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Why People Buy – Part 2 – JTBD for Innovative Products with Alan Klement

Part 2 of 2: Our discussion continues with Alan Klement, author of “When Coffee and Kale Compete” We explore with Alan the methods of describing Jobs to Be Done” (JTBD) for products with numerous core functions, and how Customer Jobs can help motivate consumers to achieve social good.

Klement explains the differences between Process Goals and Outcome Usage Goals, and the importance of knowing which are being targeted. It’s an important and insight-filled episode for inventors, product managers and anyone with ain interest in marketing.

Episode 1: What is “Jobs to be done” theory?
Episode 2: A deeper dive: how to apply JTBD to your business.

Episode transcript:

Andreas: Welcome to Product: Knowledge, the podcast about creating and marketing products that improve people’s lives. I’m Andreas Schwabe, Director of Media Services at Graphos Product. And with me as always is the President and CEO of Graphos, Laurier Mandin. Most product marketers have heard the name Alan Klement. Even if you don’t recognize his name, you’re probably familiar with the ideas from his book, “When Coffee and Kale Compete, Be Great at Making Products People Will Buy”. Alan Klement is an entrepreneur, author, and speaker. For years he’s explored the root of why people make the buying choices they do. His conclusion, people buy things to improve their life. The process of using a product to turn an existing life situation into a desired situation is something Alan Klement calls a job to be done.

Andreas: This episode of Product: Knowledge is PartTwo of our conversation with Alan Klement. In Part One we learned products have a job to be done in the mind of the consumer. Today in part two we do a deep dive into just what it means to rethink your product marketing from feature driven to a solution driven process that can keep up with the market. We spoke with Alan Klement from his home in New York City on the Fourth of July. Here’s part two of our conversation. Now Laurier picks up the conversation where we left off last time, talking about how to identify any products job to be done.

Laurier: I think inventors very often see the job to be done and they automatically… they perceive and conceive the solution to that. They’re experiencing the need for that job to be done and they think in terms of the solution without really even realizing that that’s the job to be done that got them there. So if you have a really great invention, that’s a truck accessory or anything else that’s achieving something specific, the mother of that invention is usually someone who wanted to do a job and they saw the solution in terms of the invention that did not exist, where that gap was. But very often they have trouble going back to the initial point that they were at. They just began to just see the solution. I think it’s really important to bear in mind where that came from. That came from a job to be done.

Alan: Yes, because again you have to really take the investigation outside of the product. For example, when we do jobs research we don’t… Like the minivan example or the car example, I’m not going to ask them, “Oh you bought a minivan, tell me what you liked about it,” or “Tell me why you bought it.” Because if you ask those kinds of questions you’re making the product actually the center of conversations, so he’s actually all product focused. But actually when we do research about finding consumer jobs out there, there’s very little talk about the product. It’s basically the conversation starts off with, “Oh, you bought a minivan. Oh that’s interesting.” Maybe for five minutes you talk about, “Oh, tell me what you think about it.” They want to get it all out of them, right?

Alan: Then after that you’re like, “Oh okay, so you bought a minivan a few days ago, well what did you used to use?” “Oh I used to have a sedan.” “Oh really, tell me about your old sedan.” You’re actually exploring their life and how they interact with different products and then discovering that journey. They go from old me to new me, and then you describe that. Well what was… going back to what we said before. What were the process goals or the change goals we’re trying to make? When you were thinking about products how did they or didn’t they fit into helping you make that change?

Laurier: Yeah, and usually with that new me or future me it’s kind of that happier or more efficient future me that they’re looking at. They’re looking at ways to improve their life by buying the product, and I find it interesting though, we talked about it being iterative because it’s progress oriented as opposed to being 100% solution oriented. They don’t necessarily want to be just in a certain place. In the book you talk about the importance of making progress over the importance of achieving that result. Why is that important to product marketers and inventors, that they don’t think just in terms of the end goal, why is progress more important?

Alan: Oh right, because going back to what we said before, thinking about the two different types of goals. You’ve got process goals and you’ve got these outcome usage goals. Very often when people think about the “end result” they’re thinking about this finite moment, and so I think there’s that kind of thinking, but also what happens is that once you achieve—we’re going to go back to so why progress—is that even when I achieve certain outcome goals or certain usage goals and achieve certain process goals, I could do things now that I couldn’t do before, very often consumers will want to start doing more after that. I’ve gone from level one to level two, well now I want to go from level two to level three. I think that’s why thinking about well actually you’re in the business of delivering progress, and I guess maybe even going back to our dongle example, you’re always delivering progress to consumers and thinking about, “Okay, well how can we always make sure that all their gear always works together?”

