JTBD Strategies to Grow Your Sales

JTBD, or Jobs To Be Done are at the core of all we do. Every plan, every decision, and every purchase.

Ours is a world of problems and solutions. Every company and every person on this earth has jobs to be done. Lots of them. We can improvise, borrow, lease, rent or purchase the solutions we need, but make no mistake–every problem we encounter needs a solution, and he who solves problems fastest is going to win business based on urgency. He who solves problems cheapest is going to win business based on price. He who solves problems that stay solved is going to win business based on quality. You get the picture.

Harvard Business Professor Clayton Christensen insists that “Customers don't buy products and services; they hire various solutions at various times to get a wide array of jobs done.”

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Wouldn’t it be fantastic if people thought of your company first when looking for solutions? You may not have an unlimited marketing budget, but the more synonymous your product is with solving a problem–preferably a common problem–the greater your market share. Kleenex may find some competition in the tissue aisle, but it’ll most always read “Kleenex” on the shopping list, and if you’ve been sent to the store for it, you’d best not come back with anything else.

Your company or service will probably not be the only way for your customers to solve their problems. You just have to be the best way to solve their particular problem at a particular time, and then not mess it up. And then get better at being the best. I’m not trying to add to your difficulties here, but that brings us to three more problems:

Problem Number One: ‘Best’ means so many different things: healthiest, cheapest, fastest, closest, most popular, and so on. It used to be an “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” kind of world, but your customers are continually being wooed by new companies, products, rewards, and promotions. How do you become the best when it is so hard to determine what that actually means?

Problem Number Two: Customers often misdiagnose their own jobs to be done. Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to get to the root of things. We don’t always know exactly what we want–we just know it when we see it.

Problem Number Three: Our perceptions of our customer’s needs are often very different from their actual requirements. If you have a restaurant, you can safely assume that people are there because they’re hungry, can’t you? No, sadly, you can not. They will surprise you time and time again. You can’t presume to know why the same guy shows up every Tuesday at exactly 1:15 pm. Perhaps it is because he gets a half hour lunch break and his office is around the corner. Maybe your wifi is amazing. Maybe he is perpetually trying to impress a date or client. Perhaps he is addicted to your banana cream pie or adores the chandeliers in your bathroom. Whatever the reason for his visit, it will be based on a lifetime of experiences, tastes, preferences, and desires, and if you can find the root–the real reason for his visit–you can recreate it. If you can recreate his experience, and even improve upon it–in his mind–not yours, you are going to be in business for a very long time.

Harvard Marketing Professor Theodore Levitt’s classic line “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill–they want a quarter-inch hole” has never been more relevant. We want the answers to our problems without more problems attached. We want them yesterday, and we want them shipped for free.

It all leads to the question you really want to answer and that is why are your customers buying from you instead of the other guy?

Breaking down your product or service into jobs to be done allows you to see all the roles it fulfills for your clients. It lets you view the industry as a whole and gives you insight into other potential markets. Predicting jobs that will need to be done in the future is a great way to stay ahead of the curve. Perhaps there is no current solution? What a great opportunity to put your talented and innovative team to work. Is there a better way to remain at the forefront of your industry and foster brand loyalty?

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You can’t really talk about JTBD without recalling Christiansen’s classic Milkshake tale. You know the one…

Some years ago McDonald’s decided that they would like to sell more milkshakes. They enlisted an army of experts to assist them in their efforts, and made them bigger, thicker, and creamier. They added fruit and different flavours but no matter what they did, sales did not increase. Finally they decided that they needed to better understand the ‘job to be done’ so one of Christiansen’s colleagues stood in a McDonald’s restaurant for 18 long hours observing and recording the details of every milkshake transaction. Time. Age. Dress. Flavor. Dine in, take out, or drive through? Were other purchases made? This guy recorded everything. And then a pattern began to emerge. He noticed that half the milkshakes were being sold before 8:30 in the morning. Yes–8:30 a.m. It was the only thing the customer purchased, they were always alone, and they always got in the car and drove off with it. How peculiar! The next day, the fellow went to meet and talk to some of those same people to attempt to figure out “what possible job they were trying to get done by hiring a McDonald’s milkshake at 7am.” They all had the same job to do, it turned out. They all had a long, boring drive to work ahead of them, and they needed something to hold and sip along the way to stay awake and engaged on their morning commute. They didn’t want a greasy breakfast, or coffee reminiscent of rocket fuel. They just needed something to get them through their monotonous drive with one hand on the wheel and stave off hunger pains until lunchtime. No amount of improvements to the product itself would sell more milkshakes, but touting shorter wait times and a speedier drive through service did the trick, showing immediate and staggering results.

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What added value do you offer? What intangibles come with your product? What is going to make customers reach for your brand over all the others?

Rewards? Savings? Customer service? Get to know your customers at every opportunity. Understand why they choose you. It is the only way you can ensure that they will keep on choosing you. Knowing what prompts their choices and what specific needs you must continue to fulfill can inspire lifelong loyalty.

Focus on what your customers are actually buying from you. It is not simply a product or service. They can buy a piece of pie anywhere. Why are they buying your pie? Value? Affordability? Familiarity? Prestige? Peace of mind? Reliability? Convenience? Location? Free parking? There are countless ways to earn and lose clientele for the most unimaginable of reasons, without ever even knowing it. What a conundrum.

“Of the more than 20,000 new products evaluated in Nielsen’s 2012–2016 Breakthrough Innovation report, only 92 had sales of more than $50 million in year one and sustained sales in year two.”

International Delight was one of those companies. They looked at the end user’s jobs to be done, and saw the consumer’s desire for a specialty cup of coffee brewed at home. The label reads “Hug in a Mug Guarantee. Feel the love or your money back!” Let me tell you, they aren’t just selling coffee–they are selling comfort. Some people aren't in the ‘comfort’ market. International Delight might sell them stamina. Vitality. Friendship. Togetherness. Tranquility. A burst of energy to complete that project. A cup of coffee can mean something different to everyone you talk to. It is your job–and that of your marketing department–to understand exactly what you are selling and what your customers are buying. They aren’t always the same thing.

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