Product marketing is becoming an increasingly crucial marketing function and in-demand role. And rightly so, we think the increasing demand for great product marketers is no accident. It’s a natural result of the changing nature of how people shop. Over the last decade, there has been a gradual shift in customer buying behaviour as a result of people switching their discovery, exploration and purchasing to an online environment. The internet with its convenient ‘search bar’ continues to evolve customers’ route to new products. Before, there was no such thing as ‘recommended for you’ and ‘brands tagged in this photo’. But now there is no escaping it, whether your key audiences are consumers or B2B decision makers we all now use the internet.
Digital disruption has torn up the old marketing playbook. The traditional ‘purchase funnel’ is no longer the be all and end all, especially for customer acquisition. Brands still matter, loyalty still exists but so does FOMO. Hype and carefully targeted, uber focused, almost ‘written for me’ messaging can tempt anyone to try something new. How do we create these opportunities? By understanding our specific target customers’ Jobs to Be Done (JTBD).
Product marketers face a number of tough challenges, whether you’re at a start-up or established incumbent, reaching your audience and converting them into buyers can feel like you’re shouting but everyone has headphones on. The most successful brands of our time know this to be true: people don’t like being shouted at, and they don’t like ads. They love something useful, something that makes their lives better, something they’ve been missing all along. The need that sits behind this longing is the customers’ Job to Be Done. The thing they are trying to make progress on in their lives that they’re struggling with (whether they know it yet or not). The thing that your product can help them do better, faster, more effectively. Solve for your customers’ Jobs and they’ll walk right to you and bring others along with them.
Jobs to Be Done and product marketing go hand-in-hand. They both recognise that customers fundamentally desire a solution to a need or problem they have. The internet puts access to all these potential solutions at their fingertips. This has somewhat diminshed the need for the above-the-line (ATL) brand marketing of TV commercial days gone by. Brand story, essence and personality are great things to have, but can no longer stand alone. If one branded advertisement is talking primarily about how inspiring their brand is, and another is talking about a new platform which claims to make a customers’ life 100x easier - which is more likely to warrant further investigation? We think it’s evidenced in how so many relatively unknown ‘challenger’ brands have catapulted to seemingly overnight fame in recent years.
Jobs to Be Done thinking has been around for a while now, but is starting to gain more traction as part of the essential toolkit amongst product marketers at leading brands and challengers like Twitter and Intercom. It is a framework for customer understanding, it helps you decode buying behaviour and understand how to position your products to win in an increasingly competitive digital world. Customer understanding is integral to great product marketing. Jobs to Be Done is integral to superior customer understanding.
In this article we outline how product marketers can make better use of Jobs to Be Done to solve their key challenges:
It is a framework for customer understanding, it helps you decode buying behaviour and understand how to position your products to win in an increasingly competitive digital world.
There’s a lot going on in this headline. Let’s break it down:
A phase of Jobs to Be Done focused customer research can help you answer all of the above. Here’s how.
Start with customer interviews that are centred around curiosity not feedback. This is really important (and somehow always very difficult to do) - the conversation is about them, not your brand or products or features.
Here’s the thing about the Job to Be Done - you have to search for it. It is not the face-value rationalisation that customers give about why they bought or are planning to buy a specific product. It’s usually a few layers deep and you have to dig for it. You can get there with the right questions and a great research design.
As part of your interviews speak to a handful of people in each of the following categories (if you can):
Here’s the thing about the Job to Be Done - you have to search for it. It is not the face-value rationalisation that customers give about why they bought or are planning to buy a specific product.
The reason being is that each of these types of customer are along different stages of the buying journey (discussed in the next section). This will help you pick up the differences in the Jobs, considerations and reasons for buying for customers vs. non-customers of your product. For non-customers it can be useful to partner with an external specialist research agency that can help you source relevant interview participants or use platforms like respondent.io or usertesting.com.
Ask the following types of questions:
A combination of the above will reveal the Job to Be Done at the centre of this persons buying decision. The reason that this person brought this product into their life.
Defining the Job to Be Done is something that can be a little tricky. Here are our suggestions to nail it:
It’s not an activity or a task. Jobs are the underlying motivation which is more likely timeless.
NOT a Job to Be Done in 1994: Develop my film at the local shop
A Job to Be Done in 1994 and 2022: View and appreciate photos I have taken
NOT a Job to Be Done: Open a savings account
A Job to Be Done: Save up a deposit for a property
Make sure you have mapped out the Jobs in terms of both overarching themes, and the Jobs themselves which sit underneath
Ask yourself if the Job you have outlined is something that an entirely new company could look to solve with a new solution
As a rule of thumb, you should be able to identify 3-5 overarching Jobs and 10-25 detailed Jobs for buyers in your market. These have been defined in a customer-led way which means they should go beyond the products and solutions you deliver today, and give you a way to look ahead to the products and solutions you could deliver in the future.
Define the competition from a customer perspective not a capabilities perspective. What are the alternative things a customer could be using even if it’s manual and not a branded solution? As Netflix CEO Reed Hastings once said: Netflix’s main competiton is not YouTube or other broadcasters; it’s sleep.
If you have a brand tracker in place take a look at the competitor list - are you including non-direct competitors? Jobs helps us recognise that we are not actually competing for customers. We are competing to be chosen for at least one (or more) of their Jobs to Be Done.
With the list of Jobs to Be Done you identified from customer interviews you can start to map out where the competition is playing. Who is serving which Jobs? Are they doing it well or not very well? Where are the gaps?
