How the jobs-to-be-done framework gives you real insights into customer needs

How would your business be if all your developers, marketers, salespeople, strategists, etc. shared a common understanding of: 

  • What a need is
  • Which customer needs are unmet

Having such alignment and focus changes a lot of things for the better. Developers can create features and functionality precisely tailored to meet unmet customer needs, marketers can run targeted campaigns highlighting these features, and sales teams can effectively communicate the value proposition to prospects. Such synergy not only increases your business productivity and efficiency but also ensures strategic decision-making is rooted in customer-centric insights, giving you a competitive edge in the market.

So how can such a state be achieved? 

One of the most famous and important quotes in marketing comes from Harvard professor Theodore Levitt who said: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole”.

In other words, marketers have lost the forest for the trees, and satisfying needs have become less important. 

This is the fundamental construct of the job-to-be-done framework, however, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. In this article, we will uncover the whole iceberg and acquaint you to game-changing implications. 

Because if you’re not leveraging the jobs-to-be-done framework as the foundation for customer needs, you’re (arguably) missing out on huge benefits of the theory’s utilization. 


Understanding your customer’s need

Throughout history, the main cause of failed products and services has inevitably been a misalignment with customer needs. This doesn’t come as a surprise since most product teams are misaligned in what a customer's need truly is. That’s why using such a framework (like jobs-to-be-done) will ultimately remove any friction between teams and peers. Your customer’s need is about deeply understanding the job the customers are trying to get done and the metrics they use to measure success, in relation to the job. 

And the invaluable consequence of knowing this is that your team can: 

  • Determine which needs are unmet
  • Predict which new approach and offerings will win and give you a competitive advantage in the marketplace
  • Fully align all departments to coordinate a systematic creation of customer value

The customer’s roles in JTBD

Companies serve 3 types of external customers. These 3 types of customers have 5 types of jobs they’re trying to get done, and each specific job requires a certain type of input.

So who are your customers? 

Before you can define your customer’s needs, you must first define all your customers. It sounds like an easy and straightforward task - but that’s more for the B2C companies. Many B2B companies actually struggle with this. 

The customers you serve can be categorized into 3 groups: 

  • The job performer (or executor): this is the persona that uses your product daily to get the core functional job done
  • The team that’s responsible for supporting the product lifecycle. This includes personas who install, transport, maintain, or upgrade the product. They are involved 
  • The buyer (decisionmaker): the persona responsible for making the financial purchase decision for your product

Let’s say you have a software solution in accounting. Typically, the job performer is the accountant utilizing the software on a daily. The IT administrator will be the one supporting the product lifecycle and be hands-on in making sure that the software operates and is utilized accordingly, others might be involved in this process as well. Also, make sure that integrations are up-to-date. 

These personas are hands-on with your product but they are not the decision-makers in buying your product, they might be influencers. In this example, the buyer persona might be the CFO, who will also be the one signing the contract. 

This example has been simplified and many other possibilities exist, but that’s not the point. The point is the distinction between the personas and their role in the (buyer journey), which is extremely important to understand. Because the perceived value of your product might vary depending on who the person is. And so is their job that they’re getting done.


What types of jobs are they getting done?

The JTBD framework uncovers 5 types of jobs that the job performer, the product lifecycle support team, and the decisionmaker are trying to get done. Let’s focus on the job performer and the buyer personas since they are your most important customers.

Let’s start with the job performer, there are 3 distinct jobs they’re trying to get done: 

  1. The core functional job - this is the underlying process that the job performer is trying to get done in a given situation. The main aim of any product is to help people accomplish their essential tasks more effectively, at a lower cost, and with greater efficiency than competing options.
  2. Related jobs - These additional functional tasks are what the job performers aim to complete either before, during, or after carrying out the core functional job. Understanding these extra tasks and finding any unmet needs allows a company to develop solutions that help customers achieve more goals, making its product more valuable.
  3. Emotional jobs - These statements depict how the job executor desires to be perceived or feel while carrying out the core task, including social aspects. Such insights are crucial for crafting a value proposition that combines functional and emotional elements, resonating strongly with your customers.

The purchase decision job falls under the responsibility of the decision maker, usually a C-executive. This job is being executed using a financial lens to try to decide which product to acquire. For you, It’s extremely important to know what financial and/or performance metrics are being used to make the purchase decision. By comprehending these metrics you can align your offerings with the specific needs and priorities of the decision-maker. Additionally, having insights into these metrics allows you to tailor your pricing strategies and product features to better fit the expectations and budgets of your target audience, increasing your competitiveness in the market.

Moreover, by understanding the metrics driving purchase decisions, you can effectively communicate the value proposition of your product, highlighting how they can positively impact the financial or operational performance of the prospect. 

ToFu (1)

So what does the customer’s job to be done tell you? It gives you an anchor point for “where” to create value. This can come across as a broad explanation. And the anchor itself doesn’t necessarily contain enough information as to how to be successful in the market. 

