JTBD With the Value Proposition Canvas

This post discusses a specific aspect of Jobs to be Done. If you haven’t already done so, we suggest starting with the post—What is Jobs To Be Done. This will give you a broad overview of JTBD concepts with links to other posts that take a deeper dive into those concepts.

The Jobs-to-be-done Framework can enhance popular innovation methodologies like the Value Proposition Canvas, a tool created by the Strategyzer team for designing solutions that customers want. In this post, we show one possible way to use this tool in tandem with the Jobs-to-be-Done Framework.

Now, the pre-requisite for successful value proposition design is a demand creation opportunity – that is, an important job that individuals and/or organizations are not getting done well with existing solutions. However, identifying such opportunities can be slow-going because jobs are often complex and multi-layered, and many are high-level jobs that involve job stacking behavior. This complexity obscures the search for opportunities.

Further, customer discussions naturally orient around the limitations of solutions-in-use. But it’s more important to first understand the jobs that customers are trying to get done, how they’re struggling to get those jobs done and the circumstance causing those struggles. Otherwise, value proposition design becomes constrained around optimizing existing solutions. A jobs focus enables innovators to recognize lucrative opportunities that would otherwise be missed.

The jobs-to-be-done framework provides the structure around which jobs can be systematically defined and their dynamics understood. Customer discussions are more productive because innovators know what questions to ask pertaining to the jobs those customers are trying to get done. In short, innovators can quickly scope jobs and identity lucrative opportunities that become the starting point for successful value proposition design.

Now, value proposition design begins with defining customer jobs. However, when using the Value Proposition Canvas with the Jobs-to-be-Done Framework, we suggest identifying a single target job that customers are struggling to get done rather than multiple jobs, problems or tasks. A single job will have functional, emotional and social dimensions, which are wanted success outcomes.

For a target customer job, pains are then defined as the moments of struggle associated with performing job activities. In the customers’ mind, performing these activities require too much time, effort and expense. Gains are defined as the success outcomes that customers are aiming for as they perform job activities, which represent the progress that customers want to make.

Now, a customer job is always executed in a particular circumstance or context. Moments of struggle arise when a solution doesn’t effectively accommodate or resolve that circumstance. When this happens, the time, effort and expense of performing job activities increases and/or success outcomes fall short of expectation. This is why some solutions perform well in a particular job circumstance while other solutions perform poorly in that same circumstance.

Therefore, the next step in the process is to note the circumstance in which customers are trying to execute the target job. However, customer feedback may reveal more than one circumstance for the target job. If so, this indicates that there are subgroups in the larger customer segment who are trying to execute the same job under different circumstances. For the purposes of innovation, each of those subgroups represents a customer micro-segment.

If micro-segments are encountered, create a related customer profile for each micro-segment and then note on those profiles only the pains and gains that differ from the larger customer segment. Keep common pains and gains associated with the larger customer segment. These commonalities and differences have important implications for value proposition design.

Now, once a target job and the job circumstance have been defined, the next step is to identify ALL the functional success outcomes customers are trying to obtain or achieve and any emotional and social dimensions associated with each of those functional outcomes. Then ask customers which of those success outcomes fall short of expectation.

Specifically, you’re looking for unacceptable moments of struggle because these particular struggles create a strong repulsion or push force that motivates customers to switch to a better solution. Mark these as priority moments of struggle relating to desired progress.

Next identify the pains, or moments of struggle relating to job activities, that take too much time, effort and expense to perform in the customers’ mind. Then ask customers which of those pains are unacceptable. These are the pains that create a strong push force, a necessary condition for demand creation. Mark these as priority moments of struggle relating to job action.

Then ask customers if they’re indifferent about any of the other pains and gains on the customer profile. Customers are sometimes not aware of or haven’t considered before how solutions can help them satisfy certain needs. Because customers don’t expect this value from a solution, they don’t consider these needs to be very important. However, such needs can signal possibilities for converting latent value to undershot value which can make a value proposition very attractive if satisfaction is feasible. Mark these as indifferent value.

Next, use the value map side of the Canvas to design solution features that help customers get the target job done better. Gain creators are features that remove moments of struggle relating to wanted success outcomes by increasing job execution effectiveness. Pain relievers are features that remove moments of struggle relating to the unwanted pains of performing job activities, thereby increasing job execution efficiency.

When thinking about features, you’re looking for the best way to accommodate or resolve the circumstance causing moments of struggle for both pains and gains. The aim is to remove those struggles while minimizing the cost structure of the solution.

Also consider the feasibility of satisfying any indifferent needs that have been identified. Once customers recognize that a solution can satisfy these needs, they instantly become undershot and customers want more of that value. A solution that can do this offers exciting features and benefits that can really differentiate a value proposition.

Now, if one or more micro-segments is identified, then it may be possible to design a value proposition that’s attractive to each customer group without having to create an entirely different solution. This is especially feasible for a service platform because service interfaces can be designed in a way that’s optimal for each micro-segment.

Since most of the struggles experienced by micro-segments are the same as the larger customer segment, the key is to differentiate micro value propositions on the struggles that are unique to each of those micro-segments. In this way, an attractive value proposition can be offered to each micro-segment that can be fulfilled via the same business model.

Now, we suggest a three-stage approach to value proposition and solution design and this process begins with what you believe is a high-potential opportunity. Stage one is to verify that opportunity because you want to make sure there’s enough push and pull forces at work to motivate a switch before investing too much time and resources into an innovation effort. If these forces fall short of the required thresholds as described by the Forces of Progress Model, then further efforts will likely disappoint.

On the push side, verify the customers’ job priorities. That is, are there enough unacceptable moments of struggle for pains and/or gains motivating customers to fire solutions-in-use? If yes, then customers will indicate they’re actively looking for a better solution. Because tolerated struggles seldom have enough push to motivate a switch, there’s no need to focus on these in stage one.

On the pull side, verify a compelling value proposition for a conceptual solution. A compelling value proposition removes all unacceptable moments of struggle, creating a strong pull towards that solution. Also consider ways to satisfy indifferent needs because such features can make a value proposition even more attractive. Compelling is verified when a sufficient number of customers indicate they would switch to that solution, which includes switching from using no solution at all.

Then design a viable business model that can profitably fulfill the value proposition over time. To be clear, a viable business model is capable of working based on a company’s benchmarks of success and supported by evidence. If the business model is determined to be viable, the second stage is to design a job solution.

Before doing so however, ALL customer needs should be defined for getting the target job done well, not just some moments of struggle and indifferent needs. With needs defined, then ascertain an exhaustive set of value targets that precisely indicates the value customers want from a solution to get the target job done better.

Next, determine a demand creation strategy, which involves explicitly defining customer segments of opportunity, competing solutions, market entry and trajectory, and areas of resource leverage. These choices set the strategic aim for solution design.

Together, value targets and strategy provide a complete spec to design an optimal solution prototype that satisfies ALL customer needs while minimizing the cost structure of the solution.

Stage three is validate the opportunity. With the value that customers want already defined, the purpose of prototyping is to test the differential value of the solution design. Iterate through prototyping cycles until the job solution fit is sufficient to pull customers away from competing solutions-in-use.

The last step is to validate the business model via demand traction testing. IF validated, the new solution is the best value out of competing alternatives. No speculation is required.

Although the focus here is on the Value Proposition Canvas, the Jobs-to-be-Done Framework can also enhance Design Thinking, Customer Development and the Lean Startup methodologies. In short, the Jobs-to-be-Done Framework can add additional rigor to these approaches, accelerating innovation progress and ultimately producing more innovation successes.

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