JTBD versus Buyer Personas

JTBD is all about what people are going to do next, it’s not about the Job they do now. That’s why you can’t over simplify your audience.

Buyer personas are a model or representation of how we think that group of people always act. 

However, people are dynamic, and they make decisions because of the context that is in their lives. We know this because of Jobs to be Done (JTBD). 

As business owners, marketers or product folk, there’s sometimes a tendency to over index or over generalize segments.

The problem with over-generalizing audiences

Let me give you an example. Let’s say, I am a vegetarian. I watch my meals and I get involved in meal planning. 

There will be times that won’t fit for what I need. For example, when I’m traveling or on the road or when I am with other people who don’t eat the same way I do. 

The above example shows that we can’t be reduced to a set of features or attributes because we do things and act in different ways that are outside of our core behavior. 

And this happens a lot. 

Looking at your customer segments in a linear one dimensional way reduces your customers to a group that all acts and buys the same way. And we know that is not the case. 

JTBD is all about what people are going to do next, it’s not about the Job they do now. It’s about what the Job is in the future that they’re trying to get done. That’s the foundation of innovation. 

JTBD is all about what people are going to do next, it’s not about the Job they do now.

It’s about what the Job is in the future that they’re trying to get done. That’s the foundation of innovation. 

But how do we build what’s next… when most people can’t tell you what’s next? 

Most people can only talk about what they know and the problems that they have. 

They tell you why something would work, or they might have a solution. They’ll tell you what they don’t want more than what they do want. 

And so when you start to develop a product or create a new campaign, you start to realize you need more details, details that typically most marketing research doesn’t get.  

How is Jobs to be Done different from buyer personas?

Marketing research, such as buyer personas, give you the attributes and a persona but it doesn’t tell us why customers do what they do. 

A Job is about the progress that somebody’s trying to make, in a very specific circumstance, and understanding the outcomes that they’re seeking and the tradeoffs they’re willing to make.

There are a bunch of different consumer tools, demand tools, consumer-centric tools out there. There’s segmentation, demographic segmentation, and psychographic segmentation. 

These are a good starting point, because they help you to understand the range and what you’re trying to do.

But where JTBD really differs is in its ability to help areas such as marketing by helping consumers to see problems they didn’t even know they were struggling with. Check out Unpacking JTBD on the Circuit Breaker podcast to learn more about this.

The challenge with personas in product development

We’re not saying personas are ‘bad’ we’re just asking you to consider them in the context of developing new products. 

That’s because personas don’t consider variation, and they’re correlative – it’s an aggregation of things put together. So when you try to find that person or that persona – you realize they dont exist, you end up engineering something that doesn’t exist. 

Personas are important when you’re buying things like media space but when it comes to product development they fall short. 

At some point in time, we need to know what causes a customer to do things. We need to think it’s not just who they are, but what’s going on around them that makes them make the decisions. 

It’s the context that drives decisions. 

Our job is to get customers’ empathetic perspectives and bring their view to the table – with as little bias as possible. What are they thinking? Where are they coming from? What are they trying to do? 

Similarly, whilst we might have different people’s perspectives, we can also have different kinds of scientific perspectives. We can have a molecular level, a macro level, and a micro level way of seeing things through space, through times. 

It needs to extend beyond people and ultimately, identify where the gaps are and where the conflicts are. 

Good innovators and entrepreneurs can see problems before they happen, because they have this ability to play the role of somebody else.

Doug Finkelstein, Empathetic Health, provides a case study on how to change your way of thinking and see customers through a different lens. (He also benefited from JTBD coaching).

“The Jobs To Be Done framework has truly revolutionized how we perceive our members and our services, infusing our strategies with empathy, precision, and impactful results”.