Alan: Now honestly that never ends. As opposed to just focusing on well let’s make sure that their monitor and their laptops can always talk. We can connect to the latest Apple laptop or whatever it is. I think always thinking about progress, because again once consumers… again going back even to the 3D printer. Once you got taste of what the new version of the printer, “Oh my gosh, that’s what I want.” They didn’t just settle there. They thought, “Okay, what’s the next version of the 3D printer going to be like?”

Laurier: Sometimes the job to be done is not necessarily for the end user, first and foremost in the end users mind, right? For example, I might create a product where the goal of that product is to change customer behaviors. I want to create a product that’s more environmental or maybe a product that eliminates meat. It may have results like that where I want to change consumer behaviors. How does that work in the context of jobs to be done when it’s a job that the consumer may not really have in mind yet?

Alan: What we’ve learned is that there are these intrinsic goals that humans have. We want belonging and caring and control of things and proficiency. There’s all these kind of essential characteristics that make us human. We are motivated to change once there’s some sort of disruption or disturbance in that. Going back to your example about let’s just say being environmentally friendly, and maybe we’ll even use Tesla and being ecofriendly, for example. Whatever it was, 20 years ago it was a fringe thing, for example. Electric cars, yeah they were out there but it was like oh it’s what the granola people use, it’s whatever. But then it became fashionable to people, so not you’re like those goals had been activated through… those consumer goals had been activated through the market. Now there’s celebrities talking about how important it is to save the planet and be environmentally friendly. Now I’m seeing things out there that governments are talking about it now, so then that creates a need in me of well actually I want to be… Yeah I want to belong in this and now this is now important to me. Well it must be important because everyone else is talking about it that I should be environmentally conscious. That’s the idea of actually creating a job to be done—

Laurier: It’s leadership, right? Someone is championing that job to be done in creating a following of people who now have it on their radar.

Alan: Yes.

Laurier: The job has to be coming from somewhere in order for it to be perceived, so you need champions of change in order to do that.

Alan: Yes.

Laurier: Or really slick marketing, I guess, that will create that desire in people’s mind and say, “Oh yeah, maybe I should be eating less meat even if I’m eating a lot of salt and other things that may not be good for me.”

Alan: Right exactly, right. You’ll be using the old way… Yeah, like the Beyond Burger, for example, I’ve been seeing now.

Laurier: Yeah it’s hard not to.

Alan: That’s great marketing around that, but anyone can see this happen. Just watch Steve Jobs. He was the master of that. People would say, “Oh yeah!” Actually watch how he introduced the iPhone. It’s perfect. To go back and watch it;I think for 15 minutes he never talked about the iPhone. I mean it’s a product launch and for the first 15 minutes he never even mentions it. He doesn’t show it. I mean who does that? What did he do?

Laurier: Everybody knew they were there for that, so he kept you waiting in that case.

Alan: Yes, what he was doing was he was generating demand. Going back to before, he was creating that discrepancy in people. “Oh here’s how you currently live and work. Let me tell you what’s wrong with the way that you live and work today.” People are like, “Oh yeah, that is right. Oh yeah, I never thought about it that way. That’s right, that does suck.” Then he’s like, “Well you know what, here’s how things should be. You should be like this. Here’s how it should be. Look at this, isn’t this easy and isn’t this great?” He’s creating that discrepancy and he’s generating demand and you’re seeing it happen right in front of you.

Andreas: You’re listening to Product Knowledge, the Graphos podcast about marketing products that improve people’s lives.

Laurier: Yeah, and kind of aggregating a whole pile of jobs to be done into one device, which is that was the first time that any of us had ever seen it done with that many things at one time, even taking his own products and mashing them together and eliminating the need for an iPod.

Alan: Yes.

Laurier: All these things happened. It’s a really transformative moment in marketing I think.

