How to Innovate Without Wasting Millions (And Why Jobs to Be Done Really Works)
Guided by the Jobs to Be Done theory, business creators confidently identify and deliver products that prospective and current customers really want.
This article explains how to understand why people buy what they buy, plus 6 ways to innovate with confidence.
It’s the million-dollar question every envisioned business is asking:
“How can I attract and retain more customers effectively without wasting time and money on ‘innovations’ that don’t sell?”
We’ve worked side by side with hundreds of business founders and CTOs across industries, helping them figure out how to be more precisely what their customers want.
Discovering what your customers want — and then delivering just that and nothing more — requires businesses to be highly intentional about their product strategy and design.
It’s time to step outside of yourself and enter your customer’s journey. If you want to know what motivates people to buy your product, find out the jobs to be done.
It exists within the gap between where your customer is today and where they want to be after paying you money.
One of the most helpful tools we’ve found to assist our clients along this journey is the Jobs to Be Done Framework. Start there. Identify and deliver new products or product improvements that truly resonate with current and future users. Do it right, and you’ll scale your business in the process.
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Why People Buy What They Buy
People buy products and services that they believe will accomplish worthwhile goals. In other words, they “hire” products and services to get jobs done.
This is essentially the Jobs to Be Done theory, and it is maddeningly obvious. Yet somehow, that’s what makes it groundbreaking. Sometimes, we try so hard to solve a problem, that we miss the solution that’s right in front of us.
We interviewed Clay Christensen’s Competing Against Luck co-author, Karen Dillon about Jobs to Be Done in our podcast, Commanding Business. In our interview, Karen explains the variety of ways companies traditionally try to become more profitable:
Many businesses instinctively try to cut expenses by getting their product or service out the door cheaper.
This approach usually doesn’t result in an improved experience for their customers.
Others try to add bells and whistles to the product or service so they can charge more.
Without actually transforming the core product, these companies focus on making their product faster, or offering more colors, or different flavors, or extra services.
But, as Karen aptly states, the way a business defines “better” is not necessarily what a customer wants–especially not if it costs more. Companies who take this approach often end up narrowing the pool of people who will actually pay for their product.
Other businesses try to understand what their customers want, but they ask the wrong questions.
Desperate to connect with more people, they focus on collecting truckloads of demographic data about their customers. But this approach can become a vicious and costly cycle. It leads to more questions, compels the hunt for more data, and never returns much in terms of new customers.
Many who take this path end up more confused than ever, lost in the heaps of statistics, conjecture, and what seems like multiple compasses, all pointing to a different north.
Ironically, each of these approaches to increasing profitability can end up costing the very thing they promise to deliver. It’s like a failed software project. You set out to create something that will save time, money, and effort, only to waste time, money, and effort on zero results.
(Seven out of ten software projects fail. Ours don’t. Take a look at the e-book below to learn why.)
Clay Christensen realized that, when it comes to understanding customers, correlation is not the same as causality. Demographic data will often fail to explain why and when someone will choose one product over another. The only thing that can explain the cause of why people buy what they buy is Jobs to Be Done.
Finding Jobs to Be Done
Be the bridge between where your customer is and where they want to be (even if they don’t realize it).
Don’t confuse Jobs to Be Done with “tasks to be done.” Your goal is to develop a product that completely and totally bridges the gap your customer is experiencing. Get specific. Ask “Why?” and “How?” to dig deep for users’ core desires. Clay Christensen recommends interviewing current customers to really understand what motivates a purchase.
Identify gaps–they usually fall under one or more of the categories listed below. Then develop a product that completely and totally bridges one or more of the gaps better than the competition.
Which of these gaps causes the most pain for your customers?
- Save people time
- Reduce customers’ financial risk
- Alleviate customer burdens
- Minimize distance to the product
- Provide an alternative to more wasteful options
- Instill confidence through transparency
We use the Jobs to Be Done Framework all the time for product design that bridges gaps. Take our work with Photomadic kiosk software, for example. We sat down with the experiential marketing firm to discuss their need for a better photo-sharing app. What we discovered was a tremendous opportunity to do far more than the company initially knew was possible.
Photomadic provides photo-booth kiosks that allow users to take pictures and share them on social media (great for events, festivals, and parties). When they came to us, however, the software running the kiosk was unreliable and slow. Users had a hard time finding and sharing their photos. Internet connectivity and remote event deployment were both major problems. Plus, the app provided no way for Photomadic or its clients to keep track of the number of photos being shared on each social media platform.
Our Jobs to Be Done conversation with Photomadic allowed us to press into their problem and identify the gaps between:
Where they, their customers, and the product users were at the time,
1. Where Photomadic wanted to be after paying us
2. Where their customers would want to be after renting the kiosk
3. And where users would want to be after experiencing the app
As a result of really digging into what jobs each stakeholder needed to have done, we were able to design and deliver an app that accomplished each one, really, really well. Now, Photomadic is not only connecting with more customers who want to rent the kiosks for their events, they are also selling the app we created to other experiential marketing firms. Their market has grown tremendously as a result of clearly defining the jobs to be done.
Now It’s Time to Deliver
Have you identified the job or jobs to be done? Great. Now it’s time to deliver. Perfect your product or service until it consistently accomplishes the jobs to be done. Technology can help you automate the process, making perfection repeatable and cost-effective.
We couldn’t agree more with Justin Jackson, author of Marketing for Developers: “In 10+ years of doing product marketing, I haven’t found a better framework for understanding why people buy software. Jobs to Be Done shows us that we’re not in the business of making products, we’re trying to make super humans…Your app should give users abilities they never had before.”
If your app or other product doesn’t completely change the game for your customers, it’s a waste of time. The whole point of identifying the job to be done is to design and DELIVER a product that gets that job done beyond your customers’ wildest dreams. If you settle for anything less, it will only be a matter of time before someone else comes along and lures away all your business.
Sell Your Product’s Story with Jobs to Be Done
Once you have a winning product that gets the job done and satisfies the core desire of its users, you’ll want to make sure your target audience knows this.
In his article on marketing with the Jobs to Be Done Framework, writer and entrepreneur, Justin Owings, says, “Great marketing tells stories about product jobs (not features). Marketing needs to tell the story of the product being sold. Marketers know consumers buy the story as much as they buy the product. How does that fit with Jobs to Be Done? Simply, marketers need to understand and tell the story of how their product does a particular job.”
Communicate the value of your product or service in terms of Jobs to Be Done. Call out the gap and promise to deliver. Help potential customers see that, finally, there is a way to get from where they are to where they want to be.
Zero-Waste Technology that Gets the Job Done
In a world of disruptive innovation, applying the Jobs to Be Done theory empowers businesses to find their niche and beat the competition. Identify jobs to be done, satisfy those core desires of your users, and effectively communicate value to potential customers.
We partner with innovative leaders to identify jobs to be done and validate their ideas with user testing. From SaaS development to platform design, we execute on budget and on time. As a result of working with us, our clients scale their businesses and eliminate waste.
Got an idea for a product? Already in business, but looking to innovate? We’d love to talk with you. Contact one of our product strategists for a free consultation.
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