What is the Job To Be Done, or JTBD Model? - header image

What is the Job To Be Done, or JTBD Model?

The Job To Be Done (JTBD) is a framework for perceiving your business as the solution to the job your customers are trying to accomplish. Instead of studying the existing market and coming up with your version of a product, you try to approach the problem differently by trying to understand deeper what your customer needs to do: his job to be done.

While most companies would just study a market by figuring out who the target is and what their core problem is, the solutions available to fix that problem, and how you can enter this market by adding features and by refining the existing products, the JTBD framework focuses on the pain point of the customer, rather than on the existing offer. Your potential customer has a job to be done and will hire the best solution available to fix it.

To put another way, as Harvard Business School Professor Theodore Levitt famously said: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.

The JTBD approach is an eye opening way to look at a market as it allows businesses to think outside the box instead of ‘copying and fixing’ solutions that have been around for a longer period of time. The JTDB method may lead to innovation as it puts the emphasis on the customer’s job to be done, rather than on finding ways to develop a better/cheaper product that could fit in a defined and existing market.

A different way to put that, would be to remember the famous quote of Henry Ford: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Here, “people“ had a job to be done: to go from point A to point B quick. Thanks to the JTBD approach, Henry Ford could come up with a solution that was more hired (the Ford T) than the existing one (horses).


Job Statements

The job statement is the phrase that explains the job to be done. The crucial part here, is to make a simple, yet clear statement using an action verb, the object of the action, and an element of context.

Here is an example: share beautiful pictures on social media.

The job statement is not here to mention solution, nor to say what’s wrong with the existing products. It is just here to clarify the more general goal that the customer is trying to achieve. In the previous example, filters, presets and professional retouching tools, or cropping presets aren’t mentioned in the job statement, because they are part of the solution that you should come up with. That job to be done was around some years back, and the solution that was hires was Instagram.


Here are some templates that can help you create a job statement:

[ When _____ ] [ I want to _____ ] [so I can _____ ]

As a [user], I want to [do something], so I can […]

Or you can even test your company by seeing if you could fit in a JBTD:

As a [company], we help [customers], [job statement], [context]

But you may only use this one to make sure that your company responds to the job of your customer. The JTBD approach is focalized on the customer, not the company.


Let’s use these templates with the example above:

  • When I take a picture with my phone, I want to make it look professional, so I can post it on social media
  • As an iPhonographer, I want to edit my photos professionally, so I can post them on social media.
  • As a retouching app, Instagram helps ‘smartphonographers’ share beautiful images on social media, from their smartphone.
  • As a small fashion business, Magisto video maker helps me create great video ads in minutes.


What is Not a Job To Be Done

As we’ve seen above, formulating the right job statement is crucial if you want to implement a JTBD framework. Without a good job statement, coming up with an innovative, and relevant solution can be impossible.

While thinking about a job statement, there are some mistakes that need to be avoided:

1. Mention a solution in the job statement. This should be absolutely avoided as the JTBD framework exists so you can come up with innovative solutions, and not with a new version of an existing product. An example of a job statement with this mistake would be: ‘Help me floss every night.’ Why do people floss? To have healthy teeth. It’s because people want healthy teeth that they have the habit of flossing. ‘Help me make sure my teeth are healthy before I go to bed’ would be a better job statement that leaves more room for solutions and innovations.


2. Considering a task or an activity as a job statement. A job statement is broader than a task. If we stay in the hygiene niche, a job statement making this mistake would be saying ‘Help me brush my teeth twice a day.’ This one has both issues as it offers the solution to a broader problem: brushing your teeth twice a day in order to have healthy teeth, but it is also a task: brushing your teeth twice a day. Because in the mind of a customer, the point here is to execute the task, which is to brush their teeth twice a day. With such a job statement, you will only come up with a better toothbrush, instead of finding new ways to keep teeth healthy. A way that does require to brush your teeth, or a way that doesn’t require the brushing to happen twice a day, or any other groundbreaking product.


3. Considering that there are several types of jobs. Some people will say that there are three types of jobs: emotional, function, and social jobs. Most jobs are actually a combination of all these desires. Having healthy teeth is a practical job as it makes sure that you stay healthy as an individual, it’s emotional as it makes you feel clean, cared for, self-respected, and social as having healthy teeth prevents from issues such as bad breath, or an unhealthy looking smile, issues that would make social events and bonding harder.The other thing about types of jobs, is that they’re subjective.

The same effect of a product could be seen as a perfect fit for a social job for a customer, and an emotional one for another. Not having bad breath can be perceived as social job for some (like discussed above), as a function job for others (keeping your teeth healthy to specifically prevent from bad breath), or as an emotional job (knowing that your breath smells fresh makes you happy).


