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#39: Mastering Jobs to Be Done

Uncover customer needs with 2 approaches to JTBD

Hey campers,

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I’m an absolute segmentation nerd 🤓

I’m in my happy place with a spreadsheet and access to customer interviews. Which is why I was over the moon this week when one of my community members asked for help with a Jobs to Be Done (JTBD) project.

If you aren’t familiar with it, the Jobs to Be Done theory is a framework for understanding why customers choose and use products. Developed by Clayton Christensen, it focuses on the idea that people "hire" products to get a specific job done in their lives. This job could be a functional task, an emotional need or a combination of both.

JTBD shifts the focus from traditional market segmentation (based on demographics or product features) to understanding the fundamental job customers are trying to accomplish. This allows businesses to build products that align with these jobs, which often leads to higher conversion and reduced churn.

Now, back to the project at hand. Here’s what my community member asked the group:

How many customers & prospects would you aim to talk to when doing primary research into personas and JTBD? B2B use case, with 3 different verticals. What are your go-to methods for primary and secondary research?

In today’s edition, I’ll share the community’s response and walk you through two approaches to completing this work.


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Identifying Jobs to Be Done

Discovering the Jobs to Be Done (JTBD) for your customers requires a structured research approach. Here are two different (but similar) approaches to consider:

The First Approach

From Community Member #1:

I'll typically start with a typical JTBD survey getting at the before/during/after story. I'll recruit interviews from the survey. I'll also use the survey to get the surface level insights, then use the interviews to go deeper by asking follow-up questions.

I'll try to get two types of interviews from the survey:

  1. General responses from those who fit my ICP; and

  2. Those who considered, or are, switching from a category leader

I'll supplement 1 and 2 with reviews from sites like G2. Number 1 will be covered by looking at my client's reviews. I'll cover number 2 by looking at 1-3 star reviews for the competitors that come up most often and look for themes where they are consistently weak and my client is strong.

I'm gathering all of this voice-of-customer data in ugly spreadsheets. I'm tagging quotes for themes and features/capabilities mentioned. I'm leaving notes like, "This would make a great testimonial on a pricing page to help justify the price" or "This could be the H1 on the homepage."

I then boil down the voice-of-customer data into struggles/fixes/hesitations/state of awareness/differentiators. Placing the themes that come up into these buckets. From this I'll pull some priority messaging. Like, "how should we talk about this struggle that comes up? And how do we talk about the solution?"

Finally, I'll have a couple of other sheets with "swipe worthy" copy and recommendations. Sometimes, the customer says something better than I could ever write it, so I'll separate this out so it's there for me to use. And sometimes, customers will talk about something that's missing in the product, and I'll aggregate these suggestions for the product team.

It isn't pretty or efficient, but it's effective. I think it pays to spend time with the customers' words, vs. just trying to force everything into a sterile summary asap.

The Second Approach

From Community Member #2:

For the interviews, you’ll tend to see trends emerge at interview 6-7. I try to aim for 10, that way if you have people drop out you still get a decent pool of participants. You can use your survey as a recruiting tool as well, which gives you a really comprehensive data set.

Ideally, you would interview 6-7 respondents per vertical. I would encourage you to try and incentivize the interviews if you can. Knowing you have a B2B audience, they will likely be more difficult to recruit for this type of research.

For the non-customer survey, there are a few approaches you can take. I’ll lay them out from the scrappiest to the most fulsome survey recruit strategies for non customers.

  1. Low cost / slower recruit

    • You can get scrappy if you need to with this and try to launch the survey from a channel(s) your audience is highly present in. In the past I’ve deployed surveys out to LinkedIn, Reddit, Discord channels I was a member of to collect responses.

    • You can use MTurk to recruit survey respondents. I’ve seen a few behavioral science folks use this in the past and it works pretty well and at a low cost. Only caveat with this is you need to keep a super close eye on response quality and build in a few honeypot type questions to ensure they are who they say they are.

  2. Higher cost / best quality

    • There are a # of sample providers you can use to get you the responses you need. Survey tools like SurveyMonkey, Alchemer, Qualtrics all offer professional sample services where they can get you the right target audience.

    • The cost per complete (CPC) will depend on the criteria you need to reach for the sample to be reflective of your audience. That range could be pretty substantial - it’s best to chat with the sample services teams from these partners and ask for an incidence rate test (IR) to help you (and them) understand if they can fill the sample quota and how much it will cost per respondent.

One last thing I’ll mention - B2B audiences can be so challenging to conduct research with. In past B2B roles I’ve focused more on the quality of my qualitative findings vs. trying to hit stat sig on surveys. Sometimes you just won’t get there and that’s okay! It’s better to have a consistent data set you feel comfortable with that meets your business objectives than going through immense pain to try and fill a B2B sample (especially if budget is tight).

The cool part about research is that you can always explore new layers and conduct additional studies. Maybe your first round in qualitative and one of the outcomes / recommendations is to get buy in for additional research to validate your initial findings. Sometimes you need to show them your great interview insights for them to buy into the cost of a market survey.

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Want to dig deeper into JTBD? Here’s some essentials:

- Tamara