Preparing Jobs To Be Done Interviews is crucial to understanding the context behind your customers’ decision to buy a product. Why is it called “Jobs To Be Done”? Bob Moesta, the Co-architect of the Jobs To Be Done framework, says people “hire” products or services to get a “job” done.

DTC brands can use this framework as part of customer research around customer behavior and a foundation for future improvements and innovations that can help them attract, retain and delight customers. 

Discover the process that helps you prepare effective JTBD interviews and how to use this methodology as a source of a deeper understanding of your customers and your business.

The Jobs To Be Done methodology for DTC brands

The Jobs To Be Done methodology was developed by Clayton Christensen as a framework that allows businesses to better understand customer behavior. 

According to the Christensen Institute, the JTBD theory has one clear purpose:

Understanding the ‘job’ for which customers hire a product or service helps innovators more accurately develop products that align with what customers are already trying to accomplish.

Bob Moesta, President & CEO of the Re-Wired Group and Adjunct Fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute, has been applying Christensen’s framework to help businesses go beyond the conventional customer research and find the “why” behind their motivations.

Moesta defines Jobs To Be Done as “the progress a person is trying to make in a struggling moment.

DTC brands use the methodology created around the causality-behavior link to find the reasons behind the buying decision and what made customers choose their brand from all the available alternatives.

Talking about Correlation vs. Causality, Juliana Jackson states:

The single biggest reason most marketing folks mess up customer segmentation:

They segment based on correlation.

In this context, correlation refers to things that can add to an ideal situation, ideal customer profile – “connecting the dots.”

For instance, I’m a female, 30, living in Romania, enjoying hip-hop music and urban fashion.

Most people will take those attributes and “tailor” an experience to sell me… an urban fashion backpack.

Why is that wrong?

There is no causality for me to buy that backpack.

I do love backpacks. They are cool.

But will I buy one just because I like urban fashion and hip-hop? And I’m in my 30s?

Replace the backpack with any product and replace me with any “targeted” audience.

That’s right. You are guessing.

The best way to sell products is first to understand causality.

And also, understand that there is one sneaky little thing lurking around that causality, which is why customers buy a product.

Discovering that little bastard will give you the keys to the kingdom of knowing how to sell your product and to whom.

Attributes like social demographics, interests, age, etc., can be correlated into associating a customer’s interest in a product or a service BUT, they don’t cause that customer to buy.

As Moesta says, the decision customers make is not random. Behind any decision-making process, there are outcomes customers seek. The JTBD interviews help you understand the context and the set of forces that makes a customer say, “Today, I’m going to buy from this store.”

DTC brands use JTBD interviews as part of their qualitative research that helps them map the customer journey and use the insights to refine the experiences and build new ones around the JTBD. 

The Forces of Progress according to the JTBD methodology

Before every purchase, there is a struggling moment. 

Before making a decision, customers think about the outcome of buying a new product or service.

The forces of progress help you understand why customers buy from your brand and the frictions preventing them from ordering from you.

JTBD – Forces of Progress

According to the JTBD framework, forces that promote a new choice are the “push of the situation” and the “pull of the situation.”

The push of the situation refers to the context or the moment when people start to complain, become aware of a problem, or have a pain point. 

For example, we have two retired parents thinking about redecorating their daughter’s room, who moved out since college and now lives in her own house along with her husband and kids. They think about transforming the space into a guest room and looking for DTC brands that sell furniture online.

The pull of the situation refers to when people start discovering new ways to resolve their problems.

As the family in our example starts finding beautiful pieces of furniture for their new guest room, they start wondering how they will get rid of the old one.

Along with the forces of progress, two frictional points cause people to block change: anxiety and habits.

The anxiety of a new solution manifests by asking a lot of questions about an alternative.

The couple in our example might ask a million questions about the quality of the new bed or wardrobe they think might look good in the guest room. 

The habit of the present, a.k.a. resistance to change, is the other frictional point that might block the change.

As the parents start sorting out their daughter’s things, they become emotional and start questioning the need for a redecoration project.

Knowing how these forces manifest in your customer’s journey helps you adapt your Customer Journey Mapping from “as-is” & “to-be.” Speaking of the customer journey, another framework you should keep in mind as you prepare for JTBD interviews is the JTBD timeline.

The JTBD timeline

While the sales pipeline is represented like a linear process, the demand side – isn’t necessarily linear. Your customers can move back and forth from the decision stage back to the passive looking.

jtbd timeline
The JTBD timeline

Understanding the exact path your customer walks on before buying from you is essential for the success of your JTBD interview.

The process of progress begins with the customer’s first thought. In this stage, they think about options and what they could do to make their lives better. It can all start by asking a question or hearing a story told by a friend or a colleague. 

The next step is passive looking when customers accumulate information, and their language revolves around the problem.

