Viewing a Product or a Solution as a Job to be done
This books presents a new way of looking at if a new product will have a market or not as well as the segments it will address. The hypothesis is simple - People need certain jobs done in their life. They will buy something which will do these jobs better at a lower cost.
While this may seem simplistic, it challenges some fundamental notions. A product that is functionally similar may actually be doing two fundamentally different jobs. And for a particular job, the competitor for a product may be totally different category of product or even a service.
For instance consider a hypothetical product similar to a radio being introduced for the first time in a society that lacks any form of distant mass communication. Such a device could take on at lest three jobs - that of entertainment, news dissemination, and education. As a local entertainer, the competition would be against local entertainment groups. A radio will beats them in giving audience flexibility to choose when and where to get entertained as well as the cost. But the local entertainment will win in the aspect of providing community, personal connect with the entertainer, and the experience of being outside home. On the new front, the competition would be local gossip network, potentially at a pub. The radio would win in being able to bring news from distant places and providing the information without risks such as getting caught in a brawl. But there are things a radio just possibility can't do - cater to local community news, the mood created by alcohol, and fellowship with a known community. As an educational tool, it will compete with local school. But here again it can't enforce discipline and resolve immediate doubts. Now if we were to theoretically start building a product that addresses all these aspects, that would be three different evolutions of the products in terms of features. A common radio that bundles all of this together would not sell as it would be too expensive for any of the individual jobs. The consumer would find it difficult to conceptualize it as replacement for three jobs and compare against the sum total of the cost and complexities involved in getting the three jobs done through existing means. They would look at it as a replacement for only one job at a time - the one having top most priority in the consumer's head. So a bunded product may not sell as much as expected.
Despite this being a logical model there are reasons why companies tend to sell bundled solutions rather than one solution per job to done. There are 4 main reasons - cumulative cost to benefit comparison across jobs to be done, how market for a product is measured, and how distribution and marketing channels are organized. Lets go over these one by one.
The producer thinks about cost saving for a user in terms of net saving across three jobs that a product does for the user. For the producer also it brings benefit in term of economy of scale by manufacturing more units of a single product with more features than three different variants with different feature sets. But consumers typically think of only one job at a time and compare against alternatives to get the job done. The bundling only works when user already has a base solution for a different job and the incremental feature can be an add on at an incremental cost And this is seldom true for new products. For instance now everyone has mobile phone. Every new app costs incrementally and can do a new job. But one could not have accomplished initial sale of mobile phones on the basis of 10 different apps that get 10 different jobs done.
Companies generally generate metrics of sales without taking into consideration the jobs the product is doing. And they compare against the sales of a product doing a similar job. So the whole nuance of job is lost in the combined metrics averaged across various jobs a product can perform for a particular customer demographic. What we don't measure we don't know. So there is limited understanding of the market for a job to be performed and how a company is capturing it as against alternate solutions that they can get the job done through.
From a channel perspective, typical stores and sales folks only understand product categories. To sell a product to do a new job, especially an unconventional usage one requires some consulting skills. So companies have to develop channels with that kind of skills to articulate the job or let is enter the channels with multi job products and look comparatively lean on features.
If in channel, the focus is product, in marketing the focus is consumer. If the same products performs two jobs for the same consumer, the company is reluctant to send two different communications for the fear of confusing the customer as to what the brand means to them. This problem can be addressed by adding a secondary tag. Like say a luxury airlines wants to have a budget airline in its portfolio it could add a budget tag for that line of products. That way parent brand value if luxury is not diluted.
Another aspect to be touched on is products that perform totally new jobs that customers don't need to be done today. Customers will buy new products and services but rarely change their lives to accommodate new jobs. New jobs in lives of customers have to evolve organically and very unlikely customers will need them just because a product or service offers them. Maybe that is the reason products like virtual reality entertainment is not taking off so easily. Customers still don't see the features performing the job either tradition travel or travel programs or travelogue books are doing for them. Nor do they see a marked improvement in socialization experience over social media to compensate for the discomfort of a headset and the higher cost.