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Understand your product and customer better by the “Jobs-to-be-done” theory.

If you want to be successful in business it is key to understand your customer, product and why your customer is buying your product.  This helps you design your product and helps the product deliver, doing the “job” the customer wants the product to do better and making your company more profitable. 

when people want to buy a product, they usually think about that what can the product do for them. Can you buy other products that will do this job better? Clay Christensen, a professor at Harvard Business School, developed a “Jobs-to-be-done” theory. 

He describes the relationship between customers and products as an employer and employee relationship.  This theory began emerging during a marketing survey for milkshakes sold by a well-known fast food chain, McDonald’s. They invited some quintessential milkshake customers to give them some guidance for how to improve the milkshakes. 

One of the customers, after being introduced to this idea of “Jobs-to-be-done” began to use this lens to understand milkshakes and what’s the job that people are hiring milkshakes to do. They spent 2 days in the restaurant observing and asking people who buy milkshakes questions. The answers were almost the same,  which is that they had a long and boring drive to work, and they just needed something to do while they were driving to stay awake and avoid becoming hungry too quickly. One customer said that previously he had hired a banana to do the job, but bananas are gone in less than a minute, and you’re hungry for 1 hour. 

Another customer said that they sometimes hired donuts or snickers bars to do the job, but that they created other problems. All customers surveyed thought that the milkshake does the job better than any of its competitors. 

“Jobs-to-be-done” theory helps us to evaluate our target customers. What do your products do for your customers? Is that what your customer really wants? What other products compete with your product?

Following are some examples of different target customers who might visit a coffee shop, and the different jobs they might want their cup of coffee to do for them:

Type one: Young girls. They go to a coffee shop and buy a cup of coffee, and the first thing they do is take nice photos and share with their friends using social media. The job of their cup of coffee and your coffee shop is to let them take nice photos by providing a cool remodel style, cool equipment, and a nice background for their photos. With this type of customer, your competitors might be a dessert shop, a clothing store, or even a spa, that also have a nice remodel style, cute products, and very good lighting. 

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Type two: Business men. They will be looking to see if your coffee shop can provide a talking or meeting space.If your cafe can not provide a quiet environment and good wifi, comfortable tables and chairs, and a place to charge their computer, then your coffee will not do the job they want. They may choose an office or another place that can do the job better.


Type three: Busy mothers with kids. They are very hard working, and they want to find a place theycan relax. But what kind of place can have kids play by themselves and not disturb their mother? If there is a children’s play area in your coffee shop with toys for kids, your coffee shop might be the ideal place a mother wants to hire. She may also hire a babysitter to take care of her kids and relax, so babysitters might be the competitors of this type of coffee shop.


Type four: Foreigners. They just want a good cup of coffee. They don’t care about the remodel, equipment, or background. They may not even want a table and chair to sit down. In this case, all coffee products are the competitors with your coffee shop, backpackers coffee, filter coffee at home or at the office, etc.

Type five: Students. They need a quiet environment, a good place to study, as well as caffeine to help them to stay awake and focus. They also can hire backpacker’s coffee, instant coffee and a library or a bookstore to do this job.

Knowing the jobs your coffee can do is very important in defining your target customers. Knowing who your target customer is helps you to make good decisions for your location and remodel design, as well as many other aspects of your business.

The size of the coffee market is much bigger than the sum of all the coffee shops inside the market. From the customers’ point of view, these shops also compete against all types of beverage stores, dessert stores, clothing stores, offices, bookstores, libraries and so on.