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Credit by: Mihai Ionescu

Marketers have tried for many, many years to mach products or services to all sorts of demographic, professional or geographic segments of the market and they have built, again and again, more and more sophisticated STP (Segmenting, Targeting, Positioning) approaches, which worked in some cases, but had questionable results in others. Prof. Clayton Christensen has provided us an explanation for the later cases:

The correct unit of measure should be the JOB that the customer is trying to do, rather than the customer, as an entity with its various characteristics

If you don't agree with the statement above, it's doubtful that the rest of the article will make sense to you, however, I'd encourage you to read on, for other reasons that you'll discover yourself.

What Jobs-to-Be-Done?

If we don't rely on the traditional market segmentation, the question is: what should we look for, in order to understand customers' Jobs? Should we try to identify categories of Jobs that customers typically need to do, instead of the usual market segments or customer groups? Should we characterize such Jobs according to the type of reasons that drive the customer to do them? Moreover, what essential criteria would determine the customers to employ our products or services for doing their Jobs?

In searching for the answers to these questions, let's consider this diagram:

On the left side, we have the usual types of reasons that may generate the Job that the customer needs to do. So, instead of talking about customer's characteristics, as an entity (age, gender, profession, education, geography, etc.), we are looking at the types of reasons that may generate customers' Jobs. For instance:

  • Comfort: desire for enjoyment, fun, emotions or novelty, for delight, familiarity or special care, for originality or for belonging to an elite or special group, for luxury or for certain vanity satisfaction, etc.

  • Aspiration: need for more efficiency, speed or time to do a certain task, for functionality, versatility or trace-ability, for specificity or proficiency, for ubiquity, better usability or user experience, etc.

  • Dissatisfaction: addressing discomfort, misfit, mistreatment or time waste, high upfront costs, ownership costs or depreciation, lack of choices, obsolescence, uncertainty or volatility, etc.

  • Constraint: dealing with budget or income limitations, with compliance to regulations or to the provisions of the law, with norms or standards, with backward incompatibility or the lack of inter-operability, with safety or security needs, etc.

On the right side, we have the types of criteria that drive customer's choice for selecting a Way-of-Doing the Job, leading to the decision to employ our products or services for that Job, or not. For instance:

  • Value: purchase price, cost of ownership, payment terms, quality, completeness or durability, purchase options, added-value information or services, inovativeness, emotional value or value that was not available before, etc.

  • Usability: functional features or versatility, user experience or use familiarity, simplicity or quick learning curve, support for adoption or for best usage/operation

  • Fitness: budget or income compatibility, legacy or associated Jobs compatibility, modularity or inter-changeability, sales channel or support functions' compatibility with buyer's specific circumstances

  • Accessibility: access to add-on functions, options or consumables, access to support for buying or for using the solution, proximity or ease of access to the sales channel or to the support functions, access to products/services that are using limited/rare resources, or access to unique capabilities or expertise

We hope that such a way of characterizing the reasons that generate Jobs-to-Be-Done and the criteria for selecting the Ways-of-Doing them will help us clarify which are the Strategic Choices available to us for building Value Propositions that will:

  • Best target the Jobs that the customers need to

  • Doprovide the customers with the best Ways of Doing their jobs

A quote from Clayton Christensen's book might provide us with an even better context:

People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole. Customers don’t want products, they want solutions to their problems.

Strategy: more than one Job-to-Be-Done

Irrespective of how intuitive might be the examples given by Prof. Clayton Christensen in his book and lectures, they only represent instances of what the Strategy should focus on. Why? Because we may need multiple Value Propositions to address a mix of related customer Jobs (current/next or future) and the associated ways of Doing them. Let's take an example, to clarify this.

Jobs-to-Be-Done: Airbnb

The example is Airbnb, world's largest private travel residential reservation network. In their case, we can identify the following mix of Jobs and ways of Doing them.

  • Job#1 (travelers - accommodation): Find a place to stay during travel. The way of Doing the Job (Value Proposition): rent a room, apartment or home from private hosts, using Airbnb's online platform, at prices that are usually lower than those of the main hotels in the area.

  • Job #2 (hosts - accommodation): Get an extra revenue by short-term renting available spare rooms, apartments or homes. The way of Doing the Job (Value Proposition), from Airbnb: 'Earn money as an Airbnb host', using Airbnb's online platform and reaching travelers worldwide with professional help for presenting the offer in an attractive way.

