Jobs To Be Done Framework in Conversion Optimization Projects

Simbar Dube

Simbar Dube

Simba Dube is the Growth Marketing Manager at Invesp. He is passionate about marketing strategy, digital marketing, content marketing, and customer experience optimization.
Reading Time: 11 minutes

The primary goal of every CRO Agency is to increase website conversions by ensuring that every aspect of the site is functioning properly. Weeks and months are spent conducting different conversion researches so that every element on the site persuades customers to either make a purchase, download, signup or subscribe.  

But, having a well-functioning or a usable site doesn’t always guarantee an increase in conversions  —at best, it only increases conversions by 5%. So, besides the site usability, what is the other aspect that optimizers focus on? 

Take a guess!

Yes, you’re right. Optimizers also have to peek inside the visitors’ brains and understand the emotional and social needs that make them tick.

Tell you what: knowledge of the customer’s emotional and social needs is everything in conversion rate optimization

In any given market, if a company gets to know the customer’s social and emotional needs, there is a high chance of discovering hidden segments of opportunity, efficient product development and it becomes easy to know the kind of strategies to pursue. 

CRO companies often unearth the customer’s emotional and social needs through a theory known as the Jobs-to-be-done. This theory came out of Harvard Business School, and it has helped many optimizers understand:

  • Why customers prefer to buy or hire your products or services
  • Why potential customers choose to buy from a competing site.
  • Why they decide not to buy altogether. 

I remember a week before Khalid introduced me to this concept, I had bought a set of headphones to listen to music in my free time  —that was my initial thought. But the power and technique of the JTBD concept made me realize that I didn’t buy the headphones because of its features. But I wanted to make progress and satisfy a certain emotional and social need. 

If you are like anyone else and you have bought a product or service before, the JTBD theory will help you realize the social and emotional needs that drove you to make a purchase. In this article, we will discuss how to implement the JTBD theory in a CRO program and the tips you should use whenever you intend to use this concept. 

Defining the jobs in the JTBD framework 

The #JTBD framework is based on the idea that customers do not buy products or services, but they ‘hire’ them to get a wide array of jobs done or to make progress in their lives. Instead of looking at the customer through the product line, the JTBD framework helps you look at your product or service through the customer’s eyes. 

Clayton Christensen, the pioneer of this framework, describes the job in the jobs-to-be-done as the fundamental problem that customers are trying to resolve in a given situation. He says that any product or service has three job dimensions: functional, emotional and social.  

In his 2016 book, Jobs to be Done: Theory to Practice, Anthony Ulwick concurs with Christensen as he defines the concept as:

A task, goal or objective a person is trying to accomplish or a problem they are trying to resolve. A job can be functional, emotional or associated with product consumption (consumption chain jobs). 

The functional job is the anchor in which the social and emotional needs are defined. I think of it as the practical and objective requirements of a customer. Listening to music can be categorized as the functional job I intended to achieve when I bought the headphones.  

The feeling that customers want to have or avoid having purchased and used the product or service is an emotional job. For instance, overcoming boredom was the emotional job that I wanted to achieve when using headphones.

How we want other people to perceive us after using the product or service is the social job. When one uses either head or earphones to listen to music, they may want to be perceived as enjoying. 

                                                                                        Image Source: JTBD

Conducting #JTBD interviews

Before conducting the #JTBD interviews, a lot of time is spent designing the screener questions, recruiting the right people and scheduling interviews. Not every customer is an ideal candidate for the JTBD interviews if you intend to recruit the right people, make sure that they meet this criterion: 

  • They bought the product or the service in question. 
  • They purchased the product between a month to three months ago. 
  • Since buying the product or service, they have used it. 
  • Recruit buyers or decision-makers. 

JTBD interviews are lengthy interviews that typically run anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes. Two team members, a lead and a supporting person, conduct the interviews. The lead asks the general questions, moves from one topic to the next. 

The support person plays a very important role during the interview. He/she usually takes cues from the lead interviewer, and only asks questions within the topic that the lead is focused on. Basically, the support person asks the follow-up questions. 

Example from an interview we conducted for a furniture retailer:

The lead: let’s talk about the moments before you bought XYZ item…

Lead question: what were you thinking at that point?

Answer: I was not sure if I should spend $500 on this item or wait until I get my bonus

Support question: Did you have a budget in mind before you came to the store?

Answer: Not really, I was not planning to buy anything in the first place

Lead question: Did you look at other items?

