I’ve been thinking about what happens when we try to apply the Jobs to be Done (JTBD) lens to business-to-business situations. Uncovering needs by carefully interviewing consumers is so powerful when we are talking directly to the end user but what about those buying design or marketing services from an agency or negotiating a fleet contract with an auto manufacturer?

The JTBD community is rich with tools and ideas for asking the right questions of consumers: from the timeline  to the forces model . But in a business-to-business context these sometimes fit less well. The emotional energy and the motivations behind the meeting of needs are perhaps a bit different.

We want to hire someone to build us a new website? We have selected four agencies and sent out a request for proposals listing our expectations and requirements. We have agreed a budget with the head of marketing and we’ve promised delivery by next March.

What are the jobs to be done here? What questions should I (as an agency) ask the client? Should I respond with a price and a proposal that matches every requirement together with my best guess of what it will cost and how long it will take or should I take a different approach that makes my response stand out from the others?

Using the JTBD framework we look to uncover deep functional, emotional and social needs. These needs often reveal innovative ways to tackle a project, create a product or communicate with customers.

Let’s start with the functional jobs.
Jobs are needs people have that they often struggle to articulate. In this case the clients says they want a website but that may not be what they need. Let’s not talk about the website, let’s talk about “the job” the project will “get done”.

What business problems are addressed by building this new website? How will the business change? What other strategies and tactics are being employed to tackle the same goals?

Is it possible that the functional job is always discovered by exploring the business goals that are being addressed by the proposed project?

By business goals I mean obvious things like increasing revenue, hiring and retaining staff, providing better customer service, decreasing costs and expanding into new markets.

We need new offices, a training course , a tonne of sand, a new photocopier contract or to find a new supplier who can manufacture spare parts.

Explore the functional job to be done by discussing the business goals instead of the details of the project and then look for ways to meet these goals. These may match with the client wants but more often than not, in my experience, they won’t.

So what about emotional and social goals?
Discovering emotional and social goals in a business to consumer (B2C) context is about asking questions that look at struggles, motivations and payoffs for the individuals involved. In my experience, exactly the same is true in a B2B context.

Clients are human and their needs are about getting their next job or promotion, pleasing their boss or having an easy life. Are they trying to minimise risks to themselves or aiming to make themselves shine? Are they looking to learn or just delegate? Gently ask questions that begin to uncover these sorts of personal jobs to be done and combine these with the business goals/functional jobs.

Of course your B2B customer may be a group of people rather than an individual and you’ll need to discover and prioritise the jobs from more than a single person.

Training JTBD
I am working with lots of companies and individuals to explore innovation and keep being amazed at the simplicity and richness of the JTBD framework. This year I have developed (and successfully Kickstarted) a training deck of cards to help teams learn how to interview clients

How to extend JTBD to B2B is discussed by all of my marketing and digital agency clients. I hoping that the functional = business goals + emotional/social = human needs approach proves effective. I’d love feedback and comments.

This article was first published on Medium.


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