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A Guide to The Jobs to Be Done Framework 🥤

A Guide to The Jobs to Be Done Framework 🥤

Last Updated:  
March 18, 2024

In this post, we teach you everything you need to know about the jobs to be done framework. Let's dive in.

What Is the Jobs to Be Done Framework?🧝

The jobs-to-be-done framework was developed by Tony Ulwick, founder of the innovation consulting firm Strategyn. Prof. Clayton Christensen later popularized the theory in his book, The Innovator’s Solution , labeling it “jobs-to-be-done theory”.

The unique attribute of JTBD is that consumers don’t buy products or services, they hire them to make their lives better. This life enhancement can manifest in three ways; functional, social, emotional or a mix of all three.

Traditionally, consumer research buckets users based on demographics, personal attributes etc.

JTBD penetrates deeper into the consumer psyche agnostic of personal attributes to expose the real reason the product was hired (causality).

Said a different way, one doesn’t buy a Patagonia because they are a 40 year old male investment banker living in the Bay area (correlation).

I think of JTBD a bit like the Rosetta Stone for product innovation and customer value because different people will hire the product for different reasons (see the Milkshake problem).

Understanding what those reasons are will give you clarity on your product roadmap, but more pertinent to Whale Mailers; what features or attributes of the product/service to promote.

🙅‍♀️ Correlation is Not Causality

As we touched on above, people don’t buy products because of personal attributes. On the other hand I can look at customer data and make (or used to be able to RIP FB Analytics) wonderful visualizations showing you that 69% of your purchasers are:

  • Female
  • 20-46
  • Living in LA, Austin & NYC

However, the point is correlation is not causality. Said a different way, your consumers didn’t buy the product because they are a 24 year old female living in Austin. A funny example (and little morbid, sorry) below illustrates this point beautifully.

This is why I find JTBD so compelling. You can identify the causal mechanisms generating conversions and discard the correlative ones. To triple down (see what I did there) on this point, I have included an excerpt from a Harvard Business Review article.

Excerpt from a 2016 HBR article:

Consider the case of one of this article’s coauthors, Clayton Christensen. He’s 64 years old. He’s six feet eight inches tall. His shoe size is 16. He and his wife have sent all their children off to college. He drives a Honda minivan to work. He has a lot of characteristics, but none of them has caused him to go out and buy the New York Times. His reasons for buying the paper are much more specific. He might buy it because he needs something to read on a plane or because he’s a basketball fan and it’s March Madness time. Marketers who collect demographic or psychographic information about him—and look for correlations with other buyer segments—are not going to capture those reasons.

** Side note: As media buyers we DO care about the demographics of our customers (targeting). Removing bad choices from the algo is the path for paid media. On the other hand, targeting is being abstracted away from the ad set level into the creative layer more and more (the creative is the targeting). So net net, we really don’t care as much as we used to.

🦍 Jobs to Be Done Framework Forces & Timeline

“Ok, I am in!” Great let’s look at how you decode consumer behavior with your new Rosetta Stone.

Everything in JTBD revolves around the interview and the buyer’s journey.

Ideally, you want to interview 3 cohorts:

  1. Interested, Not Purchased
  2. Purchased->Churned
  3. Purchased->Stayed.

5-15 interviews at 45-60 min in length can render reliable findings.

I won’t go too much into the interview proper, but I have included a ton of examples in the resources section. The Critical Path one is super instructive.

There are two ways to track the buyer’s journey: Timeline or the Forces Diagram.

Both applications output the same findings, one is just chronological and the other is filling in forces as you encounter them.

After you perform the interviews, you collate the data and then look for patterns. There are fancy ways and techniques to do this, just ping me offline and I can help you out. #IGotChu

**Side note: I wouldn’t run more than 2-3 interviews in a day. They can be mentally draining on the interviewer.

🕰️ JTBD Timeline

Timeline from Demand-Side Sales 101 by Bob Moesta

Timeline from Demand-Side Sales 101 by Bob Moesta

The first thought is how you create the space. Passive looking is how you start to fill the space. Passive looking is the act of figuring it out as you go through life. You have a hole, a nagging feeling, you are struggling, but you don’t know enough to move forward. - Bob Moesta

Understanding the timeline is one way to deconstruct the customer journey. Again, you can derive the same findings using the Forces diagram as well. The more interviews you do, you will develop a preference for one or the other.

You can also use the timeline to tighten up your messaging in each window and more efficiently allocate paid media resources.

**Side note: Bob Moesta is an absolute genius and he is arguably one of the best JTBD practitioners. Above is a graphic from his book on JTBD called Demand-Side Sales 101: Stop Selling and Help Your Customers Make Progress. It’s really really good.

**Side note: When performing the interview, look for the hack. What are people hacking together? That is where the money is.

⚖️ Jobs to Be Done Forces

Another way to track the user journey is using the Forces Diagram. You can think of it like a jenga tower; if the forces are balanced nothing happens. The only time it falls over or a “switch” happens is when the forces are asymmetric, fancy word for not the same.

There are four types of forces, two promote a switch, two don’t.

Jobs to be Done Forces Diagram - Credit: Kevin C. Kupillas |

Jobs to be Done Forces Diagram - Credit: Kevin C. Kupillas |

➡️ Push

Pushing forces “push” you away from your current solution and promote a switch. For example, your business is too big and complex now to run from a spreadsheet.

➡️ Pull

Pulling forces “pull” you toward the new solution and promote a switch. For example, Triple Whale can do everything your spreadsheet does and more, at a fraction of the effort.

⬅️ Anxieties

Anxiety forces repel the current solution and discourage a switch. For example, how does Triple Whale fit into my current agency workflows and reporting?

⬅️ Inertia

Inertia forces attract the old solution and discourage a switch. For example, I want to use Triple Whale, but my business is built on WooCommerce.

To make this more concrete, let’s look at signing up for a new a credit card.

Push Forces: current CC has high interest rates, mobile app is trash, doesn’t integrate with Personal Capital, bad benes, ugly card

Pull Forces: new card looks really cool, 0% interest for a year, mobile app is awesome, access to airport lounges, 3% cash back, Bob has one

Anxieties: impact on credit score, how do I pay, when do I pay, will I be approved, what about my current points

Inertia: Bank account and Autopay are already setup, All my services (hulu, square, amazon, disney+, venmo) are already hooked up to this card

Our jobs as marketers is to tip the jenga tower and generate a conversion. The only way we do that is if the pull or push forces are greater than the sum of the inertia and anxiety forces.

Pretty cool huh!

**Side note: You can think of “the switch” as a purchase if that gives you more clarity.

🪄 Jobs to Be Done Magic

Awesome sauce, so we covered at a very very high level JTBD, the Forces Diagram and Timeline.

I encourage you all to listen to some of the interviews below. It will make a lot more sense seeing/hearing JTBD in practice versus internalizing through an essay.

Big takeaways are:

  • Correlation is not causality (Nick Cage movies don’t cause more swimming pool deaths)
  • People don’t buy products, they hire them for jobs
  • People want to know how their lives will improve socially, functionally, or emotionally with your product/service
  • Two ways to run a JTBD interview: Forces or Timeline
  • Look for the hack during the interview
  • The switch happens when push or pull forces are greater than anxieties and inertia

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