The first step in designing an effective marketing strategy and creating compelling content is to understand what potential buyers are trying to accomplish when they purchase particular products or services. In most cases, people don’t buy a product or service primarily because they want the product or service itself. Most often, what they really want is what the product or service will help them accomplish.

Theodore Levitt, the legendary professor of marketing at the Harvard Business School, expressed this truth when he often reminded his students that, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”

In The Innovator’s Solution, Clayton Christensen and co-author Michael Raynor built on Professor Levitt’s insight and described what is called the jobs-to-be-done framework.┬áChristensen acknowledged that he did not originate the jobs-to-be-done framework, but his adoption of the model has helped make it part of mainstream business and marketing thinking.

The basic idea of this framework is that when people become aware of a “job” they need to get done, they look for a product or service they can “hire” to perform the job.

Christensen argued that this is how potential customers “experience life.” Their thought process begins with an awareness that they need to get something done, and then they seek to hire something or someone to do the job for them.

The attributes of the jobs people are needing to get done constitute the circumstances in which they buy. Therefore, the jobs-to-be-done framework can enable company leaders to reliably predict what features or functionality will cause people to buy a product or service.

The jobs-to-be-done framework is most often used to guide the product/service development process, but it also has two important “use cases” in marketing.

How Marketers Typically Use the JTBD Framework

Marketers typically use the jobs-to-be-done framework to guide the development of their marketing content. They identify the jobs that potential buyers are needing to get done when they purchase products or services like those the company offers, and they focus most of their marketing content on describing how their company’s products or services can help buyers get those jobs done.

Using the jobs-to-be-done framework in this way can enable marketers to create content that is more likely to resonate with potential buyers because the content is more relevant and provides meaningful value.

A Second (and Equally Important) Use for the JTBD Framework

The second way to employ the jobs-to-be-done framework in marketing is to focus on the buying process itself and use the framework to identify the jobs potential buyers need to get done in order to make sound purchase decisions. When marketers use the framework for this purpose, they think of their content assets – videos, blog articles, ebooks, white papers, etc. – as distinct “products,” and they ask what specific buying-related job or jobs each asset helps a potential buyer get done.

When a business person becomes aware of an issue or problem in his or her company, he or she will look for a source of information – most likely a content resource – that can provide useful insights about the issue or problem. In essence, the business person will try to “hire” a content resource to provide information about the issue or problem.

If the issue or problem is sufficiently important, the business person will begin a process to identify possible solutions. This learning process will become a buying process if it appears that making a purchase may be the best way to address the issue or problem.

The “customer journey” of a potential buyer is essentially a process of answering a rather large set of questions, and obtaining the information that’s needed to answer those questions constitutes the jobs that the potential buyer needs to get done to make a sound purchase decision. Throughout the buying process, a potential customer will hire numerous content resources to perform these jobs.

The questions a potential buyer needs to answer will change as he or she moves through the buying process, and therefore the jobs that need to get done will be different in the early stages of the process than in the later stages.

In the real world, no single content resource will be able to perform all the jobs a potential buyer needs to get done over an entire buying process. So, what marketers must do is develop a portfolio of content resources that collectively will cover the whole process.

It’s also essential for marketers to identify the specific jobs that each of their content resources will effectively perform – i.e. what specific questions the content resource will answer. A content resource will only resonate with a potential buyer if it helps the buyer perform the specific job or jobs that are immediately important to the buyer given where he or she is in the buying process.

By linking each content asset to specific jobs, marketers can make better decisions about what assets to offer a potential buyer and how to describe and promote each of their content assets.

The bottom line is, the jobs-to-be-done framework is a powerful tool for creating effective engagement with potential buyers and elevating the performance of marketing.

Image courtesy of SurveyHacks.com via Flickr (CC).