Stop Selling Features and Start Selling ‘Jobs to Be Done’

How much do you really know about your customers?

After collecting vast amounts of data at blinding speeds, running it all through AI analysis engines and having data specialists interpret the results, most companies are still not connecting with their target customers.


Experienced managers still struggle with separating causation from causality in extrapolating customer motivation from marketing data.

Demographic data might tell you that 63 percent of customers are 49–55 years old, drive a hybrid and shopped for organic food online in the past 30 days. Those are all interesting correlative data points, but they can’t guide you in creating messaging that motivates them to purchase.

Advertisers may find these details useful in crafting look-alike audiences but that doesn’t help sales managers who want to spur tire kickers into buyers. A more intelligent approach has emerged from Harvard Business School, called the “Theory of Jobs to Be Done.” It was created to explain and predict the behavior of companies ripe for disruption, and warn them about which new competitors posed the most urgent challenges to the status quo.

Disruptors don’t normally address what customers want, but what they need to accomplish based on how society has changed. A good example involves a condo construction company in Detroit. They targeted retirees moving out of the family home into apartments. All of their ads, market research and demographic targeting data ended up doing nothing for sales. Lots of foot traffic, no conversions.

Introducing the ‘Job to Be Done’

They discovered using the “job to be done” methodology that people weren’t really looking for new places to live.

They wanted to know what to do with their dining room tables. For these potential customers, the dining room table was more than merely a piece of furniture. It represented a way of life centered around the family.

To move from a house to a condo, they needed help in reimagining a new life for themselves. Innovation consultant Bob Moesta explained, “I went in thinking we were in the business of new-home construction. But I realized we were in the business of moving lives.” They included free storage for two years, a larger dining area and a sorting room to help families evaluate their personal belongings and sales started booming.

“I went in thinking we were in the business of new-home construction. But I realized we were in the business of moving lives.”

Define Your Company’s ‘Job To Be Done’

To help redefine what business your company is really in, map the customer journey and understand your customers’ circumstances during their purchasing decision. The circumstances are often times more important than customer characteristics, product attributes, new technologies, or trends.

Questions you could ask to help figure this out:

  • What prompted the need to even start looking for a solution to your problem?
  • Can you walk me through the first time you realized you even had a need for x service/product?
  • What other places have you looked for solutions?
  • Why has prevented you from finding a solution thus far?
  • If you can’t find a solution for your problem, can you walk me through how you would solve it yourself?

How Our Software Product (Helium) Found the Job to Be Done

This is how we came to the concept behind Helium. We created Helium as a way to give smaller nonprofits on a limited budget a beautiful website without having to spend a fortune. At first we kept pitching all the features of the website, we thought our customers were simply buying a new website but we discovered it is much more than that — they’re buying risk mitigation.

Sure, they needed a new website but that turned out to be just part of the puzzle. These nonprofits are small and don’t have a lot of resources to dedicate towards a website overhaul. A website overhaul is a big undertaking and often times nonprofits don’t realize they may have chosen the wrong partner until it’s too late.

Common questions we hear; How do I know if I am picking the right technology? What will I do with all my old content? Will this website do everything I need it to do? Are you going to be able to tell my story? How do I know I am making the right decision? What happens if we’re not happy with the new website?

Making the wrong decision can be quite costly, both in time and money.

That’s what Helium does, it helps mitigate risk.

How? Pay monthly and cancel anytime. Don’t spend $15,000 — $20,000 before you even see what it is you’re getting.

You pay a flat monthly fee and are free to cancel anytime, improving your risk mitigation position and making your funding goals more manageable. Many nonprofits can’t afford to take resources away from their mission goals to invest $15k to $20k in a new website — then find out it’s not at all what you wanted or not what your stakeholder need to see.

Take Helium for a test flight and make any modifications you need on the fly. The sky doesn’t have to be the limit. Helium builds your ideal communications interface to raise awareness, make your case and inspire your audience to take action.

Until next time,


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