Answer: Yes, I was thinking that I might buy a cheaper vase and not spend all that money and then I saw that beautiful piece of art. 

Lead question: Where was the art placed?

Answer: It was hanging on a wall painted with gorgeous olive color. 

Lead question: How did you feel at that moment when you first saw it. 

Answer: Wow – I have to have this. I have been taken aback by a painting, but oh gosh. I knew that I had to have it. 

Notice how the support person plays a support role. He/she gives the lead a chance to gather his thoughts and notes.

While conducting the interviews, listen to the motivations and struggles that led the customer to decide to make a switch. Pay particular attention to these 4 forces: 

  • Push factor: This is the situation that forced the customer to think of a new solution.  
  • Pull factor: This is the new solution that lured the customer to give it a try.  
  • Habits: This is the customer’s daily routine or practices that hold them back from trying a new solution. 
  • Anxieties: These are the doubts, concerns and the “what ifs” that the customer has about the new solution.  

How we’ve used the JTBD framework on conversion projects 

We use the SHIP methodology which is an acronym for Scrutinize, Hypothesize, Implement and Propagate. The #JTBD interviews and analysis process is part of the scrutinize phase. But unlike other conversion research techniques, #JTBD reveals the point that a customer goes through when considering purchasing a product or service. 

Knowing that one of our Senior Marketing Strategists – Gulcin – has been involved in a lot of #JTBD analysis, I asked her about the importance of JTBD in CRO projects, and she had this to say: 

Job-to-be-done interviews allow you to drill down into the minds of consumers in a way that can’t be done using polls and surveys. You get to know that exact feeling and need that pushed customers into making a purchase. It is those same feelings and needs expressed in sentences and words that we capture and include in Value Propositions.

#JTBD is a framework that explains why customers hire a product or service. But how do you implement that framework to drive marketing insights and business strategy? We do that through a series of #JTBD interviews and analysis process. The goal of these interviews to uncover:

1- Functional aspect of why customers buy a product

2- Social/emotional aspect of why customers buy a product

3- Process map: the different steps users following when hiring for a job 

With that said, here is how we have used the JTBD framework in our CRO projects:  

Emotional and social messaging on the site. As I mentioned earlier, every product or service has three job dimensions, companies already know the functional job of their product or service, but what they do not know is the emotional and social job of their products or services. So, we use the JTBD theory to unlock the unknown emotional and social jobs. 

The JTBD theory acts as a compass to our Optimization team as they navigate towards achieving more value for the customer on the site. 

If you know the customer’s emotional and social needs, the next move is to insert them into the site copy. By this, I mean we insert customer verbatims in some elements   value proposition and headlines  on the site.

Targeted customers can easily notice their needs when the site expresses them in a language they understand. The idea here is to make sure that the site carries an emotional and social message that resonates with the targeted customers. 

Shows the opportunities in the job map. Anthony Ulwick describes a job map as a:

As a visual depiction of the core functional job, deconstructed into its discrete process or job steps, which explains step-by-step exactly what the customer is trying to get done.

The theory does more than reveal the emotional and social aspects of the product or service. As customers look for products or services that will help them make progress in their lives, they are bound to come across obstacles along the way. JTBD allows us to know the struggles, anxieties as well as the push and pull forces that made the customers go for the product. Negative effects of customer anxiety are easy to mitigate once you know them. 

Improves the whole Marketing process. With JTBD, it’s not only about the messaging on the site, but the framework empowers Optimizers with the panoramic view of marketing as a whole.  When customers reveal the first thought  — the moment they realized they have to make progress — this gives our Optimization team ideas of how the product or service can be advertised.  

Competitor Analysis. The traditional way of doing competitor analysis is different from the way you can analyze your competition with the Jobs-to-be-Done framework. JTBD avoids the feature to feature comparison and delves deep to reveal the speed and accuracy with which competitor solutions satisfy the needs of the customer. 

Suppose we discover that the competitor’s products satisfy the needs slowly and inaccurately, based on this discovery, our Optimization team exploits this weakness by developing new ideas that can satisfy the needs of the customers at a pace that can overshadow the competitor.

To know about the competitors or alternatives, you should pay particular attention to the product or service that a customer fires and the options they may have considered when they were actively looking to hire something new. There is a high chance of discovering competitors you never knew you had. 


