Job Circumstance Drives Customer Choice (Video)
The Predictive Power Of “Messy” Job Circumstance
Jobs theory is circumstance-based categorization of markets. That is, customer segments are made-up of groups of individuals or businesses that share the same or similar circumstances around an important job. Because of this, they will tend to prefer the same kind of products and services to get that job done. Customer segments defined around job circumstance represent real market opportunities for innovators.
To understand customers and the circumstance surrounding important jobs, consider Sam, a 52-year-old man of Hispanic descent. Sam drives a Ford Explorer. He is college educated, married, has two school-aged children and is employed as a IT engineer. Sam has many additional attributes, but none of them explain why Sam chose to “hire” his smartphone to take pictures with during a recent family gathering, rather than “hiring” a digital camera to do the job. Trying to infer Sam’s choice from his personal attributes is a fool’s errand.
Now, let’s add some context to Sam’s “hiring” of his smartphone camera. Sam’s extended family lives out across the country and he wants to include them in his family’s experiences. In fact, he wants to share his family gathering with them in real time, as it were. His smartphone is the best solution available for getting this job done because he can share his pictures instantly on social media. Once we understand the job Sam is trying to get done, understanding his consumer choices becomes much easier to understand and easier to predict.
Now consider Hanna, a 43-year-old Asian female who works at a design firm. Hanna drives a Volkswagen Passat. She has a teenage son who competes on the high school swim team and is herself an avid yoga practitioner. Hanna avoids genetically modified foods and cares about animal rights. While all of these attributes are significant, none of them explain why Hanna chooses to hire a digital camera to take pictures rather than using her smartphone.
Now let’s consider the job that Hanna hires her camera to do. As it turns out, Hanna goes to a lot of swim meets and the job she wants action pictures of her son swimming. Seated in the stands, she is often at a good distance from the action and the indoor pools, with their poor lighting, present her with challenging conditions, so Hanna hired a digital camera as the best solution for this job.
When we understand the job the customer is struggling to get done and the circumstance surrounding that job, we can innovate with far greater accuracy and profitability because we know ahead of time what is important to customers. When you target these priorities, you are able to focus your innovation effects on what customers care most about.
Clear value targets also enable us to enhance our existing products over the course of their lifecycle and keep the perceived customer value of our products and services higher than those of competitor’s solutions.
In summary, creating clear value targets around the customer’s job to be done does not give us a crystal ball that allows us to perfectly predict exactly what customers will purchase, but it comes pretty darn close. By giving us a lens into understanding the circumstances that surround the jobs that customers are trying to get done, the “Jobs Theory of Innovation” holds the key to knowing why customers make the choices they do.