Identifying Hidden Market Opportunities for Innovation through JTBD

Businesses must identify market opportunities if they hope to survive. Identifying potential customers is a large part of the process of looking for market opportunities, we consider a customers Jobs to Be Done, to drive the new products and services we decide to develop.

Jobs to Be Done Job Map
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Businesses must identify market opportunities if they hope to survive. Identifying potential customers is a large part of the process of looking for market opportunities. In the UNITE model, we consider a customer’s Jobs to Be Done, or JTBD, to drive the new products and services we decide to develop.

Market demand will control many of your innovation initiatives. Completing a thorough market opportunity analysis will help ensure that you’re making the right investment in pursuing new customers. Sometimes, however, it can be a challenge to identify market opportunities. Small businesses can best understand where to find new business by taking advantage of JTBD and other customer analysis measures.

Digital Leadership experts have devoted a lot of time to thinking through how JTBD can be used to develop customer satisfaction, market opportunity analysis, and target market development. This article discusses how to use JTBD to identify new opportunities or a new potential target audience. Additional information about Jobs to Be Done, as well as how to best operate in your current and future business environment, is available in our book, How to Create Innovation. You’ll learn the correct strategies for customer surveys, market analysis, market opportunity assessment, and other processes that will help your business identify the right market opportunity.

Related: Jobs to be Done Framework, Examples, and Statements (JTBD)

Identify Market Opportunities Through Customer Needs

It goes without saying: we should be constantly looking to expand our customer base. By answering questions about identifying more customers, we open new market opportunities and prepare to meet new competitors. When you’re actively seeking new opportunities to open your services to new consumers, you worry less about market share because you’re operating in increasingly more markets.

The UNITE Jobs to Be Done Job Statement and Universal Job Map

As you’ll see in How to Create Innovation, in the UNITE structure, Jobs to Be Done plays an important role in helping you understand your customers and your value proposition.

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You are going to frame a Job to be Done in two steps:

  1. The one-sentence Job Statement helps you articulate the customer’s need in a given situation using their voice.
  2. The eight steps of the Job Map help you discover the smaller tasks and activities customers are doing to accomplish their job.

The customer’s Job Statement uses a simple sentence structure using the customer’s own words, describing the outcome he or she is ultimately hoping to achieve or the struggle to overcome.

Jobs to be Done Customer's Job Statement
The UNITE Jobs to Be Done Customer’s Job Statement
Designed by: Digital Leadership AG – Source: Helge Tennø.

A proper Job Statement narrows your understanding of the target customer so you are confident you’re properly addressing their real needs.

The Job Mapping is a little more complicated, though it’s also outlined and completed in How to Create Innovation. For our purposes here, we’ll keep things simple.

Jobs to Be Done Job Map
The UNITE Jobs to be Done Universal Map
Designed by: Digital Leadership AG – Source: Lance A. Bettencourt and Anthony W. Ulwick.

The eight steps in the Job Mapping are:

  1. Define and plan: The customer consciously or subconsciously creates an initial plan for their approach to achieving their goal.
  2. Locate the input needed: The customer identifies and locates the information necessary for them to decide what to do.
  3. Prepare: The customer organizes and makes sense of the information, filters and qualifies it, establishes theories, and goes to find more information or chooses to make a decision about what to do.
  4. Confirm and validate: The customer makes a decision to take action and validates it.
  5. Execute: The customer performs the action or procedure leading from the decision.
  6. Monitor: As the decision is executed the customer monitors the effects and outcome.
  7. Modify: Monitoring creates new information which leads the customer to assess their original decision. Did they make a good decision, or do they need to go back and make a new decision based on their new data? Do they just conclude (move to the next phase), or do they continuously monitor and improve their decision?
  8. Conclude: In some jobs, the customer concludes at some point that their journey is over. They take stock of their situation based on their assessment from the modify phase and conclude if they were happy or not and learn from it.

Understanding each step in the process is critical for your team to create a solution that precisely fulfills the important but underserved JTBD. The Job Map gives the team an opportunity to investigate what the customer is doing more thoroughly. When you begin to understand the total market in terms of products and services that solve problems, you see the target audience in different, more productive terms.

