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Shifting Thinking

Value Proposition Design through the Lens of Job to be Done

Posted by Katie Ryall on Nov 7, 2018 11:21:33 AM
Katie Ryall

To design your value proposition, jobs to be done should be your starting piece in the game. It should inform the other pieces of the framework - customers pains and gains, and how your products and services solve those pains or provide those gains.

Identifying your value proposition is a complex process. Though often organisations believe value proposition to be so obvious, they shortcut the process by sitting down in the boardroom and agreeing on the top features and benefits of their products or services and distil that into a value proposition. To discover your actual value proposition, this process should be flipped whereby product features and benefits are created to validate customers Jobs to Be Done.

Many organisations can be blinded by an internally focused value proposition discovery process. That is to say, they delve into one side of the value map - what they have to offer and their perceived benefits to a customer. Fantastic, they now have a selling proposition. Unfortunately, too often organisations fall into the trap of confusing selling proposition for value proposition. The former is a subset of the latter. Important, but not complete when seeking to define your value proposition - and preferably a unique value proposition. So how do you become less self-centred? Approach value proposition design through the lens of Jobs To Be Done (JTBD).

More than 50 percent of newly launched products fall short of the company’s projected expectations”

Understanding why we do the things we do

Jobs to Be Done, when approached cleverly, gets to the core of what motivates people to behave the way they do. Customer Jobs theory states that markets grow, evolve, and renew whenever customers have a Job to Be Done, and then use a product to complete it (get the Job Done).

One of the simplest ways to understand the Jobs to Be Done lens is to understand what jobs are not. Jobs are not tasks or activities. When a group of business travellers choose a charter helicopter as a means of transportation, their Job to Be Done is not to charter a helicopter. Instead, the decision maker’s Job to be Done could include:

  • Meet a tight business itinerary through faster transport
  • Impress a client with signs of company success
  • Appease guilt for spending time away from family by arriving home quickly

To see just how dramatically an incorrect perception of Jobs to Be Done can change the course of a strategy, consider the implications on competition.


Customer profile: Sales Manager Sam, an experienced business traveller

Job to Be Done


“Get from point A to B”

Rental car, taxi, a good pair of sneakers

“Appease guilt for time away from family”

An expensive piece of jewellery, book a holiday

“Showcase company success”

Bring an extravagant gift, pay for a nice dinner, buy an expensive suit

“Meeting a tight business itinerary through faster transport”

Invest in scheduling software, hire more employees, charter a helicopter

When your Job to Be Done is no longer influenced by your existing features and benefits, you open the competitive playing field to be determined by different customers needs. This creates an innovative foundation on which a successful value proposition design can be built.


From horse and carriage to electric cars

As Henry Ford reputedly said, “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” There are countless examples of organisations who focused too heavily on what consumers wanted as opposed to what they wanted to achieve. The video store that ignored streaming. The CD player manufacturer that thought all customers wanted was a smaller, more portable, CD player. The cargo vessels that were reluctant to use steam power. The list goes on.


Value proposition, Innovation and purpose, it’s a match made in value

Value Mapping - Customer Needs and Wants


A recent survey found 66 percent of business buyers surveyed actively seek to buy from the most innovative companies. However innovation alone doesn’t provide value. Innovation, coupled with purpose, is a powerful thing. Time and time again, we see clients achieve increased conversion through finding a value fit between the right customers and the right solution.

As a management consultant, I work with many businesses that have not undergone a purposeful value proposition development process. They might know their business inside out but do not know how to grow, scale or build value for an exit strategy. They are confounded by how to get there. Our role is to be objective and peel back the layers to get to the heart of the matter. What do your customers want to achieve? Not just “what do they want?” Avoid the trapdoors in Value Proposition Design to arrive at your true value proposition that is tested, iterated, and evolving. Understand value proposition through the lens of Jobs to Be Done and deliver what your customers want to achieve.

Whether you are navigating this process internally or opting for external assistance, there are tools available to assist the process. Our first recommendation is to get hold of Jobs to be Done: A Roadmap for Customer-Centered Innovation before beginning the process of value proposition design.


Jobs to be done is only the first piece of the puzzle

stencil.linkedin-sponsored-content (6)To design your value proposition, jobs to be done should be your starting piece in the game. It should inform the other pieces of the framework - customers pains and gains, and how your products and services solve those pains or provide those gains.

Customers are people, they want to evolve, to become better versions of their current self. Your products and services should help them enable this. When brainstorming your customer Jobs to Be Done, filter them through these questions:.

Can you visualise your customer acting this job out? If yes, it is probably an activity or task, not a Job to Be Done.

Are you describing something the customer doesn’t like about themself? If yes, you’re describing what the customer doesn’t like about their current self - not innovating to help the customer evolve.

Are you describing a better version of the customer? If yes, well done, this is a customer job.

The jobs you have created should be used to inform the pains and gains your customer may have. Pains uncover what frustrates your target customers and the things they are desperate to solve. Gains reveal preferences of your customers, their hidden ambitions, their goals in life and quite simply the things that make them happy.


From Bolts & Propellers to Propelling Solutions: The Airwork case study

The team in the Airwork helicopter leasing division are incredibly proud of the their helicopter fleet and engineering expertise. So they should be - their helicopters are fully customised for sectors like forestry, mining, emergency services. They're reliable, they have unmatched repairs and maintenance service delivery and they run at a lower cost of ownership. The engineers speak with vigour and enthusiasm about the fleet, and what they do, and this was represented in the company positioning statement as the value delivered.

This positioning, however, did not translate into what the customer perceives as the value proposition or the job they didn't done.  Communications needs to reflect expertise and solutions to complex access problems in remote locations, rather than starting with specifics of machines. Any aviation operation needs safety and security and partners that understand the complexities of their industries - like providing essential emergency services where no one else can help. At a most basic level, the customer Job to Be Done is creating a feeling of security that machines will work all the time so that the machine owner can do what they need to do - for example emergency services need to help people.

Consider the two positioning statements below.

“We provide routine maintenance and support globally for our fleet”; vs

“In the air, on the ground, we help you save lives”

One statement describes a task, the other describes a path to betterment. One statement tells me what to expect, the other explains why this is relevant to me.

Many organisations believe their greatest asset is their people. Is your organisation’s greatest asset its people? Or is it the people it is aiming to advance? Putting your customer first and providing genuine value requires a commitment to understanding their Jobs to be Done.


Topics: Value Proposition Design

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