4. The job statement is not stable across time. Going quickly from point A to point B is a relevant job to be done as this will be a job to be done forever. Even nowadays with bikes, cars, planes, we’re still looking for new means of transportation. Faster ones, more practical ones, more affordable ones. Keeping your teeth healthy is also a permanent job to be done. You use your teeth daily and making sure that they stay healthy and working will always be a relevant job to be done.

But a statement like ‘Help me maximize my tax deductions’ is a little too specific and a little too current. How will taxes work in a couple of years? Will the point always to maximize your tax deductions? Will there be tax deductions? What if there will be something more interesting that you will be looking for regarding taxes? In this case, a job statement such as ‘Help me file and optimize my taxes’ would be more appropriate as it doesn’t provides a tool, or a specific goal. The JTBD here is to file the customer’s taxes in a way that makes the most sense to his situation, at the time taxes need to be filled, using all the levers that you have at that point to optimize the filling.


Some Examples of Job To Be Done

For a company that sells herbicides, the Job To Be Done could be to ‘prevent weeds from impacting crop yields’. The way to do so is not mentioned. This job statement doesn’t explain how to prevent them from impacting the crops. It doesn’t assume that the answer is to kill the weeds. But as a farmer, the one thing you care about, is that you don’t want to see weeds on your farm.

For a company that sells a writing app to writers, or any note taker, the job statement could be ‘As a writer, I want to have all my notes in one place and I want to find them quickly, so I can go through them easily.’ As a company, it is your job to add tags, search bars, folders and any other sorting tool in your program to make that happen.

‘As a successful entrepreneur, I want to show my wealth and sense of taste, so I can seem credible’ could be the job statement for a luxury watch brand. In this case, this company wouldn’t be selling a tool that tells time, but an item that can display some sort of social proof and social status.

Again, what truly matters in those job statements and JTBD framework, is that they are all about the customer. As a business, you need to be in your customer’s shoes, and express precisely what their job to be done is. It’s a hard exercise, and formulating an unbiased answer might take time. But it’s only by going through this process that you will successfully implement a JTBD mindset, that will lead to more innovation, and more target knowledge.


Job To Be Done and SMBs

It is of course quite daunting for a small business to try to implement the JTBD framework as it would result in drastic innovation, involving lots of high costs and a lot of risk.

The JTBD framework is usually used by larger companies that have the means to launch an innovative product, and enough marketing budget to both educate the market, and promote their new product.

However, shifting your thoughts towards the JTBD mindset can really help you get in your customer’s shoes, and focus on your customers’ needs instead of your product. The JTBD approach leads to innovation and better product market fit as the true pain point of the customer is identified, challenged, and solved, when a more traditional company would see the existing products, and would try to compete by adding features, making it less expensive, with a better design and so on.

As a small business, thinking with the JBTD approach in mind can really help you identify what your target audience truly needs and how to articulate your offer and product. The JTBD approach could be used to refine the copy of your sales page, it can be done to help you write better newsletter, it can help you create and entirely new product. That shift of perspective can really help you understand your audience more, making it easier for your to prove that your product/service, will get the job done!

As the JTBD framework is a lot more popular among bigger companies, you might want to give it a try and be ahead of your competition as a SMB owner. While your competitors will focus on the feature of their product, you’ll prove your audience that you really understand them, what they want, what they need, and you have the perfect product to fulfill all that.

Customers aren’t always attracted to shiny features and fancy websites. If they might be interested in your business, it’s because they have a job to be done, and they’re looking for who to hire. And if you can prove to them that you can do that job better than the others, you’ll be hired. It is not about that one feature of your product, or the fact that you are 5% cheaper than your competitors. It’s about how you can do that job well.

If you want to start thinking with the Job To Be Done framework in mind, don’t try to create the best version of a problem. But instead, focus on what job your customer wants to get done, and find an unusual, but highly efficient way to do it.

If you are still trying to figure out if your product is the right fit for your customers, try the JTBD method. It’s a difficult approach but it will certainly help you understand your audience better. If you think your product is not worth hiring for the job to be done, then you need a better product, or a different one.

The JTBD framework is a brilliant way to take a step back and to focus on what matters most about business: your customer. By practicing and by developing the Job To Be Done mentality, you will have more chance of actually fulfilling your customers’ needs. It takes practice to be able to view a market through your customers’ eyes, but with good practice, you’ll be able to deeply understand your clients, and you’ll be able to come up with a new, innovative way to complete that job.