Focus on outcomes, not features, with the jobs-to-be-done framework.

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Emma Maguire (née Campbell)

June 14, 2023

Woman standing pointing at sticky notes on a whiteboard.

There is no shortage of agribusinesses who have realised the importance of shifting from a product-centric mindset to a customer-centric approach. Understanding customer needs and preferences is needed for sustainable growth and success. One framework has gained recognition for its effectiveness in uncovering customer motivations, and that is the Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) framework. 

Developed by Clayton Christensen, with the theory that to understand what motivates people to act, you first must understand what it is they need to get done, the JTBD framework offers a powerful way for agribusinesses to get down to the source of customer desires. Most people know the importance of the customer. The question is, what methods can we use to gain useful insights? The JTBD framework is part of the answer.

Introducing the jobs-to-be-done framework.

The JTBD framework was developed to help businesses grasp the fundamental motivation behind customer actions. It shifts the focus from superficial features and functionalities to the core problems customers are trying to solve. The framework centres around the idea that customers "hire" products or services to fulfil specific jobs or tasks in their lives. By adopting the JTBD framework, agritech and agriculture businesses gain profound insights into their customers' needs and motivations, enabling them to craft solutions that align with their desired outcomes.

The humble milkshake.

One of the most famous case studies illustrating the power of the JTBD framework involves a fast-food chain's milkshake and its goal to increase sales. They initially focused on asking customers how to improve the milkshake - more flavours, bigger sizes or consistency. Using the results and making the changes, they found that milkshake sales didn't improve. But why?  

Christensen and his team were hired and used his JTBD theory to solve the problem. To understand what 'job' a customer 'hired' a milkshake for, he spent a day observing one of the restaurants and found around half of milkshake sales occurred before 8.30 am. The customer would typically be alone, order just a milkshake and then jump back in their car and drive off with it.

The next day, he went back to the restaurant and knew what question he needed to ask customers on their way out with their milkshake: "What job are you trying to get done that causes you to come to McDonald's to hire a milkshake at 6:30 in the morning?". 

It turned out there was a common theme. The customers all had a tedious commute to work and needed something to have while driving to stay more engaged. They weren't hungry yet for a full breakfast but needed something they could hold while driving and last the entire commute. 

Research findings showed that the milkshakes weren't competing against other competitors' milkshakes, but instead, the likes of bananas, donuts, or bagels that could do the same job. Customer priority wasn't necessarily on the ingredients but to stay full til 10 am and to have something that would entertain and last them their whole trip.

With a newfound understanding of the job customers were looking to hire for, McDonald's made changes to make their milkshakes more appealing - they moved milkshakes from behind the counter to the front, implemented pre-paid cards to swipe and go to save time and made milkshakes thicker so they would take longer to drink, covering their commute.

Once McDonald's started catering for the job their customers were doing, their milkshake sales increased by 7x.

JTBD in agriculture.

The JTBD framework provides significant benefits within agriculture and agritech, particularly in fostering farmer and grower adoption of new technology and services. Climate change, global food shortages and sustainability measures put pressure on the agriculture industry and paved the way for more businesses to innovate. But if businesses aren't assessing and understanding the true needs and motivations of farmers and growers, it creates a risky environment that can have devastating consequences for those brave enough to invest in new technology. JTBD helps ensure the right problems are being identified and solved, that the real needs of farmers and growers are addressed, and truly valuable products are being developed. 

Implementing the framework in your business.

We won't sit here and pretend that the JTBD methods are simple and can be executed in a day. They can't. Uncovering motivations, desires, and behaviours requires strategic thought and research. There are incredible resources online you can access that provide worksheets and guide you through various exercises that can help you bring the JTBD framework into your processes. Strategy and innovation consulting firm, Strategyn, provides four frameworks to work from that we highly recommend checking out:

  1. The JTBD market definition canvas
  2. The JTBD job mapping canvas
  3. The JTBD customers needs framework
  4. The JTBD growth strategy matrix

The Jobs-to-be-Done framework offers agribusinesses a powerful approach to understanding their customers' needs, preferences, and motivations. By shifting the focus from product features to the core jobs customers aim to accomplish, you can develop innovative solutions that truly resonate with your customers. The JTBD framework empowers businesses to become more customer-centric, driving growth and success in the ever-evolving agritech and agriculture industry.

Still feeling stuck?

At Bo Studio, we're all about creating amazing experiences. If you're struggling to bring design thinking into your business, or just want to make sure your current project has a user-centric approach, get in touch. We'd be happy to chat and help out however we can.

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