Alan: Well that’s huge, right? Maybe I need to emphasize this some more in the future, but people forget. There’s some very interesting characteristics or things that happen around the iPhone. First off, when he introduced it I think the year or two that Apple introduced the iPhone I think the next year was actually Blackberry’s highest sales ever. This idea that it was instant hit was not really true. The other thing is that when Apple started making the iPhone I think in 2004, in the secret room thinking about it, the iPod had not even peaked in sales. They were already anticipating destroying their best-selling, market-crushing product; they were already planning to make it obsolete.

Alan: Again, I think that goes back to what we said before being solution focused, delivering progress, being agent of change, generating demand in consumers, as opposed to being reactive.

Laurier: I wanted to ask you about what is the job to be done for a smartphone now? Is that job to have all the devices and software you possibly can in your pocket, in your hand at one given time in a single device? What is the job to be done when there are so many of them?

Alan: That’s really hard to do. Actually you have to phrase the question and this is actually a great way to think about jobs and how to research them. It’s saying, “Well wait a minute. Since someone adopted the iPhone, what can they do now that they couldn’t do before?” That’s describing it. Then the answer to that question are your job to be done. For example, me oh I can now, because of the iPhone, I’ll speak of myself personally. Because of my iPhone now, I actually when I travel abroad I have much more confidence when traveling abroad and actually take more “risks”. I go to more, I explore more because I know that I always have this pocket map and that I can always get back to where I used to be. As a result of the iPhone I change more.

Alan: Another change I’ve made as a result of the iPhone is that actually I’m taking pictures more that I didn’t do before because it was always a pain in the butt. Now I’m collecting memories of my family that I always had this anxiety about oh should I do it? Should I not? I didn’t want to haul a camera with me, and so I just opted not to take a camera with me and so now I had this worry about losing potential family album and family memories, but now I don’t have that anxiety anymore, I’m doing it now. I include it on the list or work on the go. I always know that if I’m working with my development team or whomever that they can always reach me and that I can actually be a collaborator with them, even if I’m not right at my desk. “Oh my gosh, we made this release of the version of the product, can you review the specs? Can you review the design? The iPhone is actually like a mini computer I can do that on the go.

Alan: Imagine 15 years ago, you get a call on your Blackberry, “Oh hey, can you review all these documents, something’s wrong.” “Oh wait, let me go to a computer.” I could be much more responsive in even running my business. I can go on but that gives you an idea, that’s how you think of job syncing, that’s how you describe it is what can you do now that you couldn’t do before? How have you changed as a result of adopting a product?

Laurier: There could be a number of jobs to be done. You might buy that product just because it takes the best photos in some case, and we talked about that on an earlier episode that it’s not… the phone quality on an iPhone kind of sucks compared to some of the other things out there, but people don’t buy this product called an iPhone to use as a phone most of the time. It is to do all these other jobs. To me that’s amazing. I think devices like that put us into a different era of jobs to be done where we have to understand many different levels in some cases. The good thing for most product developers is that they can focus on greater simplicity and on achieving simpler purposes and getting their users to that desired future state through achieving core focuses and core functions rather, of the product. I think what most listeners have to think about with their products is focusing down on a single job or just a few single jobs that need to be done, is that correct?

Alan: Yeah, so when we’re doing research we think of it as research smells. Honest to God, have a software development background but coding smells, when you’re reviewing a code base there’s certain things or characteristics of the code base that make you think, “Ah, I’m looking at spaghetti code here.” We think the same way with regards to doing jobs research. If someone comes back and says, “Oh, we’ve discovered 30 jobs that our product does.” I’m like, “Whoa okay.” You’re probably really just describing one or two jobs, but you’re co-mingling the higher level job to be done with all the other sub-goals or maybe you’re co-mingling process goals with outcome goals, or change goals with usage goals. Probably co-mingling all those together that you really need to separate those out and say, “Well the job you’re doing is about the change goals and then the usage goals are something else.”

Laurier: Yeah, and from the buyer perspective, a big problem that’s often made in marketing is not understanding which of those is the most important. Nobody wants to read a long list of features just to understand whether or not this product is going to do the job that they need most to be done.