An event that makes customers think, “We should do something about it,” helps them step further from passive looking to active looking. In the active looking phase, they start comparing solutions without thinking about the price yet.

As they gather more information, they start weighing alternatives and prepare for a trade-off. Without time pressure, people don’t feel like they have to make a decision.

Some of the people who visit your site will never pass further from the decision phase, and the JTBD interviews will help you find how people buy, when they buy, and what value means for them. 

People that bought from your brand are the ones that determine the path by which the progress gets made. So, your JTBD interviews are done only with who had bought, not people who want to buy.

The JTBD process

The Jobs To Be Done is a process that includes six steps:

  1. Frame the question
  2. Set up the interviews
  3. Conduct the interviews
  4. Find the patterns
  5. Detail the clusters
  6. Prototype opportunities

The success of this process depends on how well you design the qualitative interviews and how your company uses the insights to articulate the JTBD.

jtbd process
The six steps of the JTBD process

First step: Frame the question

According to Bob Moesta, the purpose of these interviews is to find what causes the people to say, “Today is the day I need your product or service.” Think about the questions that will help you link causality and customer behavior. Make a list of all the questions you want to ask and try to find two or one that will answer 80% of all the other questions. Try not to fall into the researchers’ trap by adding too many questions in one interview.

Second step: Set up the interviews

You should only interview people who made progress from a JTBD perspective, meaning only existing customers. Ensure you cover a spectrum of people as wide as possible: males, females, young and old, people with different demographics.

The RFM segmentation will help you find the best customers you can interview – your Soulmates. Based on RFM analysis, these customers have the highest recency, frequency, and monetary values.

According to the Customer Value Optimization process, growth happens when you focus on your most valuable customers, so JTBD interviews should include people from the most valuable segments.

Third step: Conduct the interviews

The JTBD interviews duration is somewhere between 45 minutes and 1 hour. During the interview, you want your customers to talk less about what they think about the products and services and more about the progress they try to make. Your purpose is to identify the forces that appear in their journey, the circumstance compared to the desired outcome.

jtbd interview
Tips and tricks for the JTBD interviews

Bob Moesta’s JTBD interviews are inspired by interrogation methods that help you get deeper into the customers’ minds. His innovative approach will allow you to understand the customers beyond what they say to you by focusing on actions and non-verbal communication. 

Some of the tips on ​​conducting your interviews Bob Moesta shares in the CVO Course are:

  • Keep the interview script as a framework and let the dialogue flow naturally.
  • Active listening to notice the differences in their tone
  • Acting confused to obtain more details and full context from the customer
  • Playback the story in the wrong order or incorrect information to make them share more details.

You can tell your customers that interview’s purpose is to understand the customers’ language around buying or using this product/ service. Say it is more like a documentary and that there will be some questions that might sound strange. 

Fourth step: Find the patterns

From Moesta’s experience, 10 or 12 customer interviews are enough, and you should already see patterns in their behavior. His advice is to spend 30 – 45 minutes debriefing the interview, arguing what you all heard, and making sure the customer language is clear. 

All of your debriefing files should include these sections:

  • Setup – the context;
  • Pushes – the problem/ pain point;
  • Pulls – the solutions;
  • Habits – the resistance to change;
  • Anxiety – the questions around the product;
  • Observations – statements that don’t fall into any of the push/ pull/ habit/ anxiety categories.

Based on what customers said during the interviews and clustering interviews, you’ll be able to define the JTBD.

Fifth step: Detail the clusters

Once you got the patterns, it’s time to detail the clusters and the paths people take to make decisions and progress.

By applying the cluster method, you can find customer interviews that reveal similar stories. Clustering your interviews helps you find the pathways by which people make progress. The elements that help you define the JTBD are:

  • Context
  • Struggling Moments
  • Push & Pulls
  • Anxiety & Habits
  • Desired Outcomes
  • Hire & Fire Criteria
  • Trade-offs
  • Basic/Core Quality
elements of jtbd
The elements of the JTBD

Sixth step: Prototype opportunities

Because there’s a product-market disconnection, most brands only think about the supply-side when trying to find new ways to sell their products or services. But thanks to the JTBD framework, you will be able to spot new opportunities based on what you know about the demand side. 

The JTBD research helps you identify the jobs your products or services are hired for. This new perspective lets you identify new opportunities for your business based on your customer’s struggling moments, the progress they want, and the trade-offs they are willing to make.

Wrap up

Jobs To Be Done interviews represent the third step into the Customer Value Optimization Timeline, essential to identifying the journey your most valuable customers take before and after the purchase moment.

When you apply this methodology to your DTC brand, make sure you check all the steps in the JTBD process and get the most out of the conducted interviews. You want to find as much information as possible during the interviews and use the insights for future innovations and opportunities.

If you want to learn more and get started with the JTBD methodology from Bob Moesta, you can find a chapter dedicated to this topic in the CVO Course.