How to discover the hidden benefits of your product

"When we have a job to do, we find something that we can buy or hire to get the job done. Understanding the cause of purchase, really improves the chance of success." - Clayton Christensen, Harvard researcher

For me, coffee used to be a commodity. For the price of a Loonie (that's a $1 coin in Canada) I could go to a donut shop and buy a cup. I started drinking coffee in college for one reason: I needed something that would keep me up during my long classes.

Fast forward to today, and things have changed. I go to my favorite coffee shop and get a cappuccino almost every day.

But I'm not just here for the caffeine. Like Clayton Christensen describes above: getting my daily cappuccino serves a number of jobs in my life.

I made a silly video about this here:

Here are all the jobs I'm hiring a single cup of coffee for:

  • a chance to get out of the office: to clear my head
  • the walk to the coffee shop: fresh air, exercise.
  • social acknowledgement: to have a barista greet me by name, who knows my favorite drink
  • ritual: the experience of making my coffee just the way I like it
  • atmosphere: I love hanging out in the coffee shop, because it feels like a "scene". It's a creative, bustling environment.
  • ownership: when you go to a place every day, you start to feel like you have some ownership. You want to represent that ownership to the public (this is why my Instagram feed is filled with photos of cappuccinos).

Ratio is already starting to recognize some of these Jobs to be Done. Check out this Instagram photo:

They're identifying me as "part of the club". Yes, the coffee is good, but for me the inclusivity means even more.

It's key to understand the jobs your customers hire your product to do. Unsure of which features to build next? Trying to figure out your marketing strategy? Figure out why your customers hire your product and you'll have the insight you need to make good decisions.

How to discover Jobs to be Done

"The only two people who can give you real feedback about your product are people who just purchased it and people who have just canceled." - Jason Fried, ([source](

The best way to start understanding JTBD (Jobs to be Done) is to interview and observe folks who have just purchased a product.

Examine the forces behind a decision

Here's an example: I was working with a web development team when my co-worker messaged me. His IM said: "Coda 2 was just released, and it's 30% off only today." Neither of us had used Coda before, but we'd heard about it previously. We knew a lot of people in the industry who swore by it. Furthermore, both of us had been following Panic (the team behind Coda) for quite some time. We read their blog posts, drooled over their design, and liked what they stood for. We'd always wanted to try Coda, and now was our chance. We then pestered our boss into buying it for us on the company credit card. "Are you sure you two aren't just getting this because it's cool?" he asked. We assured him that this wasn't the case.

Guess what? Neither of us ended up incorporating Coda into our workflow. This whole process is what the folks at Jobs to be Done Radio call the Four Forces:

Justin Jackson JTBD forces diagram

My co-worker and I were attracted to the idea of a new solution. What caused us to buy was the deadline of a sale ending. But we weren't able to fully switch, because the force of our current process was too strong to get us to fully adopt the product. The question is: what could Panic have done during that process to help us succeed with their product? They got us over the hump of actually buying, but there was one more big step: getting to actually use it on a daily basis.

Think about the timeline

Why do people buy? The purchasing timeline A great way to structure your JTBD interviews is around the purchasing timeline. Asking questions like this can help:

  1. When did you first think about buying the product?

  2. What happened before that? When was the first time you had a thought about getting something like this?

  3. What did you do next? Did you talk to anybody about it? Did you do any research?

  4. Did you try anything else to solve your problem? What kinds of things did you try?

  5. When did you seriously think about buying? What caused you to start your search?

  6. When did the actual purchase occur? Where were you at the time? What season was it? Who else was involved?

  7. Did you have any anxiety before you purchased the product? How did you overcome that?

  8. How did you feel immediately after you'd purchased the product?

  9. How do you feel about the product now?

I talk more about purchasing timelines here and here.

Get started

Looking for more resources on doing Job to be Done interviews?

Remember: when you're getting started, it doesn't have to be your product you're interviewing folks about. If a friend mentions that they just made a purchase, start asking them about it. The key is to practice! Hope this has been helpful.

Justin Jackson @mijustin

Published on October 11th, 2014
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