Alan: Yeah, yes so if I could I can give a very simple example. Actually I talk about this in the presentation I give. Well a broadcast that I’m in about a few month or a few weeks from now. Very briefly it was a company, I can talk about it, it was a startup around bras and at first it was bras for models and Emily, she’s the founder, she called it Model Basics. She did some research and she found out oh wait a minute, actually the job to be done is not… well she wasn’t thinking job before. She recognized that actually the potential was around not models wearing these particular kind of bras, but actually just normal women, everyday women wearing these bras. But what they wanted was they wanted to actually wear backless clothes, and they want to wear lace wedding outfits, and they want to wear backless or halter top things. What they wanted to do actually was actually wear types of clothes that they couldn’t wear before because the current design of bras just didn’t make it look good or wouldn’t work.

Alan: She actually pivoted the company, she changed from Model Basics to Backless Basics. She recognized that at first oh, we’re going to target models, but actually now it’s actually everyone in the world, right?

Laurier: Right from that product name too, right? It’s Backless Basics: right now you understand that core benefit and this is going to do that job for you.

Alan: Yep, yep, so for her… so right now in her thinking she’s focusing on the job to be done as we want to make sure that… Actually is always expand our wardrobe that women can wear and make sure that they’re not being restricted by certain underwear or undergarments. Again, going back to even the dongle example, want to make sure that people’s tech can all work together and then they think about oh the usage goal, make sure it fits right and slippage or whatever. When she markets and talks and advertises it, she leads with wear clothes that you couldn’t wear before and then describes here’s how that happens, so on and so forth.

Laurier: Yeah, I love that example because it goes from a very elite market that you’re talking to, that most women would say, “Well I am not a model,” to saying, “I want that. I need that.” Jobs to be done I think are driven by competition and innovation, as well as consumer needs that are evolving. All those things happening at the same time.

Alan: Oh absolutely.

Laurier: So we’re not in the same place most of the time next year as we are now, except for in some realms we may be. If the product you create is a ceramic urn of some type that people keep on using year after year, cremation urn or something like that, the job to be done isn’t likely… it may never change. It may not change in your lifetime. But if you’re doing an innovative product the job might be entirely different this time next year.

Alan: Yep, exactly. That’s actually why I… so in my research business we believe… This is why I’m developing this analytics package right now is because I believe that marketing research has to fundamentally change, and I’m actually promoting this idea of… I call it, for lack of a better word, I’ll have to coin it just right but it’s basically Agile for market research. Because of great manufacturing processes, Lean and Six Sigma, and whatever whatever, we’ve gotten really great at producing artifacts and things, but market research is still… it’s pretty much it’s the same way its been done since Bernays in the 30s. It’s basically the same.

Alan: Oh we’re going to do market research. Once a year it’s going to cost $150,000 and take three months. But even then it’s like, well we need to start the project and then when you finished it actually things changed. I think that change is going to happen even faster and faster and faster. Markets are not a static system. It’s not nature where you have the aesthetic laws of nature. There’s that quote, “You never step in the same river twice.” It’s the same thing, you never sample the same market twice.

Laurier: You’re working in a very dynamic world and you have to realize that the results are changing day to day.

Alan: Yeah yeah, because the system that you’re studying is not a static system. It’s actually an adaptive dynamic system, so that’s why I believe that you actually should create these models of the market. We should model how customers are making choices today, model competitive models, all these need models, let’s make these models but then update them every month, for example, so we always know what are people buying, why are they buying, how are their needs changing, so on so forth. I’m sorry, that’s a whole nother discussion unto it’s own but I think that’s very interesting. Right now the working title is Jobs to be Done, Understand, Discover, Design, Create. We’re shooting for, I would say end of this year.

Alan: I’m thinking about… Again, I’m writing and thinking about the content I’m creating but also recognizing the progress that readers want and their own constraints. I’m thinking about is basically four very short mini books that come together. It’s still very short because I understand people have time constraints, but it’s basically four topics and you figure which combination fit you, so it’s four mini workbooks put together. I think that’s going to be: Do you want to understand jobs? Do you want to discover them? You want to design a solution for them, or do anything about creating jobs to be done? Maybe 30 or 40 pages on each of those topics and that’s it.

Andreas: That’s all for part two of Product: Knowledge and our interview with Alan Klement. To get a copy of his book free online, visit, and we’ll have more information in the show notes. Graphos: you can catch us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter @graphoscanada. You can also visit our blog at We’d love to hear from you. Subscribe, like, or review, or share the podcast with a friend or colleague. You can reach us at [email protected]. Product Knowledge is the podcast about creating and marketing products that improve people’s lives. I’m Andreas Schwabe.