Jobs to Be Done

The theory of Jobs to Be Done is a framework for better understanding customer behavior. While conventional marketing focuses on market demographics or product attributes, Jobs Theory goes beyond superficial categories to expose the functional, social, and emotional dimensions that explain why customers make the choices they do. People don’t simply buy products or services; they pull them into their lives to make progress. We call this progress the “job” they are trying to get done, and understanding this opens a world of innovation possibilities.

People don’t simply buy products or services, they ‘hire’ them to make progress in specific circumstances. #JobsToBeDone

Milkshakes for Breakfast

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A fast food chain interested in improving milkshake sales spent months doing market research, peppering customers with questions about their milkshakes. Was it chocolatey enough? Thick enough? Did it contain the right amount of syrup? But this gave no new insights.

They then brought in two consultants to examine the problem, who were surprised to find that quite a few milkshakes were being sold in the morning. After conducting in-depth interviews, the team discovered that customers were buying milkshakes for breakfast during their morning commute. Instead of caring about thickness or flavor, customers were actually drawn to the fact that it was relatively tidy and could stave off hunger until lunch. In this instance, the competitor wasn’t other milkshakes, but easily consumable breakfast foods like bagels or bananas, giving the chain an entirely new perspective on ways to compete.

Why it Matters

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Understanding the “job” for which customers hire a product or service helps innovators more accurately develop products that align with what customers are already trying to accomplish. Among others, this applies to students, teachers, parents, patients, and physicians, as well as underserved and underprivileged populations for whom solutions are often misaligned with their true priorities.

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As students begin to see that school is a solution that they can "hire" in their lives to help them have friends and feel successful, a predictable result emerges—they engage.

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