The Framework Every Start-Up Should Consider – JTBD

May 22, 2022

Do you build your audience around your product, or your product around your audience’s needs?

The key to a successful growth is having a deep understanding of your audience: their motives, their processes, their obstacles and their goals. The challenge is in uncovering what your audience actually wants and effectively communicating it so that, in the end, you have a near-perfect solution to a multi-faceted, but well-defined, problem.

The JTBD (jobs to be done) framework was developed by Clayton Christensen and there have been many iterations of it since, often using technical jargon and, in my opinion, overly-complicating a quite simple concept. The premise is based on Harvard-grade research and insight from Christensen, a titan of Harvard Business School. In this article, I’m going to share with you my understanding and interpretation of the JTBD framework and why you should be using it within your start-up.

How can the JTBD framework help you?

Understanding and utilising the JTBD framework could help you to do the following:

  • Determine which needs haven’t been met
  • Strengthen shared vision amongst your team
  • Create a product which adds value
  • Understand your industry competitors
  • Discover sub-categories of consumers with niche needs
  • Predict marketplace patterns and successes
  • Align product development and marketing best practices for a stronger launch and more longevity across the board

Why is the JTBD framework different?

“People don’t simply buy products or services, they ‘hire’ them to make progress in specific circumstances.” – Clayton Christensen

The JTBD framework is built on the assumption that consumers don’t buy products, they ‘hire’ solutions… and they can ‘fire’ them just as quickly if they’re not doing the job properly.

Instead of focusing on the ‘persona’ of your target audience (e.g. visually impaired individuals), the JTBD framework puts the emphasis on their obstacles and intended outcome by finding a way to prioritise auditory inputs to understand the world around them. This widens your customer base but also allows you to really hone in on the different aspects of that problem and how your product can solve them. Put simply, it moves the focus away from the customer and onto the customer’s needs, which is more likely to inspire a purchase.

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!” – Theodore Levitt


What are ‘jobs’?

Within the JTBD framework, the word ‘job’ refers to something that an individual customer seeks to accomplish in a specific moment or circumstance. It’s not just about function – there are nuanced social and emotional dimensions to each job because it’s all about the experience that your user is trying to create. This framework prioritises circumstances over customer characteristics, which is a more realistic approach to sales.

An example of this is Clayton Christensen’s own consumer behaviour:

“He’s 64 years old. He’s six feet eight inches tall. His shoe size is 16. He and his wife have sent all their children off to college. He drives a Honda minivan to work. He has a lot of characteristics, but none of them has caused him to go out and buy the New York Times. His reasons for buying the paper are much more specific. He might buy it because he needs something to read on a plane or because he’s a basketball fan and it’s March Madness time. Marketers who collect demographic or psychographic information about him—and look for correlations with other buyer segments—are not going to capture those reasons.” (

How can you implement JTBD framework?

The easiest way to communicate your JTBD intention is through a JTBD statement. A commonly accepted method is to write a clear and concise 4-part sentence, following this structure:

  • When I… (context)
  • But… (barrier)
  • Help me… (goal)
  • So I… (outcome)

Looking at a business such as HelloFresh, they might complete their JTBD statement as follows:

When I want to cook fresh and healthy meals for myself and my family, but I do not have the cooking skills or the time to learn them, help me to curate everything I need, so I can serve a variety of tasty meals quickly and with ease.

From that statement, HelloFresh for example, could identify that the key barriers are time and skills, so they include everything their user needs to make the meals so they save time on shopping, and a recipe card to bolster their skills.

To protect your business model from confirmation bias, you should use varied market research to gather qualitative data from prospective users of your product or service. Another approach is to ask them about why they have ‘fired’ competing products, so you can understand where those barriers lie and overcome them.

For example, HelloFresh might conduct some research into users who have ‘fired’ their service and find that they got bored of cooking the same recipes or that the options did not meet specific dietary requirements. As a result of this, they would know to add more variety of options, perhaps with a seasonal menu to give the impression of a wide and changing range.

Does it work?

The real question is… But does it work? In my experience, yes.

If you run the phrase ‘JTBD’ through a search engine, it will return thousands of accounts of business strategists from countless sectors employing this framework and yielding results.

As well as employing this strategy myself, I’ve seen it used very successfully in the context of scaling up a FinTech business with a very diverse set of B2B clients. When used correctly, the JTBD framework helped them to develop a multi-dimensional ideal customer profile and a comprehensive value prop, which detailed what their clients are after and how their business could serve their clients differently to stand out from their competitors.

It’s a methodology anchored in strategy: shifting the focus away from the ‘ideal’ customer persona (which might be a demographic based on gender, age, profession, etc.) to the real-world problem that you are solving. In doing so, you will create a product which has more value, and therefore more longevity, than a ‘product-first, customer-later’ approach.

– Maya Moufarek

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