Strategies for Sizing Markets Using Jobs to be Done

Note: BestWatch recently came to New Markets looking to size various target markets using Jobs to be Done, and to develop a strategy for adjusting its product portfolio. The name and industry of BestWatch have been disguised.
BestWatch’s challenge was one that many companies face, though this fact was of little comfort to BestWatch’s executives as they watched their deadline grow closer. BestWatch had seen exceptional growth in its relatively new line of high-end watches, but analysts were warning that highly anticipated smartwatches would soon be adorning wrists everywhere. With a board of directors meeting looming, BestWatch’s executives needed guidance on whether to continue to invest in its high-end watch line. Historic sales data of other types of watches and bracelets suggested that BestWatch should continue to push its high-end watches. Meanwhile, advisors had averaged the wildly varying projections for smartwatches to determine that they indeed would be the next big thing. BestWatch hoped that Jobs to be Done could provide the real story.

“Jobs to be Done” is a term first popularized by Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen. It is shorthand for a way to look at latent need in marketplaces and the wide variety of ways that people accomplish certain goals beyond just buying a product. For instance, a car buyer isn’t just purchasing a mid-sized sedan, but a way to express his personality, plan for a growing family, and impress his neighbors. He has many other ways of accomplishing those same jobs, and so an automaker has a broad range of competitors, as well as many hidden levers for getting those jobs done beyond everyday functional specifications such as turning radius and headroom.

Sizing markets based on customers’ jobs to be done allows companies to adopt a forward-looking perspective that uncovers unseen growth opportunities and more accurately defines potential. At the same, however, a simple calculation of the prevalence of a particular job to be done in a target population could be just as unreliable as any other estimate. If BestWatch simply looked at the job of telling time, for example, the potential for its watch would look limitless. In reality, jobs-based market sizing requires focusing in on the right jobs to be done, as well as refining market projections to account for a company’s core business competencies, willingness to explore adjacencies, and innovation mandate. Here, we provide some of the strategies New Markets uses to size markets based on customers’ jobs to be done.

Consider the full jobs landscape, beyond just the job to be done. Gathering customer insights involves more than simply understanding customers’ jobs to be done. Taking a customer-centric approach requires seeing the world from the customers’ perspective, including their motivations, behaviors, tradeoff decisions, and definitions for success. This information is captured through a seven-part framework. In addition to providing an integral component for customer-centered design, each element can also be used to refine estimates of potential market size. In BestWatch’s case, its target customers had a number of functional jobs that could be well satisfied by a smartwatch. Importantly, however, these same customers were heavily influenced by emotional jobs — such as showing off — that were less well satisfied by a smartwatch in their particular social context.

Discern which customer types are in play. Being able to satisfy a customer’s jobs to be done does not mean that he or she will become your customer. Segmenting potential customers based on, among other things, their job priorities, current behaviors, and motivations helps to determine whether your company’s offerings will ever be in the customer’s consideration set. Customers need to be divided into groups based on the factors that drive decision-making, and those factors change depending on the industry and the range of solutions that can be considered. For example, our statistical analysis for BestWatch revealed that certain attitudinal drivers and smartphone usage behaviors were most significant in determining whether customers were more likely to buy the high-end watch or the smartwatch. Additionally, segmentation helps to identify customer types that are particularly attractive for companies, including those that are less expensive to please or willing to spend more. A company’s strategy, competencies, and growth mandate will help determine how much of the overall market is really in play.

Tie insights to real data points. While jobs-based insights are particularly good at providing directional guidance and refinement, much of the insight is qualitative and should be tethered to hard data. With BestWatch, we followed up our qualitative research with a jobs-oriented quantitative survey of potentially addressable customers. In addition to providing a reliable base for market sizing efforts, quantitative surveys help to validate that the insights discovered while talking with customers hold true in a larger population. This survey data can be exceptionally useful, and it can be further improved by anchoring to additional data points. For instance, beyond just calculating who was screened out based on certain characteristics, we helped BestWatch to avoid sampling biases by tying the survey data to known quantities, including the number of individuals in various occupation types.

Plan for multiple future scenarios. Even companies that invest heavily in customer insights are still not able to predict the future perfectly. They will need to make some assumptions along the way and make educated guesses about how certain trends will play out. Rather than making market sizing efforts an all-or-nothing bet, projections should allow for multiple versions of the future. Beyond just a best-case or worst-case scenario, work should determine how the market might look different if and when game-changing trends — those that are the most important and the least certain — come into play. By reflecting the fact that the future is not completely certain, scenario-based projections allow planning based on key assumptions rather than on current thinking that may become quickly outmoded.

Projecting the size of the market for a new offering can be a difficult endeavor, particularly when it involves a truly innovative new product or service. By framing the market around jobs to be done, companies can design customer-centric offerings and capture customer types that were not even envisioned in a product-focused approach. Creating a realistic and usable projection requires refining a jobs-based estimate by leveraging insights from other elements of the jobs framework, understanding which customer types are in play, tying insights to real data points, and planning across multiple scenarios. It is a rigorous, expansive, and relatively future-proof way to assess the unknown.

Story by Dave Farber.

Learn more about Jobs to be Done thinking in practice at!

New Markets Insights

We are: Innovation strategy experts • Seasoned market researchers who put Jobs to be Done theory into practice • Award-winning authors of action-oriented books. This is what we’re thinking about.

New Markets Advisors

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Strategy from specialists in finding and entering new markets -- new products, places, and people

New Markets Insights

We are: Innovation strategy experts • Seasoned market researchers who put Jobs to be Done theory into practice • Award-winning authors of action-oriented books. This is what we’re thinking about.

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