How to prioritize jobs after JTBD

For a single project, we often conduct 30 to 40 interviews  —and they often take up to 2 weeks to complete. The duration of each interview is between 45-60 minutes. After conducting all the interviews, there is a high possibility of identifying dozens of emotional and social jobs. 

This then begs the question: how do we prioritize emotional and social jobs? 

Not all emotions and social needs you discover carry the same weight. This means that not all findings have to be implemented. The first priority should be given to the unmet customer needs  —those are highlighted as research opportunities under our prioritization framework. 

3 steps to conduct JTBD interviews 

The approach we take on the JTBD framework relies on these three steps: 

  • Figure out what to ask.
  • Analyze the answers. 
  • Take action.   

Looking at these steps, it’s tempting to think that the process is straightforward, right? But the cold, hard truth is that it’s easier to make mistakes while conducting the JTBD interviews. The two most common mistakes made during the course of the interview are: asking leading questions and not knowing how to handle awkward silent moments. 

With that said, here is a discussion around each step: 

Figure out what to ask

Asking the right questions doesn’t come all that natural to many people and it can even be more challenging if you actually do not know what to ask. 

Just like any other interview, JTBD interviews have to flow and the customer has to feel comfortable and not interrogated. At the beginning of every interview, we always tell customers that “there are no right or wrong answers” so as to build rapport with the customers. 

Before asking customers questions, there must be a defined goal in mind. Are you trying to determine why they decided to buy from you? Are you trying to understand why they prefer the competitor’s products or services? Or maybe you want to know why they decide not to buy from either you or the competitor? 

Regardless of the end goal, you can always start the interview by asking the customers this: 

So we know you bought product X, when did you first think that you need this product?”

As a response to this question, sometimes customers can say “Well I don’t remember exactly when…” 

In such an instance, you may need to help the customer remember by asking any of the follow-up questions: 

  • “Was it in the morning or in the evening?” 
  • Do you remember if it was a weekday or weekend?” 
  • Or something like “Was it before, during or after the holiday?”  

These are just examples, there is a torrent of questions you can ask your prospects and customers. But with JTBD interviews, you should ask questions that uncover customer anxieties, motivations, and situations that you will use to optimize the copy of the website you are working on. 

Analyze the answers 

Now that you have peeked into the customers’ brains and you have their thoughts or rather answers in your fingertips, it’s time to pull out phrases that kept on recurring during the whole process. 

Go through each and every answer given by your customers and make sure not to omit any statement. Whether you were taking notes or recording the whole process, you will start to notice clear customer trends.  

For instance, if you discover that most of the interviewed customers had anxiety that nearly prevented them from making a purchase, you’d need to address that exact issue on the site. This can probably be the same reason that caused other potential customers to leave without making a purchase.     

It’s important to go through every statement uttered by your customers because you may find some direct words to use on your copy. Whether we are analyzing polls and surveys, customer interviews or reviews, we often insert customer language into the copy so that the site resonates with the targeted customers.

So, as you analyze the responses, look for phrases that reveal the customers’:

  • Needs, wants and expectations. 
  • Struggling moments. 
  • Habits and anxieties. 
  • Push and pull factors.

Such phrases will allow you to focus on strategic product improvement rather than identifying the problem. The feedback you get after conducting JTBD interviews is simply gold for every CRO strategy because it indicates the problem and the solution at the same time, all you have to do is to take the action.  

As part of your analysis, you should be able to know the extent to which the existing product or service solves your customer’s problems. Simply put, you should know if the customers find the product satisfying or not. 

The best way of doing this is by comparing the product or service to what the customers are saying. Remember, at its core, the JTBD theory is about viewing your product or service through your customers’ eyes.  

Take action  

Once you have finished analyzing the findings, the final step is to translate the findings to the screen and run an A/B test so as to validate the hypothesis. It’s wise to check the findings of other conversion research techniques polls, surveys, and customer reviews  to see if they correspond in any way. 


#JTBD is a game-changer in the CRO industry. Without the knowledge of the jobs that the customers intend to do, conversion optimization is inefficient. What makes the theory even greater is that it gives much more attention to the requirements of the end buyer. Anyway, is it the same way you use the #JTBD framework in your CRO projects? Slide in the comments section and let us know. 

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Simbar Dube

Simbar Dube

Simba Dube is the Growth Marketing Manager at Invesp. He is passionate about marketing strategy, digital marketing, content marketing, and customer experience optimization.

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