How to Identify Customer Needs Using the JTBD Framework?

An engaging and vibrant digital image depicting a diverse group of people engaged in various activities like using smartphones, shopping, working out depicting JTBD

In the evolving landscape of business and innovation, understanding the core needs of customers is more crucial than ever. The Jobs to Be Done (JTBD) framework emerges as a beacon, guiding businesses to decipher what customers truly seek. The JTBD concept was popularized by Harvard Business professor Clayton Christensen. This guide delves deep into the art and science of identifying customer needs using JTBD, a methodology that transcends conventional market research by focusing on the tasks customers are trying to accomplish.

The JTBD framework is not just a tool; it’s a mindset shift. It involves looking beyond superficial customer demographics or product specifications to uncover the underlying motives driving customer behavior. This approach has revolutionized product development and customer experience across various industries. By the end of this guide, you’ll have a robust understanding of JTBD, practical strategies to implement it, and the know-how to innovate with the customer at the heart of your decision-making.

1: Understanding the JTBD Framework

What is the JTBD Framework?

At its core, the JTBD framework is a lens through which to view your customers’ needs. It’s based on the premise that customers ‘hire’ products or services to get specific ‘jobs’ done. These jobs can be functional (e.g., cutting a piece of wood), emotional (e.g., feeling secure), or social (e.g., gaining status).

JTBD vs. Traditional Market Segmentation

Traditional market segmentation categorizes customers based on demographics or psychographics. JTBD, on the other hand, groups customers based on the tasks they are trying to accomplish. This shift in perspective allows businesses to focus on customer motivation, leading to more targeted and effective solutions.

Real-World Examples

Consider how digital streaming services disrupted the entertainment industry. They didn’t just offer more content; they did a specific job for customers: providing convenient, on-demand entertainment, which traditional cable services were not addressing effectively.

2: Preparing for JTBD Analysis

Setting Objectives

Before diving into JTBD analysis, it’s crucial to define what you aim to achieve. Are you looking to innovate a new product, improve an existing service, or enter a new market? Clear objectives guide your research and analysis.

Assembling the Right Team

JTBD analysis is multidisciplinary. Include members from product development, marketing, customer service, and even finance. This diversity ensures a comprehensive understanding of customer jobs from various perspectives.

Tools and Resources

Equip your team with the right tools—customer interview guides, survey tools, and data analysis software. Remember, the quality of your tools can significantly impact the insights you gather.

3: Identifying Customer Jobs

Techniques for Identifying ‘Jobs’

Discovering the ‘jobs’ customers are trying to get done involves keen observation and listening. Start with in-depth customer interviews, focusing on the tasks they are trying to accomplish rather than their opinions about existing products. Surveys can also be useful, but they should be open-ended to capture the customer’s voice and story.

The Role of Qualitative Research

Qualitative research methods like one-on-one interviews and ethnographic studies are invaluable. They allow you to observe not just what customers say, but also what they do. This can reveal hidden jobs that customers themselves might not be consciously aware of.

Analyzing Customer Language and Behavior

Pay close attention to the language customers use. Phrases like “I wish I could…” or “I struggle with…” are goldmines for uncovering jobs. Also, look for workarounds or makeshift solutions customers have created – these are clear indicators of unmet needs.

4: Categorizing the Jobs

Functional, Emotional, and Social Jobs

Jobs can be categorized into functional (practical tasks), emotional (how customers want to feel or avoid feeling), and social (how customers want to be perceived). For instance, a smartphone does the functional job of communication, the emotional job of providing a sense of connection, and the social job of signifying status.

Real-World Examples for Each Category

Consider a coffee shop scenario. The functional job is serving coffee. The emotional job could be providing a sense of warmth and comfort. Socially, it might serve as a place for socializing or as a symbol of a lifestyle.

5: Prioritizing Customer Jobs

Methods for Prioritization

After identifying a range of customer jobs, prioritize them based on factors like frequency of the job, its importance to the customer, and current satisfaction levels. This helps in focusing on the jobs that matter most.

Balancing Business Objectives

Your business goals must align with customer jobs. For example, if innovation is a priority, focus on jobs that are poorly served by current market offerings. If growth is the goal, look for the most common and impactful jobs.

6: Translating Jobs into Opportunities

From Insight to Action

Having identified and prioritized customer jobs, the next step is to translate these insights into tangible business opportunities. This involves brainstorming sessions where you ideate product features, service enhancements, or entirely new offerings that address the prioritized jobs.