For example, knowing that a business is struggling to manage its monthly spending doesn’t inform us specifically where in the job they’re struggling. 

To get a deep understanding of your customer’s job-to-be-done, you must be able to discover your customer’s needs that are associated with getting the job done. In other words, study the customer’s core functional job as a process. 

How can this be done as effectively as possible? 

As done In the 2008 Harvard Business Review article, the core functional job can be broken down into steps - The Customer-Centered Innovation Map. And each step in the job can be tied to a metric - which we call the preferred outcome. The first step in understanding your customer needs through the JTBD-framework begins with creating a job map. 

It’s easy to think that a job map is a process map or a customer journey map, but it isn’t. Because a job map does not describe what your customer is doing - instead, it focuses on what your customer is trying to accomplish. By mapping your customer’s job map you’ll be able to reveal opportunities that will assist them in getting the job done better.

So how does this tie into your marketing strategy and efforts? 

Knowing your customer’s desired outcome will help you a) have a deeper understanding of their pain points and goals, and b) tie in your value proposition(s) to your customer’s desired outcome. 


How do you use JTBD in your SEO Content Strategy?

We see JTBD as an indication of someone's pain point that your product helps solve, or that your product helps them achieve a desired outcome, getting their job done effectively and successfully. 

In SEO, we call them JBTD-keywords - which are search queries that are related to the above. The searcher might not be explicitly searching for your product or competitor, but they need to accomplish something or solve a specific problem. And their search query indicates that it’s something your product can help with. A lot of times JTBD keywords start with a “how to”. 

Let us give you an example (assume your main product is accounting software for SMEs): John is a prospect and is the CFO of a fast-growing B2B SaaS startup. He’s still using spreadsheets to manage the financials and the number of worksheets he uses has reached a point where it’s too much to manage.

Since B2B buyers spend the highest percentage of their buying journey researching independently (Gartner, 2019). John starts doing his research online.

He Googles “how to consolidate financial statements in Excel” and “how to create accurate reports with Excel” - he aims to streamline administrative tasks and avoid data manipulation, freeing up more of his time for other priorities. As the business grows, so does the number of worksheets on Excel, and the number of spreadsheets that cross reference is getting unmanageable. 

He finds your website and lands on an article that emphasizes his pain points, provides valuable guidance, and offers your accounting software as a solution to his challenges.

If he doesn’t convert (likely he will) - he applies the insights you provided. Some tactics work, some don’t. 

The content helped John get to his desired state. So it became a go-to resource 

Thus, your brand evolved into a trusted go-to resource, capturing the attention and preference of John and many others in similar positions.


How to find Job-to-be-done keywords

To best way to find these types of keywords is by, unsurprisingly, by knowing what pain points you help your customers solve. You probably have a relatively good understanding of it already, but you need to get deep into the various intricacies of how your product benefits users across all different levels, while also grasping the diverse ways in which users articulate their needs and tasks. 

So where do you get the information? 

The answer is simple: from your customers and prospects. You can get that from: 

  • Customer inquiries (emails, social messages, forms)
  • Demo recordings
  • Interviewing internal experts in your business (including sales, support, customer success, and product manager)
  • Support tickets and customer service emails 
  • Leveraging SEO analytics software to potentially find interrelated topics and keywords
  • Looking at People Also Asked, Google Autosuggest, and Related Searches 

There's no shortcut to this; to uncover these various keyword perspectives, you must intimately grasp the issues you address, empathize with the mindset of those seeking a solution to the pain, and comprehend the terminology they use in their online searches.

Here are example questions that you could ask within different functions of your team: 

  • Why did (customer name) buy our product/service? (sales) 
  • What challenge did they have prior to buying? (sales)
  • What alternative options did they look at prior to purchasing? (sales) 
  • Why did they end up going with us over the alternatives? (sales)
  • What part of the product or service do your customers get the most value from? (customer success)
  • What other decision-makers were involved in the buying process? (sales)

Ideally, you want to speak directly with your customer to get an even deeper understanding of the pain points your product helped solve, and any additional benefits. In that case, you could ask questions such as: 

  • What is the primary benefit that you have received from product/service name?
  • What are the top 3 benefits that you get from product/service name?
  • How would you feel if you could no longer use product/service name? Why?
  • What would you likely use as an alternative to product/service name if it were no longer available?
  • How would you describe product/service name?
  • What other roles or titles besides yours do you think would get a big benefit from product/service name?
  • How could we improve product/service name to better meet your needs?
  • What problem were you trying to solve when you initially came across product name?


The core of wiring JTBD posts is addressing the search intent accurately and transparently. Begin by furnishing readers with the necessary information to accomplish their task. Afterward, present a compelling and up-front case for considering alternative solutions (yours) in the future.

The utilization of JTBD keywords is important for leveraging the power of pain point SEO. After covering category and competitor keywords, integrating JTBD keywords will unlock a wealth of content ideas with substantial buying intent. This approach allows you to effectively drive leads and sales over time with sustained content marketing and SEO.