  • Job#3 (travelers - experiences): Find a interesting or exciting destination to travel to and enjoy experiences. The way of Doing the Job (Value Proposition), from Airbnb: 'Welcome to the world of trips - homes, experiences, and places - all in one app'...

  • Job #4 (hosts - experiences): Earn extra money by welcoming others along in your city. The way of Doing the Job (Value Proposition) proposed by Airbnb: Create unique experiences around your city, using Airbnb's online platform and smartphone app.

We can look into many other examples like this, but I hope that we can already grasp the idea that our Strategic Choices might need to target more than a single pair of {customer Job + way of Doing it} with appropriate Value Propositions.

What Strategic Choices?

The where-to-play Strategic Choices are the Market Boundaries within which we are targeting market segments, product categories, stages of production, and so on. However, as mentioned above by Prof. Clayton Christensen, it makes more sense to target the JOBS that the customers need to do, rather than the customers themselves, irrespective of the traditional market segments they may belong to.

There has to be a link between the categories of where-to-play Strategic Choices and customers' Jobs-to-Be-Done types

The how-to-win Strategic Choices are the Competitive Factors that may convince the customers to buy our products or services. However, as highlighted above, the customers will employ our products or services to Do their Jobs, only if the way of Doing the Jobs will satisfy certain selection criteria.

There has to be a link between the categories of how-to-win Strategic Choices and the Ways-of-Doing customers' Jobs types

This intuitive link between the Jobs-to-Be-Done and Ways-of-Doing them, on one side, and the Strategic Choices and Value Propositions, on the other side, may be illustrated like this:

Linking Jobs-to-Be-Done to Strategic Choices

In describing the link between the types of Jobs-to-Be-Done and the Ways-of-Doing them with the categories of Strategic Choices that define our Strategic Positioning, we can use a template like this. The twenty Strategic Choices categories on the right side of the template (click the image to enlarge) are part of the Penta Model, which is described in detail in the article What Strategic Choices Do We have?

The first observation about this template is that it implies that we have a mix of Strategic Choices that are used for the currently-addressed set of Job-to-Be-Done (or the next ones), but also for the future Jobs-to-Be-Done. In other words, our Strategic Positioning (defined by our selection of Strategic Choices) would remain nearly the same for a sequence of Jobs-to-Be-Done, during a certain time-frame that is usually called Strategic Horizon.

Is this how it's supposed to happen? Let's think about this, for a moment. If we assume that (a) every time we identify the opportunity of a new set of Jobs-to-Be-Done and we design a corresponding set of Value Propositions (built around a new product or service), aiming to make it the preferred Way-of-Doing, and (b) we also redefine each time our Strategy, by using a different mix of Strategic Choices ... well, we'll soon find out that neither our customers, nor our employees, will be able to tell which is our Strategy and where is our company headed to.

That's why our Strategy and Strategic Positioning (mix of Strategic Choices) needs to remain the same, as much as possible, for any specific Strategic Horizon time-frame, during which we have to build our [transient] Competitive Advantage, as part of the Competitive Advantage Cycle, based on a sequence of multiple Jobs-to-Be-Done and corresponding Ways-of-Doing them (Value Propositions).

In Airbnb's example, the mix of Strategic Choices selected to define their Strategic Positioning may be the following ones (for more details, see the Penta Model, which is described in detail in the article What Strategic Choices Do We Have?):

Market Boundaries (where-to-play choices):

  • B1 - Customer Proximity (website and smartphone app for direct services access)

  • D1 - Substitute Market (substitutes for hotel accommodation and travel agencies)

  • E1 - Trend Market (booking performed exclusively over the Internet and via smartphone apps)

Competitive Factors (how-to-win choices):

  • F1 - Lowest Cost (private homes that have not been purposely built for tourist accommodation and no travel agencies booking fees incurred)

  • G1 - Customer Intimacy (offer best customer experience in choosing an accommodation or experience, with high-quality pictures and videos)

  • G2 - Added Value (adding experiences to accommodation/trip)

  • H2 - Platform System (hosts can access the critical mass of Airbnb travelers)

  • I2 - Unique Advantage (capabilities to bring in more hosts and professionally prepare the presentations of their homes and experiences).