Iterative Prototyping and Testing

Develop prototypes or conceptual models based on these ideas. Use rapid, iterative testing with real customers to validate if the new concepts truly address the jobs effectively. This step is crucial in refining your solution to best fit customer needs.

Case Study: Successful Innovations from JTBD

An illustrative case study could be the evolution of smartphones. Early mobile phones simply did the functional job of communication. Smartphones, however, evolved to address a broader range of jobs – organizing schedules, accessing the internet, social networking, and even status symbols, thus capturing a larger market share.

7: Avoiding Common Pitfalls

Common Mistakes in JTBD Analysis

One common mistake is focusing too narrowly on current customer behaviors and not exploring potential unmet jobs. Another is conflating customer jobs with product features – remember, jobs are about customer needs, not your product.

The Importance of Continual Learning

JTBD is not a one-time analysis. Markets evolve, and so do customer jobs. Regularly revisiting and updating your JTBD analysis is crucial for staying relevant and ahead of competition.

8: Advanced JTBD Techniques

Job Mapping

Delve deeper into job mapping – breaking down a job into specific steps, understanding the customer’s mindset at each step, and identifying pain points and opportunities.

Leveraging Technology in JTBD

Discuss how advancements in data analytics and AI can augment JTBD analysis, like using machine learning to analyze customer feedback data for patterns that might indicate emerging jobs.


The JTBD framework is more than a tool; it’s a mindset that places the customer’s needs at the center of your business strategy. By understanding and prioritizing the jobs your customers are trying to get done, you can innovate more effectively and create products and services that truly resonate with your market.

This guide provides not just a theoretical overview, but practical, actionable steps to implement JTBD in your business, along with insights into avoiding common pitfalls and leveraging advanced techniques.

Remember, the ultimate goal of JTBD is to create value – for your customers and your business. Embrace this framework, and watch your innovation efforts align more closely with what your customers truly want and need.

Ready to Revolutionize Your Approach to Innovation?

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Example JTBD Statements Generated by our AI Tool

Product Sunglasses:

Persona 1:

A. Core Functional Job:
As a professional athlete… I want to shield my eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays and glare during outdoor sports activities. I want to enhance my performance by improving visibility and reducing eye strain.

B. Emotional Job:
I want to feel confident and stylish while wearing sunglasses during my outdoor sports activities. I want to project a cool and fashionable image to others.

C. Social Job:
I want to connect with other athletes and build a sense of belonging in the sporting community. I want to be recognized and respected for my dedication to my sport.

Persona 2:

A. Core Functional Job:
As a beachgoer… I want to protect my eyes from the sun’s intense brightness and harmful UV rays while enjoying the beach. I want to comfortably enjoy the view and engage in outdoor activities.

B. Emotional Job:
I want to feel relaxed and at ease while wearing sunglasses on the beach. I want to experience a sense of calmness and serenity amidst the sun and sand.

C. Social Job:
I want to create a positive impression on others at the beach. I want to be seen as stylish, fashionable, and someone who takes care of their health and well-being.

Persona 3:

A. Core Functional Job:
As a driver… I want to reduce the glare and brightness from the sun while driving to ensure clear visibility and safety. I want to minimize eye strain and fatigue during long drives.

B. Emotional Job:
I want to feel at ease and comfortable while driving in sunny conditions. I want to experience a sense of relaxation and focus on the road ahead.

C. Social Job:
I want to appear responsible and cautious to other drivers. I want to project an image of someone who prioritizes safety and takes necessary precautions while driving.

Persona 4:

A. Core Functional Job:
As a fashion enthusiast… I want to enhance my overall look and style by pairing sunglasses with my outfits. I want to elevate my appearance and express my unique fashion sense.

B. Emotional Job:
I want to feel confident and trendy while wearing sunglasses as part of my fashion ensemble. I want to project a sense of individuality and creativity in my personal style.

C. Social Job:
I want to impress others with my fashion-forward choices. I want to receive compliments and admiration for my unique sense of style in the social circles I belong to.

Persona 5:

A. Core Functional Job:
As an outdoor adventurer… I want to protect my eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays and glare during my various outdoor activities. I want to ensure clear vision and prevent potential eye damage.

B. Emotional Job:
I want to feel empowered and fearless when facing the challenges of outdoor adventures. I want to experience a sense of freedom and excitement while exploring nature.

C. Social Job:
I want to be seen as an adventurous and outdoor-loving individual. I want to inspire and motivate others to engage in outdoor activities and appreciate nature’s beauty.

Additional Resources