Jobs to Be Done

The Jobs to Be Done theory is a tool for evaluating the circumstances that arise in customers’ lives. Customers rarely make buying decisions around what the “average” customer may do, but often buy things because they find themselves with a problem they would like to solve. Conventional marketing techniques teach us to frame customers by attributes—using age ranges, race, marital status, and other categories that ultimately create products and entire categories too focused on what companies want to sell, rather than on what customers actually need. With an understanding of the “job” for which customers find themselves “hiring” a product or service, companies can more accurately develop and market products tailored to what customers are already trying to do, and can predict what customers will and will not purchase.


When a fast food chain was interested in improving its milkshake sales, they reached out to Clayton Christensen and his researchers to discover how they might improve their product. Instead of focusing on attributes of the milkshake (thickness, amount of syrup, etc.) the researchers sought to understand the Job to Be Done for milkshake customers. They learned that customers were “hiring” the milkshake to help them stave off hunger and avoid a mess during their morning commute. The competitors for this job weren’t other milkshakes, but breakfast foods that are easy to consume while driving, such as bagels and bananas. With this insight, the fast-food chain began marketing the milkshake as a breakfast item, and sales soared.