen proposition can now be further developed in terms of functionality and marketing messaging using customer language in initial rounds. Interviews at this stage can focus on positioning key features on a landing page and demonstrating the functionality through an example user journey process.

As we get closer to finalising the proposition it’s important to spend less time asking potential customers “would you use this?” and more time asking them “why wouldn’t you use this”?

At this stage it’s all about getting more into the details, and identifying all the potential reasons why someone would NOT use this service. This can help to identify the anxieties, concerns or habits that would stop someone signing up or buying into the new solution. Once identified, these can be built into the messaging. For example “it only takes 5 minutes to get started” or “it’s fully regulated by industry bodies and secure”.

At this stage you could decide to go ahead and focus on the in app quiz with recommendations as the key feature.
You can show participants the product website and how they would go about downloading the app.

Questions to ask might include:
  • What language on the website most catches your attention? What doesn’t work well?
  • Which product features would be most relevant to you? Which don’t speak to you at all?
  • What additional information would you need to know? What is missing?

Stage 4: Refine marketing 

Now that the proposition has been cleaned up and all the frictions in the understanding of the concept have been ironed out, it’s time to ensure that the messaging around it is clear and highlights the key benefits. Participants can be shown ads or platform specific marketing material, and asked to compare and contrast these different approaches.

At this stage you could show participants refined versions of the website and app along with any marketing material and ask similar questions as the last round.

Here the feedback you’re getting from interviewees should be fairly consistent. There should be a lot less friction overall, and fewer comments or suggestions. You may find that interviews are being completed quicker than in initial stages. This suggests that you’re reaching the point where final adjustments can be incorporated before launching into the final stage; a real world demand test!

How do you know if you need more interview rounds?

As the proposition becomes more aligned with specific JTBD, features and functionality better address problem areas, and marketing is made clearer, feedback will naturally begin to dwindle. There will be fewer questions about what the proposition does, or how exactly it works as the material shown will be able to properly share this information in a simple way. 

As the insights from interviews begin to introduce fewer new thoughts, it may be a sign that it's time to head to the next step! While the demand test will surely bring a new set of insights to the table, these steps are necessary to ensure that the best version of the concept will be tested by your team.

Stage 5: Test real world demand 

A demand test can help determine how the product is received by consumers outside of the interview setting. They usually are comprised of the following steps:

  1. Usually around 2-3 different ads that speak to different messages can be placed on various platforms. This can help to see which drives the highest CTR (click through rate). 
  2. Each ad will lead to a landing page variation that aligns with the messaging in the ad. Once someone is on the landing page, CTR can be used to understand which information is most sought out.  
  3. A key metric to track is the conversion to waitlist sign ups, which is a good indication of what percentage of consumers are eager to actually purchase or commit to a service.

The data provided by the demand test will help you determine if the proposition is ready to be launched and also give some insight into which marketing language might generate most traffic. 

By following this iterative process, you can effectively peel back the many layers of customer insights that are often difficult to uncover. As you progress through this journey, you can begin to feel more confident about your new proposition and create the best version of it! Ultimately, make a go or no go decision on whether to invest in building and developing the idea.

Learn more

Untold has helped countless clients navigate customer behaviour in a digital world. We offer strategic customer advisory for product marketers including JTBD identification, competitive mapping and buyer’s journey analysis.

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