Why Customers Aren’t ‘Hiring’ Your Product

This article aims to help startup founders, marketers and product managers get their product to market-fit, faster, using an agile variation of the Jobs To Be Done framework.

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Key Concepts

  • JTBD: abbreviation for , a Disruptor innovation framework developed by the late Harvard Professor Clayton M. Christensen. JTBD helps us get closer to our customers and the problems they’re trying to solve;
  • Persona: a traditional marketing method that aims to keep the user at the heart of product design. Personas are profiles built to represent the types of users that use our products;
  • User story: a statement that expresses the journey or action a persona wishes to take on your website or application.
  • Segmentation: the process of separating your target market into groups in order to customise product and marketing communications for those groups and increase your relevance;
  • USP: abbreviation for Unique Selling Proposition; the way in which your product or service is different from competitors.

Getting your arms around who your ideal customer is, and the problem your product solves for them, are key to achieving market fit. If you’re having trouble attracting and retaining users, it’s likely that you haven’t done enough planning during the development phase to ensure delivery model, pricing, positioning and communications are relevant to your ideal customer. Let’s start by challenging a tried and tested tool that’s commonly used for product positioning: Personas.

A potential customer is 30–40 years old and female. She’s a white-collar professional interested in swimming and considers herself a foodie. She’s university educated, married, drives a Ford and has a dog.

This feels like good, useful data. It makes us feel like we know this customer. She’s indicative of the type of customer you may want to attract because she lives a certain type of lifestyle, sits in an attractive income bracket and works in a certain industry. You build a persona around this data and build users stories on top of it (which drive future product development). You also deploy it to create positioning: to craft language, tone of voice and an offer matrix to attract her. But there’s a problem.

Segmentation Vs. Reality

We rely heavily on demographic data to build profiles and personas because it makes us feel like we know a lot. In reality, this process doesn’t yield the most important insight of all:

Why does this person need your product?

Enter ‘Jobs To Be Done’

(JTBD) is a theory of innovation developed by Harvard Professor Clayton M. Christensen. It posits that the destiny of a product is to be ‘hired’ for a job. That job is the thing a potential customer needs done in order to improve their lives. The reason that a potential customer is in the market for a new product is because their job is either not being performed at all by their current solution, or is being performed poorly. Every product is competing to be hired. The key is understanding what job the customer needs performed, why that job needs to be performed, how their life can be improved as a result and how your product can do the job better than others.

Compared to other frameworks JTBD pushes us to look beyond demographic data to identify the problem to solve for the end customer in order to get closer to the actual causal factor that drives product selection. This driver is the insight we want build products and product marketing around.

Identifying the Job Your Product Performs

A truly differentiated product strategy seizes on an opportunity to:

  • Take an existing job and do it better, faster, cheaper;
  • Take one part of an existing job and do it better, faster, cheaper;
  • Take an existing job and make it bigger and more complex;
  • Develop the market with an original concept to completely revolutionise or replace an existing Job.

Get clear on the Job To Be Done for your product, how your product performs that job, relative to your competitors, and some way to measure the impact on the customer experience as a result of performing that job well (qualitatively or quantitatively). Ideally, this should all be captured in a single Job statement which will drive your product’s USP, user stories and marketing communications.

Getting to Your Job Statement

In a startup, things move quickly! There’s little time for process, but that shouldn’t stop you introducing some operational rigour into your product marketing. Below is an agile tool I’ve developed that can be quickly applied to interrogate a product through the JTBD lense:

  • The job that a customer hires our product to do is______[Job To Be Done]_______;
  • This job needs to be done because____ [customer need]_____;
  • This job is currently being done poorly by others because ____[how customer is being under serviced by current solutions]___;
  • Our product does this job better by______________;
  • By hiring our product to perform this job, customers can now _______________.

This tool is based on JTBD principles but is much more lightweight than the original JTBD framework. It’s more suitable to fledgling product teams who are iterating, rapidly. Filling in the blanks will help you articulate:

  • the problem your product solves,
  • the job your product is applying for,
  • the way your product improves the life of our customer
  • the way that life improvement can be measured.

Note that if your product is available in more than one geography, I’d recommend producing a Job statement for each market in order to successfully localise.

Storytelling With Your Job Statement

Now we can use a simple storytelling technique to pull this information into a single statement:

  • Once upon a time, a person wanted to achieve [this outcome]. Therefore, [this job] had to be done.
  • [This job]/ was poorly served by other products because [this reason]. As a result, [that outcome] could not be fulfilled.
  • That’s why we built [our product].
  • [Our product] fulfils [this job] via [that way]. As a result [this outcome] is delivered via [this measure].

Just by filling the blanks in this statement, you can already get a feel for how you’re going to tell your product story, and how that story will differentiate you in the marketplace. Of course, you’ll need to build on this framework and interpret it in the language of your brand, but even in its raw form, this statement will guide product positioning, marketing and strategic communications so functions across product, marketing and PR are speaking with one voice — and that voice is received as relevant and reassuring by your target customer to increase consideration.

Ready to learn more about other aspects of product marketing? Check out and

The Startup

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Talia Knowles-Rivas

Written by

Head of Product Marketing, Developer and Consumer products at ConsenSys. Bringing Ethereum software products to market. Formerly Facebook and Google.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +752K people. Follow to join our community.

Talia Knowles-Rivas

Written by

Head of Product Marketing, Developer and Consumer products at ConsenSys. Bringing Ethereum software products to market. Formerly Facebook and Google.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +752K people. Follow to join our community.

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