Jobs to Be Done (JTBD) and Customer Development are two methods of conducting in-depth interviews. Each technique can be briefly described as follows:
- Customer Development — the interviewer looks for the customer’s pain points.
- Jobs to Be Done — the interviewer looks for tasks that the customer wants to complete.
In general, the key difference is that CustDev interviews can be carried with any person, while JTBD is most valuable for interviewing consumers who purchased products made by competitors.
When creating a product, Admitad Startups uses both CustDev and Jobs to Be Done methods.
Difference between CustDev and Jobs to Be Done
Any JTBD research starts with finding a competitor whose product we aim to overpower with our launch. Then, we reach out to customers of this brand and ask them a bunch of questions about the competing product. This way, we can understand:
- How the competitor operates
- Why customers choose to use this brand’s product
- How much money customers pay for it
- What features of this product were useful to them
- What customers are satisfied and dissatisfied with
- What task was completed when they bought this product made by our competitor, and so on.
Whereas during a CustDev research, we form a hypothesis about the target audience and find respondents based on suggested characteristics. Then we conduct a series of surveys or interviews to discover consumers’ pain points. If you want to learn more about Customer Development, check this article.
Here’s an example that will help you digest it
Let’s say that Admitad Startups wants to launch a banner ad platform.
When using Jobs to Be Done technique, we would take users of a banner ad product that already exists on the market and comes as close as possible to what’s in development at our incubator.
With CustDev, we would intentionally exclude customers of our competitors and interview respondents who had not used any solutions presented on the market. Such people have a need to place banner ads, but they somehow manage it on their own. Hence, we need to understand what they are doing in order to complete this task without turning to available market services.
What both styles of interviewing bring you
As a result of the JTBD research, we understand what product our target audience is currently using, what features it needs, and how much it’s willing to pay for them.
Customer Development interviews provide information on why consumers are reluctant to purchase products on the market, what features and functions would make them change their mind, and why they prefer to deal with their pain points alone.
So when we are building a new product, we are presented with two tasks:
- To convert users who were not ready to spend money
- To take into account the shortcomings of our competitors.
How to conduct JTBD interviews
In this section, I will describe the stages of the Jobs to Be Done study.
JTBD interviews are an important step of product development. They are conducted by a discovery team — it’s a group of employees assembled to develop and build a startup. These employees choose the interviewing methodology, come up with a list of questions, and determine the target audience. They also get other departments involved in development of a product.
A discovery team typically consists of:
- a marketer,
- an interviewer,
- an employee from the production team (designers, etc.),
- a product manager.
The request to interview and research the target audience comes from the product manager. They usually set some kind of task (for example, to develop a banner ad platform), and a discovery team formulates a hypothesis about the audience that this product could target. Then, an interviewer surveys respondents while other members of the discovery team support them with useful insights.
Segmentation of the target audience
The most important step is to define target segments accurately. The sooner we understand exactly what kind of customers we need, the faster we fine-tune our processes to collect the most useful information.
One might think that interviewing a dozen or two competitor’s customers would be enough, and there is no need for more differentiators; the key factor would be whether a consumer used the competing product. However, this approach would over-expand the scope of research. Narrowing it down instead would help a great deal.
You might want to ask, “How can I check whether I have identified the target segment?” Here’s the answer: respondents within the same segment have the same problems and needs. Therefore, you might notice that consumers talk about the same pain points, sometimes reframing it in different words. If so, it means you have identified the target segment.
Analysis of interviews
To analyze the information we gathered after conducting interviews, the discovery team transcribes them all into text files. Based on these texts, we fill out a table or canvas that contains the following rows:
- Competitor solutions — other products names by customers
- Fears — what stops consumers from buying solutions
- Contexts/triggers — what makes people look for a solution
- Small jobs — tasks that consumers want to complete
- Big jobs — ideal results that consumers wants to achieve
In this regard, it is useful to conduct Customer Development interviews in parallel — they would provide additional confirmation of whether the right conclusions were drawn. For instance, when we at Admitad Startups complete a CustDev study of consumers who have never used competitors’ products, we also fill out a table on customers’ fears, triggers, and jobs. We then compare the tables of both approaches.
If both audiences have matching problems, pain points, and big/small jobs, it means that we have successfully determined the target segment of our audience.