Jobs helps us recognise that we are not actually competing for customers. We are competing to be chosen for at least one (or more) of their Jobs to Be Done.
You may already have target buyer personas that you can explore in the customer interviews. We recommend that personas always link back clearly to Jobs to Be Done. This helps make sure they are targetable and actionable from a marketing perspective. Regardless of whether you have target personas in place or not, it is critical to reach out to a variety of different types of buyers. The customer interviews will start to reveal differences in the mental models, mindsets and Jobs to Be Done of these types of audiences.
In this example we demonstrate the difference in the needs that different business owner personas might have. By understanding this context through research you can build solutions, packages or landing pages that really speaks to these audiences.
Example persona: The side hustle business owner
Relevant for this audience: Beginner simplicity, one platform solution, compliance with tax laws, basic accounting
Example persona: The e-commerce business owner
Relevant for this audience: logging numerous transactions, international suppliers, customer support challenges, shipping and returns
Buyers journey analysis is critically valuable for mapping out a winning Go To Market strategy. We use the Four Forces of Progress outlined in Jobs theory to help map this out in a clear and logical way. By understanding each of these forces and how they influence a customer in the buying moment, you can capture relevant information to help position well in this space:
Some of the questions we find valuable in unpicking different stages of this buyer’s journey:
Untold offers strategic customer advisory for product marketers which includes JTBD identification, competitive mapping and buyer’s journey analysis. Reach out today to find out more about how we can help!
Let’s get real: putting a lot of dollars behind the development of brand new concepts and ideas is scary. You want your investment to pay off. You also have a bunch of excited people in the business who had this amazing idea and don’t want to believe that it might fail. But it very well could fail. Not because it’s a bad idea necessarily, but because there is no Job to Be Done, no demand and no market.
Product marketers are a critical part of this conversation, using the ‘voice of the customer’ we can steer the business towards customer research validation before wasting too many development hours on a fully fledged product that isn’t going to find a market. Test early and often to derisk your investments when it comes to innovation and new product launches. On the flip side, maybe you’re working with an idea that has found a niche market but is struggling to scale. In that case you need to deep dive into your customer research with a focus on the wider market (not just your customers) to make sure you have an eye towards growth potential.
This is really important - in order to get the maximum value out of customer research you must not solely rely on their response to your product concept or brand material. This is likely to bias the conversation, and people could start giving you false positives about how great your product is or how much they like it. In the meantime you’d be missing the crucial data which will help you figure out if they’ll actually be likely to buy it in the real world.
There are limitations to customer research. It cannot give us the answers to everything. In this type of research more than ever, it is critical to ask the right kinds of questions and take customer intentions about their future behaviour with a pinch of salt. Customers’ lives are already 100% full. Just before speaking to you they were probably trying to create a to-do list for work, or plan meals for the family, or figure out when they’ll have time to get to the post office. When put on the spot, they aren’t usually full of innovative ideas about your brand or brimming with marketing copy ingenuity. That’s ok. The customer isn’t supposed to know what the perfect solution would look like, they only need to know what isn’t working that well right now.
Read our article about refining propositions using JTBD research here.
To drive traffic to your site, try to focus your marketing on the Jobs to Be Done that are most critical, most pressing and therefore have the highest customer motivation. This is important in early-stage growth markets like HealthTech for example where digital behaviours are still rare. There may be a lot of Jobs to Be Done, but little to no motivation to go beyond the traditional methods of solving them. The higher the customer motivation the more likely they will be seeking out a solution. The more likely they will be hitting page 4 of google search results on the matter. The pressing nature of their struggle could mean they are more likely to respond to marketing, recommendations or search results that hone in on this specific struggle.
The first step is to figure out which Jobs to Be Done you are looking to target via marketing messaging. The ones that you can demonstrate and express the distinct value your products bring. To inform this decision you can commission a market sizing quantitative study that sizes and prioritises the Jobs to Be Done in your market. This is the formula we use:
The next step is then to continually refine messaging in an effort to optimise click-through and conversion.
So far we have talked about finding and acquiring new customers, but the stage that comes after is equally important; building customer relationships, advocacy, engagement and loyalty. Whether you’re looking for subscription sign ups, premium buyers or simply a repeat purchase there are some tips we’d suggest.
Once you acquire a customer, you have created a pathway in their mind between a Job to Be Done and your product. This customer is now listening to you, and is less likely to be influenced by other brands shouting about another way. In a customer’s world action is a lot harder than inaction. We are creatures of habit. It explains why many of us have the same bank account we opened when we were 17. This all now works in your favour because the inertia to switch keeps a customer using you, the habit formed is with you. There will always be constant challenges to your position, but you have more opportunities to get it right.
Look at the Jobs to Be Done of your customers that you don’t currently solve for. This helps you create a roadmap to future growth amongst existing customers through the development of new packages, landing pages or product features or concepts (or even entirely new brands) which serve these needs.
Cement the pathways in customers’ minds from their Job to Be Done to your brand, so everytime a need arises they’ll look to you for a solution. Use email marketing, promotions and other engagement tools to actively remind the customer of this.
It can help to track the competitive landscape and how strongly your brand (vs. competitors) are associated with these key JTBD in order to track your performance over time and measure your marketing effectiveness. Check out our post on Brand & Jobs Tracking here.
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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Untold is a marketing & growth consultancy specialising in customer-led growth strategies.
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