Linking Jobs-to-Be-Done to Value Propositions

Speaking of Value Propositions, let's push the link one step further and bring them into the picture, as well. Their role is to substantiate in practical and tangible terms our proposed Ways-of-Doing customers' Jobs. Here is a template that illustrates this:

Since Prof. Philip Kotler has brought the 4 Ps of Marketing to the forefront of business management, in his book Marketing Management (Prentice Hall, 1993), a lot of people tried to build 'better mouse taps', creating 5 Ps, 6Ps or 7Ps of Marketing. But the reality confirmed by the market, again and again, is that Kotler's 4Ps of marketing remain king. The 4Ps define what is called the marketing mix and this is also the best way to structure our Value Proposition, along our customer relationship life-cycle.

The Value Proposition customizes our Strategic Positioning (the mix of Strategic Choices) into the tangible marketing mix components (product attributes, sales channels, partners, promotion, pricing, customer support, etc.) that may allow us to successfully influence customers' buying decision about the Ways-of-Doing their Jobs (customer acquisition) and secure their longest possible retention.

The sequence of successive Jobs-to-Be-Done that are aligned with our Strategic Choices, along the Strategic Horizon, is always matched by a sequence of Value Propositions, which are developed starting from (a) the customers' Jobs-to-Be-Done, (b) the Ways-of-Doing those Jobs and guided by (c) the Strategic Choices that define our Strategic Positioning.

In the example of Airbnb, you can quickly spot the four Value Propositions that address the four customers' Jobs-to-Be-Done, for travelers (accommodation + experiences) and for private hosts (renting spare rooms and delivering experiences).

Just to give an example that all the marketing mix elements are in place, notice Airbnb's travel credit and gift cards, used as Rewards (Pricing) or the guidebooks and the responsible hosting guides, used as Value-Add, as well as the smartphone app, making services even more accessible and versatile (Product). Scroll to the bottom of Airbnb's homepage to find some of them (click on 'Terms, Privacy, Currency and More').

Linking the Jobs-to-Be-Done to the Strategic Business Model

Since the Strategic Choices and the Value Propositions have to be supported by the Capabilities System, the Jobs-to-Be-Done are further linked to the Strategic Business Model that identifies the capabilities that have to be developed, created or acquired, as well as the costs structure and revenues streams that have to confirm the viability of the Competitive Advantage that we aim to obtain.

The template below illustrates the final linkage to the Strategic Business Model.

As in the case of the Strategic Choices, the Capabilities System should be designed for supporting the current/next Jobs-to-Be-Done and Value Propositions, but also the future ones (along the Strategic Horizon), with as much possible re-utilization of the capabilities already developed for the current/next Jobs-to-Be-Done.

Observation: If you are familiar with the Capabilities-Driven Strategy model (Strategy&), please observe that we are talking about a different logic here, because their model mandates that we should adopt only those Strategic Choices that reuse at the maximum extent our Core/Differentiating Capabilities (for having 'the Right to Win'), which is in fact the other way around of what we've described (Capabilities System → Strategic Choices versus Strategic Choices → Capabilities System).

At the end, I'll leave you the pleasure of a self-paced collaborative exercise to identify what capabilities had Airbnb to include into their Capabilities System, in order to support the addressed Jobs-to-Be-Done, selected Strategic Choices mix and the ways of Doing each Job (the Value Propositions). Consider the ten capabilities categories in the template above and note that any one capability may be common for multiple Jobs-to-Be-Done and Ways-of-Doing them (Value Propositions) that co-exist at the same moment in time.

Suggestion - use the following method:

Draw the templates on several sheets of flip-chart paper, or on a white-board, or draw them on your computer and use a video projector to put them on the wallInvite your colleagues to write down on post-it notes the capabilities they believe to be required, marking on the corner of the post-it note the capability category codeUse an auto-filtering rule, to force prioritization. For example: 'Use a maximum of 5 post-it notes and place them in at least three template cells.'Filter the overlapping suggestions (same capability, described with different words by different people) and summarize them. You're done!

Where to go from here? Read the article Strategic Objectives 'magic hat' (Where do Strategic Objectivs come from) and I'm sure that ideas will quickly come to you about the way forward.

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