Article in Brief: Stop segmenting your prospects by demographics and psychographics. Instead, focus on the functional, emotional and social jobs people are trying to get done in their lives. And match your offerings to that. Let’s go deeper…
by Keith Reynold Jennings
It all started with a story about milkshakes for breakfast. That was my introduction to “jobs theory,” which is also known as “jobs to be done.”
The story goes something like this…
A fast food chain wanted to sell more milkshakes. So they hired a market researcher to help them uncover new and untapped opportunities.
The market researcher did what market researchers do:
- Study sales data looking for trends by type, time, season, etc.
- Interview customers to understand the kinds of milkshakes they like and what they wish they could have
- Observe in-store customer behavior across times of the day and days of the week
As expected, the research report offered new opportunities for the food chain to exploit existing and new demographics and psychographics. The chain took the data and worked with their agency on new advertising. And sales didn’t budge.
A second researcher was brought in. But this researcher didn’t do what market researchers are supposed to do — study and segment “targets” by -graphics. This researcher started with a completely different question: What jobs are customers hiring milkshakes to do?
A number of customers were buying milkshakes for breakfast. Why? Because they found milkshakes best did the job of being a meal that could be consumed:
- While commuting for about 20 minutes
- With one hand
- Without making a mess
- Plus, it was best at staving off hunger until lunch
Bagels, biscuits, yogurt, no other food item could do this unique job as well as a milkshake.
They also found an afternoon group of milkshake buyers who were hiring milkshakes as bonding moments with their kids after school.
Once the fast food chain understood the food jobs customers needed done in their lives, they could serve those jobs. And sales — not just milkshake sales — went up.
Focus on Jobs to Be Done, Not People Segments
All day long, you and I need jobs done. And we “hire” information, products, services and experiences to help us do these jobs. This goes deeper than you may think:
- Which clothes should I “hire” for today’s schedule?
- What should I “hire” for breakfast?
- What can I “hire” to get this headache to away?
- Which route should I “hire” to get the kids to school?
- Which neighborhood and school district should I “hire” for my family?
- Which meetings should I “hire” today to move the needle on my career?
Let’s use clothes as an example. Like you, I hire different kinds of clothes for different situations. What I wear to the office is quite different than what I wear on a Saturday at home working in the yard. If I’m going on a multi-day hike in the mountains or rainforest, I “hire” clothing very specific to that job — durable, moisture-wicking, etc.
If you were in the fashion merchandising world, learning the jobs I (and others) hire your clothes to do gives you a tremendous advantage over competitors who are marketing to me based on their ridiculous, made up buyer personas. (Quick aside: I’ve spoken with Adele Revella, the creator of buyer personas. Her approach to personas is heavily research-based. Right in line with what we’re talking about here. Check out her book!)
Jobs are Functional, Emotional and/or Social
I was introduced to “jobs theory” and the “jobs to be done” framework in Clayton Christensen’s classic December 2005 article in Harvard Business Review titled, Marketing Malpractice: The Cause and the Cure.
That article was a huge influence on my thinking as a marketer and strategist. It was in that article, that I read the milkshake story I recreated above.
According to Christensen and his co-authors, a key aspect of jobs theory is that jobs typically function on more than one level:
If you only focus on the functional job your product or service offers, you’re missing a big opportunity.
Let’s take breakfast. The functional job of breakfast is simple: breaking the fast that occurs while we sleep. And that functional job is fulfilled with food and beverage.
But there’s an emotional layer to the job of breakfast. You choose certain tastes depending on how you want to feel, right? Eating the cereal you ate as a child makes you feel nostalgic. Or eating healthy makes you feel good about yourself.
In addition to doing functional and emotional jobs, the same breakfast can be hired to do a social job too. You may hire eating breakfast at home to spend time with your family. Or you may hire breakfast at a local cafe or diner to spend time with a friend, client or prospect.
As you think through this “jobs” framework, hidden opportunities start to emerge.
Applying the Jobs Framework to Your Business
Think about the types of people you want to serve and ask yourself this:
What jobs are my customers trying to get done? Which of these jobs am I best positioned to help them do?
The best way to begin answering these questions:
- Mine your existing data for pre-purchase and post-purchase “job” insights
- Talk to your customers and prospects to surface the functional, emotional and social jobs they want to get done
- Listen to your audience on social media for jobs they need done
I hope this introduction to jobs theory has given you a much more precise tool to find, connect with and serve your customers. One of the things I love about this framework is that it puts the customer at the center of our strategy, marketing and operations.
- Marketing Malpractice: The Cause & The Cure, Harvard Business Review 12/2005
- Know Your Customers’ Jobs to Be Done, Harvard Business Review 9/2016
- Competing Against Luck is Clayton Christensen’s newest book on jobs theory
- Strategyn (Tony Ulwick) is a pioneer of jobs theory
Credits: Image by Harold Navarro on Flickr.
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