Deeply Understanding Customer Segments

Some of you may have heard this piece of wisdom: no business plan survives first customer contact. But why is that so actually? The ultimate prerequisite for coming up with a product or service that excites customers is to understand their real needs. A great idea isn’t truly great unless it’s got a purpose and use. We often don’t get this right, and this is why our theoretical business plans and PowerPoint presentations often miss customer and market reality. So, let’s figure out how we can gain a much better understanding of what our customers really want.

Firms often base their ideas and later solutions on their perceived understanding of their customer (segmentation) and their perceived wants. But, in reality, we don’t know the customer, particularly not in an innovation context which is by definition unknown. Thus, this approach to the problem is fundamentally flawed.

Because this goes against most of what we have been taught about understanding our customers, let’s dig into it a bit. Let’s start with a Persona – a typical representation of a customer segment, displaying its key characteristics.

A persona as a target market

A Persona is a typical representative of a larger Customer Segment. A description of a Persona should include visual material (photo of a typical segment representative and potentially photos of the typical “world” of this Persona), demographic, sociographic, and psychographic data. Importantly, Personas should represent reality and not just be invented and designed to your taste (a common problem, believe it or not!). Demographic data is typically least useful, since it will not help you understand how a person behaves. In creating a Persona, it is critical to discuss what the “design-relevant parameters” are. This will help you determine what information is relevant to your product.

As an example, let’s build a typical Persona using Digital Leadership founder Stefan F. Dieffenbacher:

  • Speaks five languages
  • Spent over 12 years abroad
  • Studied in three countries
  • Started multiple businesses
  • Doesn’t own a car
  • Lives in the city center
  • Frequent traveler
  • Wrote How to Create Innovation

While those things might be interesting, none of them will help you predict whether Stefan will buy your product or not. Even if your market research department had a lot more segmentation data about Stefan (or the customer group of your choice), you would still not be able to understand his consumption patterns with any significant statistical probability. You are unable to do so because the reasons for buying a particular newspaper, eating in a particular place, or taking a particular mode of transportation are much more specific.

Clearly, a consumer has a very different view of the marketplace and does not care about his customer demographics or the product characteristics we use to segment the market. A customer “simply has a job to be done and is seeking to “hire” the best product or service to do it.” In some circumstances, people will choose the nice bar, in others, the more formal dining place. Think of your business in these terms, and you’re more likely to properly identify direct and indirect competitors.

Using a persona for market opportunity analysis

Ultimately, your customers buy from you because you help them achieve something. Here are a few more examples to get you thinking:

  • People want a painting on the wall. Not a power drill.
  • People want entertainment. Not a TV.
  • People want to look good. Not a scale.
  • Businesses want their goods transported. Not a freight train.
  • Parents want a secure financial future for their children. Not a private school.
  • People want financial control. Not an accounting system.

So, in short, people purchase things to complete a job they need to be done.
you understand and satisfy this need. Therefore, we need to focus on the “job” a user has to accomplish, instead of whatever artificial market segment they belong to. Conduct a market opportunity analysis by truly understanding what potential customers need. Consider what capacity your company has for meeting those needs. Identify direct and indirect competitors, and what they’re doing right and wrong. Is there room for a new business given the total market size? Are you better off expanding your market share, or developing an entirely new customer base?

Market opportunities and potential customers come from developing solutions to problems, not merely brainstorming products or services we think are useful or neat.

Understanding Customer Needs and Market Opportunity Through JTBD

There are some important questions we answer to help us understand our customer segments and customer needs:

  • For whom are we creating value? Which segments & representative personas?
  • Who are our most important customers?
  • Who is the final user of our products and services?
  • Who are the early adopters?

With Jobs to be Done you will be able to understand what pain your customers are really struggling with. We are thus seeking to understand an important but unmet user need, not ideas about solutions for consumers we do not know yet.

Identifying Competition Through Jobs to Be Done

In addition to finding new customers through JTBD, businesses find success when they are aware that the process we describe will help them identify new competitors as well as market potential.

Who are Your Target Market Competitors?

