The Ultimate Guide to Discovering Customer Needs – Part 2: Jobs to be Done

The Ultimate Guide to Discovering Customer Needs – Part 2: Jobs to be Done


In our article What I learned building 20+ startups in 5 years we touched on the Three Levels of Customer Insight: Critical Pains, Jobs to be Done, and Zeitgeist.

In this three-part article we'll unpack each of the three levels further, and show you how to discover your customer needs even before they do so themselves.

Why build an Audience?

If you want to sell anything online, you need people to sell to.

It's as simple as that.

You also need a product that people want to spend their money on.

Nobody is going to open up their wallet for something they have no need for.

Every product solves a problem.

So the best way to come up with new products, is to understand people's problems.

And to understand people's problems, we need to understand them.

Like, really understand them.

Not just on the immediate problems they face, but why that something is a problem for them.

What are their hopes and dreams? What are their passions? What keeps them up at night?

This is what people mean when they talk about empathy for your audience.

Source: Tenor

Critical Pains are the low-hanging fruit of product opportunity.

They are just the first layer of understanding. We covered Critical Pains In Part 1 of this series.

In this article we go one level deeper. We will look at Jobs to be Done.

Jobs to be Done

Critical pains usually are problems, needs and obstacles your customer faces.

They stand in between your customer, and what they are trying to achieve.


That second part – what they are trying to achieve – tells you a lot about someone.

It is their Job to be Done.

In Part 1 we posed:

A product that doesn't solve a problem is either waste, or art.

Although you could argue art addresses a Job to be Done – f.i. to signal intellect, or creating an atmosphere.

This teaches us JTBD can be addressed with a solution, even without there being an immediate, Critical Pain.

What are JTBD?

Pains are symptoms. We want to treat the disease.

If your audience is on a journey, Jobs to be Done are their goals.

This does not have to be some grandiose mission.

It could just be: Eat a healthy breakfast.

Pains related to 'Eating a healthy breakfast' could be:

I don't have the time to prepare breakfast, and the only available on-the-go breakfast is fast food.

Understanding this creates the opportunity for a healthy, on-the-go breakfast.

Or an alternative to eating breakfast such as Joylent.

In the case of eating breakfast, doing nothing – not eating breakfast, is also an alternative.

The alternative to many products or services is simply: do nothing. It's your fiercest competitor.

Functional, Emotional & Social.

Jobs aren't just about function. They can have strong social and emotional dimensions.

Jobs aren't always as functional as 'eating a healthy breakfast'.

For example, if your healthy, on-the-go breakfast product isn't "instagrammable", it might lose to a more aesthetic alternative, like a gluten-free Unicorn-shake with a misspelt name on it.

Source: Tenor

People are social by nature, and they will show you through their actions.

Keep this in mind during your quest to understand your audience.


Jobs aren't one dimensional. They can be multi-faceted.

Jobs can be both functional and social and emotional.

Furthermore, we differentiate between Main jobs to be done, and Related jobs to be done.


A personal example:

At Venturism, we noticed that the first thing NoCoders do with a new idea is:

1) buy a domain, and 2) build a landing page.

As a result thousands of people are building landing pages for products they might not ever launch. It's time consuming. Time they want to spend building and selling their actual ideas.

Judging by the amount of 'faster, drag & drop landing page builders' out there, we were not the only ones to spot the opportunity.

But instead of taking the problem at face value, we asked ourselves:

Why are people spending so much time building landing pages?

The answer is obvious:

Because they want to show off and sell their products. That's the JTBD.

Building a landing page is just a Related Job.

So instead of a faster landing-page builder, we built a better way to Shape, Share and Sell your Products Online: Sneak-Peek.

Here's Marcus setting up a sales page in 2 min, ready to take pre-orders.

How to Validate JTBD?

Validating JTBD is simple. Just ask why? a lot.

Three ways to validate your audience's JTBD:

  1. Observation
  2. Interviews
  3. Alternatives


People's behaviour leaves clues.

Look at the way your audience interacts with their surroundings.

Which tools do they use? Which channels are they on? Which people are their heroes?

Then ask yourself: Why these tools, channels and people?

What does it tell me about their goals across all the dimensions (functional, emotional, social, personal).


Interviewing is the best way to understand your customers.

People are more articulate than you think when it comes to their problems and goals.

Similar as with observation, ask why a lot. Only ask the interviewee this time.

Ask them about their goals:

"What were you trying to achieve when you encountered the problem. Why? Why? Why?"

Source: Giphy


A great way to find out what people's JTBD are is to ask them about their current solution to the problem, and what they would do if that solution was not available to them anymore.

Understanding what alternatives people consider, tells you a lot about whom you compete with in their mind.

In the classic example by Clayton Christensen, the McDonald's milkshake didn't compete with other drinks, but with other breakfast options and even radio – the JTBD was entertainment on their car-commute to work

So yeah, alternatives.

Understanding Jobs to be Done will give you a better understanding of your customer than 99% of people.

There is one last level of Customer Insight to explore however: Zeitgeist.

More on that next time!

One more Thing...

If you're interested in how to discover your customer's jobs to be done:


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See you next time.

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