Example. Admitad Startups is currently building a furniture rental project called Rentomatic. After analyzing interviews, our table might look like this:
Mapping customers priorities
After completing the analysis, we move on to the next step. We gather small and big jobs from all the interviews and return to our target audience. It can be both old respondents and new ones. We then have two requests for them:
- On a scale of 1 to 10, rate how important it is to you to complete this task. (‘Importance’)
- On a scale of 1 to 10, rate how easy it is to find a solution in the market. (‘Satisfaction’)
Having received the answers, we calculate the priority according to the formula (2×Importance)−Satisfaction and transfer the results to a table with four cells:
- An important task poorly served by the market
- An important task well served by the market
- An unimportant task well served by the market
- An important task poorly served by the market
If a task is very important but already well served by the market, then we don’t need to build this product. Instead, we are looking for jobs that the client needs done but they are poorly served by existing offers.
Example. Remember our furniture rental? The table for it might look like this:
Determining customers’ stage
When using Jobs to Be Done methodology, it’s important to learn what stage the customer is on. There’s a scale that reflects how close the client comes to purchasing your solution for their task.
Example. Let’s imagine a food delivery service. Consumers who might be interested in these services have different stages of being ready for purchase:
- I came home after work. I have something in my fridge. It’s hard for me to figure out what I can cook.
- I don’t have anything in my fridge. I try to come up with what to cook, and then I shop at the convenience store.
- Instead of going to the store, I order groceries to cook my meals from a delivery service.
- I don’t want to come up with new recipes, so I order a delivery of a pre-set package of groceries.
- I don’t want to cook anything after work, so I order dishes from restaurants.
It is important to understand which of the steps the consumer is on, as well as to analyze their mentality, income level, and habits. It’s also worth considering that customers rarely jump several steps at once.
For example, a customer is currently on the “I buy products and cook myself” stage. It will be easier to move them to the “I want to cook myself, but don’t want to come up with a recipe”. However, it is unlikely that this customer jumps to the “I’d rather order ready-made food” stage.
How Admitad Startups researches its audience
I think it’s worth explaining how fast a discovery team copes with conducting interviews.
Keep in mind that lead generation is not included in the audience research. It’s a separate task that, by itself, takes a long time to complete. You can learn more about it in our article called Lead Generation at the Discovery Stage.
Therefore, we exclude the process of searching for leads and start counting from the moment we receive an already-generated list. This is the moment we begin to explore a segment of our audience.
On average, we can complete the research in 1.5–2 months. This would be enough to conduct 50 in-depth interviews. One interview lasts about an hour. So it takes us about a month to conduct interviews and another 2 weeks to analyze them.
Remember that when you create a new product, the first few interviews are spent on understanding what’s happening in the niche. So at the beginning, we always spend a few days slightly confused and trying to make sense of the responses.
The rest of the interview is a fairly straightforward process, although it has its own obstacles. Let’s talk about it in the next section.
Key challenges of using Jobs to Be Done
I would single out two main challenges when researching the target audience.
Challenge 1. Lead generation
The main problem with audience research is not the process of conducting the interview, but rather the preparation. I’m talking about the problem of finding leads. For example, we receive a request from our product manager, “We have a competitor called Company A. We need to find people in senior positions who have used their product in the last 3 months and paid at least $100 for it.” You have to be very creative to generate a list of leads according to the given criteria.
“Why do you think it’s difficult?” you might say. Actually, finding the right person in the right segment is a challenge in itself. But when we are to find leads half the world away, this is a whole other level. For instance, our team is currently located in Europe, but we mainly work with the USA and India. So we are quite often in a different time zone or have a different mentality. We are still learning to understand certain nuances. Naturally, this takes time.
Challenge 2. Asking the right questions
It is equally difficult to learn how to ask questions so that respondents provide you with all the information you need. To do this, you need to switch your mindset from sales mode to active listening.
You need to be smart about interviews. Asking “What’s your problem?” would only confuse your respondents. Also, sometimes they lie to themselves and can unintentionally give an untrue answer.
So it’s important to learn the methods and techniques of interviewing customers. You need to establish an honest connection and listen very carefully to whatever consumers are saying.
When developing a new product, Admitad Startups uses two interviewing styles — Customer Development and Jobs to Be Done — to see the clear picture of the market and client needs.
What are the differences between these methods?
- CustDev is looking for problems that consumers are struggling with.
- JTBD looks for tasks that the consumer closes using existing products on the market.
Instead of solving the problems of the target audience, our product needs to take on the task/job and complete it.
The Jobs to Be Done study has the following steps:
- Defining target segments and narrowing the search scope.
- Interview analysis — the search for recurring triggers, fears, jobs.
- Mapping priorities — the search for tasks that are important to customers but underserved by the market.
- Determining customers’ stage — building a scale that shows how ready customers are to purchase a product.
As a rule, audience research is a pretty straightforward process that does not include serious obstacles. One usually encounters the main challenge when preparing for interviews — it’s the lead generation. When this problem is out of the way, it’s crucial to know the correct method of interviewing respondents. After that, you are good to go and talk to customers.