Through a Jobs-to-be-Done lens, your competition starts to look a bit different. It’s not about having the best price or features compared to similar products, but being the best at solving the customers’ jobs. This helps your team look outside the narrow lens of your industry and see opportunities from a broader perspective.

With JTBD the market is not about you or your businesses, but the customer. You need to look at their features, not your own. And these features are the desired outcomes that they are trying to achieve. Otherwise, we run the risk or developing solutions to problems that don’t exist.

For example, using transportation, we can compare how different means of transport (regular cars, public transport or self-driving cars) compare against different customer needs. More specifically for Digital Leadership, we noticed that the companies lacked access to robust descriptions of business models that could be easily implemented in their own business practices. For us, it was a market opportunity, and a way to provide service to companies around the world that were innovating exciting new sales and service opportunities. How to Create Innovation is our response to that market opportunity.

Knowing what motivates your customers to come to you and hire your products will ultimately help you improve your solutions design, positioning, targeted marketing and sales through increased customer satisfaction and customer excellence.

Listening to the voice of your customer

In some sense, we are witnessing a paradigm shift in business. Instead of organizations and their products being in the middle, the customer stands at the center of the business universe now. After all, the competition is now just one click away, and customers have a plethora of options. The business imperative has flipped from push to pull; it is a buyers’ market in which customers lead, not a sellers’ market, in which firms lead.

Organizations thus have to listen to consumers in everything they do on daily basis. Given this changed context, the voice of the customer is a key (and highly underutilized!) business driver and management tool, particularly in environments of uncertainty such as innovation. Customer insights, data and tests should thus systematically inform every single decision you make as you go through the iteration process.

Failing in love with your customer’s unmet needs

Being in love with our own technology or features only leads to more technology and more features as there are no breaks on that system. More is better. But if we put the customer’s job in front of us it will help us efficiently prioritize and amplify what produces more value for the customer and stop or dampen what doesn’t.

Every time you are discussing a feature or a solution you have to question it: What job does it solve? What valuable outcome does it help the customer achieve, and how?

Lesson: We have to fall in love with our customers and their needs, not our own solutions or features. Otherwise, we risk failing to satisfy existing customers or attracting new customers.

The UNITE Approach to Testing

Innovation testing Mechanism
The UNITE Key Test Mechanisms Available in Stage 2 Problem/Solution Fit
Designed by: Digital Leadership AG

The purpose of testing is to see whether you are making progress in your Problem/Solution Fit, and later Solution/Market Fit, by validating key hypotheses. From the start of an innovation initiative, your primary goal is to systematically reduce the risk of a (big) failure as soon as possible. Therefore, the tests with the highest risks go first.

The goal is to use the cheapest possible proxy that allows you to effectively test the assumptions underlying your Value Proposition and Business Model. Ask yourself what you really want to learn and what the cheapest possible hack is to test that assumption.

As you progress, your prototypes and test setups will increase in both quality and fidelity. This also increases effort and cost. You want to try to test your riskiest hypotheses and have your biggest failures before you invest these resources.

So, spend $500 on Google Ads to see if anyone shows interest in your app before you consider spending $500,000 to develop it.

Testing on Your Potential Consumers

By their very nature, innovations are uncertain (otherwise it is not an innovation). Risk is something corporations want to avoid; they need to deliver reliable results in order to communicate stability to the stock markets. Their usual means of making incremental improvements, then, is through several rounds of “internal validation” and market research.

These means do not work well in an innovation context; internal validation requires imagining what people need rather than going and figuring it out. Market research has a similar flaw: you simply cannot research an idea that doesn’t yet exist!

You don’t want to validate an idea, you want to test it. And luckily there is an obvious way to do so: present and sell it to a real customer, and iterate from there. An idea is only really proven when it has survived its first (and subsequent) contact with the customer.


What are the odds of getting an innovation right the first time? It took Thomas Edison more than 1,000 tries to make the light bulb work; it took Google’s founders 350 pitches to investors before they got funded (undoubtedly, the initial ones were crappy); and most organizations will review several hundred ideas before they invest in one.

