Jobs To Be Done: Definition, Examples, and Framework for Your Business

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Discover jobs to be done (JTBD), an important theory for boosting business innovation and understanding customers, and apply it to your business.

[Featured image] A sales rep considers jobs to be done theory while working on sales strategy.

Jobs to be done definition 

Jobs to be done (JTBD) refers to a business theory, framework, and perspective on why customers buy products. Jobs to be done theory, also called jobs theory, posits that people don’t buy products; they “hire” them to do jobs, such as solving a problem or fulfilling a desire. 

When you think in terms of jobs to be done theory, you focus more on a customer’s circumstances—what they experience that leads them to make a purchase—than their demographic or psychographic profile such as age, level of education, and value system. While you may notice some correlation between sales and the demographics or psychographics of the customers, customer attributes do not equate to causation. Purchase decisions, according to JTBD theory, are determined by a product’s ability to get a job done effectively and at the best price.

So what is a job to be done? 

Now that you know the definition of jobs to be done as a theory and framework let’s explore what a job to be done actually is. Here are some ways to think about it: 

  • Something a customer wants to accomplish in a specific situation or circumstance 

  • A metaphor to refer to what customers want from the products they buy  

  • Something functional in a customer’s life, with emotional and social components 

Jobs to be done examples 

Use the following examples of jobs products can do as inspiration for applying JTBD theory in your work. 

Get my clothes clean and fresh: “Hire” laundry detergent to deliver the result. 

Nourish my body: “Hire” vitamins, supplements, and healthy food. 

Find my documents easily: “Hire” a digital app for note taking and file storage.  

Did you know? Jobs to be done originated from a concept called Outcome-Driven Innovation (ODI). ODI was developed by Tony Ulwick, founder of the innovative consulting firm Strategym. Ulwick later introduced ODI to Clayton Christensen, a Harvard Professor, who popularized ODI and called it jobs to be done. 

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Why is the jobs to be done framework important? 

You can use the JTBD framework to benefit your business in several ways:

  • Reveal your customers’ true needs and desires. What is their objective or desired outcome for a given situation? 

  • Develop products that meet needs and fulfill desires. 

  • Design memorable customer experiences. 

  • Predict how your innovations will fare on the market. 

  • Inform marketing content and messaging that speaks to the fulfillment of customers’ needs and desires.   

  • Develop a JTBD-inspired business plan centered around customers’ needs and desires to guide your business decisions. 

To gain a deeper understanding of JTBD, watch this video from the Hubspot Sales Representative Professional Certificate. 

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How to use jobs theory to understand customer motivation

How to identify jobs to be done in your business 

Jobs to be done as a business approach can work for any type of product or industry. Follow these steps to discover more about your target customers and the jobs your products can perform for them. 

1. Identify unmet customer needs.

Ask yourself the following questions: 

  • What pain points do my customers have in common? 

  • What do they currently lack? 

  • What challenges exist for them? 

2. Determine customers’ desired outcomes. 

Without reference to your products or solutions you currently provide, complete the following phrases as though you were the customer: 

  • Help me do ________. 

  • Help me to avoid ________.

  • I need to _______. 

For example, “Help me save time in the morning” or “I need to take more clothes when I travel” articulate desires and could lead to product ideas such as an app for scheduling morning routines or a carry-on suitcase with more storage compartments. 

You may find it helpful to ask customers and prospects to complete these phrases so that you can gather a variety of jobs to be done insights.  

3. Answer key JTBD questions. 

  • What does a customer want to achieve in a particular circumstance? 

  • What could help the customer achieve this, such as resources, tools, or information? 

  • What constraints keep the customer from achieving the desired outcome, such as not having access to needed resources or doubting their abilities? 

  • What are the functional aspects of what they need done? What will it help them do, such as complete a task more efficiently or avoid tasks they don’t want to do? 

  • What social or emotional factors correspond to a customer’s objective, including how they want to feel and be perceived by others?

4. Create a jobs to be done statement. 

Using the ideas you gathered in steps 1, 2, and 3, construct a jobs to be done statement that can lead to more product innovations. Draw from the template and music streaming example below.  

Jobs to be done templateStatement example
I want to (desire/motivation)I want to listen to my favorite songs
when (situation/context)while exercising
so that I can (outcome/result)so that I can feel motivated and inspired
without (pain point/constraint).without having to listen to commercials or skip songs I don’t like.

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