What’s crazy is that once an innovation initiative is started, experimentation and redesign (in other words, iteration) often stop. Rather, organizations follow a direct path of development in order to demonstrate they are “on track.”

But there is no clear and direct path to true innovation. You don’t know you are on track until your hypothesis is validated by customer action. The only way to achieve innovation is to test, iterate and pivot in substantial ways. Build in the time and resources to do so.

Do not Freeze too Early

Often companies do some iterations at the beginning of an innovation project but get stuck in one mindset too early, sometimes even before they put the product before the customer. Another frequent issue is to freeze initial thinking and planning too early in a business case. There is a lot of pressure in organizations not to iterate: from controlling to budgeting, leadership who needs to report to their leadership, governance boards. Whatever it is, resist it. No business plan survives first customer contact. And if you spend your time making plans, figures, and roadmaps instead of testing your product in the real world, you are ultimately raising expectations that you can’t fulfill.

Let’s tell a different story instead: Let’s share a story of learning, of customer feedback, of iteration. A story where progress is not measured by KPIs but through the validation of hypotheses. These will form the milestones that are relevant for you, not business cases that are made out of thin air.

Mind the Cost of Change

With an increasing rate of change in our external environments, organizations have to change more rapidly in response. However, carrying out change comes at a cost, and unsurprisingly the costs of change increase over the lifetime of a project; the costs of change are low initially, but typically go up dramatically over time – particularly in larger or more complex projects.

The “cost of change” as a concept has always been around (How much better off are you knowing that the land you’ve chosen won’t support your towering cathedral before you build it than after?) but it has been extensively researched in modern software engineering.

The following graph demonstrates the significance of the cost of change. A mistake costs much more to correct if carried out during production than at the beginning of the design phase.

You probably think this is obvious, yet many organizations still seem to stumble over it, especially in the innovation space.

Key Concepts of UNITE Jobs to Be Done Testing

What can we learn from this concept about how to keep the costs of change low while at the same time maximizing our chance of succeeding at innovation?

  • Build a strong foundation. It is for this reason that we suggest investing more upfront in Jobs to be Done and customer research and testing, as opposed to the typical guess, ideate, fail and learn approach. As a general rule, the fewer chances that are made later in the game, the cheaper and faster the result will be.
  • Do front-loading. Cover your biggest risks first. The easy, low-risk stuff can follow later.
  • Conduct tests as early as possible. In general, find an error as close as possible to the time at which it was introduced. The longer an issue (in software: a defect) stays, the more damage it causes further down the chain. Make sure to iron out key pieces of the innovation before moving to details.
  • Do not build before you have tested. Way too often organizations have a product built by their IT before it is really tested. This de facto turns IT into the most expensive and time-consuming testing department you can imagine! Test on your customers and solidify your product before moving to production.
  • Do not collapse under the pressure to build something quickly. A product will only become successful if you truly solve a customer’s job. It is up to the customer to tell you when you have done that successfully.
  • Follow agile methodology: The iterative process (design, develop, test) allows you to work in small increments and discover problems early. Embrace this. Following agile methodology contributes to flattening the costs of change curve.

Although it may seem as though this process makes a project more expensive, correcting early failures in order to avoid later ones ultimately reduces costs because it reduces the Total Cost of Ownership.

Some Closing Thoughts: Market opportunity and you

What’s your job title?

Whatever it is, we should all be Chief Market Analysis Officers, always on the lookout for ways to help consumers complete their Jobs to Be Done. We find new market opportunities when we understand the needs of potential customers more deeply.

Our business models must be built around proactively providing market opportunity examples that can expand our customer base and make our business the go-to answer everyone in our market. When we gauge our successes by how completely we meet the needs of consumers, the sales are sure to follow.

The experts at Digital Leadership are ready to help you properly consider the Jobs to Be Done in your sector. We have years of experience helping businesses adjust their business models to best leverage new technology and capabilities to expand market size. To learn more about how Digital Leadership can help your business, no matter the market, visit the Contact section of our company website.

The UNITE Business Model Framework: A Framework for Innovation Success

Business Model framework
THE UNITE Business Model Framework
Designed By: Digital Leadership AG

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