Create Better Partnerships That Customers Actually Need

Peter Lai
7 min readMar 11, 2021


The last year has shown us that the pandemic has accelerated the digitization of customer interactions by several years. According to McKinsey and Co’s survey, companies acted 20 to 25 times quicker than expected in adopting digital solutions. In the case of remote working, they acted 40 times more quickly than expected before the pandemic. As companies continue to find the best solutions to serve their customers, it is clear that to stay competitive in this new business and economic environment, companies that can address the customer needs more rapidly will be better positioned than their competitors.

In this new business environment, partner managers cannot rely on traditional iterative, fail-fast methods to uncover solutions or services that address customer needs. Customer requests, sales requests, or feature ideas are not reliable because they are often unstable and can change rapidly. These methods don’t expose what the user really wants.

As partner managers, we have to separate the customer’s requirements or benefits from what the customer truly expects as their desired outcome. Staying on top of your customer’s desired outcome is crucial in uncovering how valuable your partnerships are and where new areas of opportunities for products or services have emerged. Customers are loyal to experiences, not the product. This is the reason why it’s crucial to apply a customer-centric approach such as the Jobs-To-Be-Done framework into your customer engagements to help you understand what your customer is trying to achieve.

What is Jobs-To-Be-Done

Customers are motivated to buy or switch to a product because they desire an outcome or progress in a particular circumstance. “Your customers do not buy your product; they hire it to get a job done. The struggle with the job causes a purchase,” says the late Clay Christensen, author of Innovator’s Dilemma and Competing Against Luck.

Popularized by Christensen, Jobs-To-Be-Done (JTBD) is based on the concept that customers aren’t necessarily motivated to buy based on a product’s features or benefits. In JTBD, the word “hire” represents the act of selecting or purchasing a solution. The “job” in JTBD does not represent a task or an activity but the desire to move from a current state to a desired future state. Companies that adopt JTBD shift their focus from studying how their customer uses their product to understand what they’re trying to achieve and how they measure success.

Applying Jobs-To-Be-Done can help you:

  • Uncover the underlying needs of the users and what pushes them to make a change.
  • Identify known and unknown competitors from the customer’s point of view.
  • Create products or services to solve problems that may not have a solution yet.
  • Understand that jobs are stable over time and are solution agnostic.

JTBD shifts the value away from the product and its features and exposes the functional, social, and emotional dimensions that explain why customers make the choices they do. A widely used quote for JTBD came from Harvard Business School marketing professor Theodore Levitt when he said, “People don’t want a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!” Gaining a deep understanding of what the customer is trying to accomplish to get done opens a world of innovation possibilities and a real competitive edge.

To uncover a customer’s job and motive, there are three steps in the process:

  1. Identify the customer type that you want to focus on. The three typical customer types that you’d generally engage with at one point or another: the buyer, the actual user, the support team around the product that is responsible for maintenance, updates, etc.
  2. Create a job map that breaks down the core job into the stages that a customer would need to progress through.
  3. Put it together to create a job statement that defines the customer’s core job to guide your joint value proposition. The statement breaks down into three parts: Situation, Motivation, Expected Outcome. There isn’t a mention of the product in the statement.

For this article, I will discuss the core activity of conducting a customer interview to create a job map and cover the motives behind switching or staying with a solution.

The Universal Job Map

Unlike a buyer or customer journey map, job mapping shifts the focus away from a customer’s interactions and impression of your product or brand and uncovers the needs of a customer’s job that they need to accomplish. Job mapping is core to a customer-centric approach to innovation and is an excellent guide to helping you identify partners that will truly bring value to the customer.

The job map can help you:

  • Define the vision and direction of the organization.
  • Discover opportunities in existing solutions that have been overlooked.
  • Capture the customer’s desired outcomes.

To use job mapping correctly, we have to recognize that the goal is not to find out how a customer performs a job. A good job map will describe what the customer is trying to accomplish independently of the solution they are using.

Job Map Stages:

  1. Define what the job requires — Determine the customer’s goals and plan resources. This could be determining the objectives or the approach. It can also be an assessment of what resources is necessary or available to complete the job.
  2. Identify and locate the inputs needed — What items must the customer define or are required to do the job? This can be tangible items such as physical tools or resources or intangible things such as stored data in a database or technical requirements when writing code.
  3. Prepare the components — How does the customer prepare before starting the job? What are their process and step-by-step approach?
  4. Confirm that everything is ready — What does the customer do to verify that they are prepared? What information does the customer use to confirm priorities when deciding which options to perform the job?
  5. Execute the task — What does the customer do to execute the job successfully? How does the customer avoid any problems that may prevent the desired job outcome?
  6. Monitor the results — What does the customer need to ensure that the job has been executed successfully? How does the customer avoid any problems that may prevent the desired job outcome?
  7. Make modifications — What needs to be modified for the job to improve the execution? Customers may need help deciding what should be adjusted and determining when, how, and where to make changes.
  8. Conclude the job — What does the customer need to do to finish the job or prepare to repeat it? Some jobs are simple and conclude immediately after execution, but complex jobs require additional steps that others must complete before they are considered finished.

The Forces of Progress

The Forces of Progress are emotional forces that shape and impact a customer’s journey for progress. JTBD categorizes the Forces of Progress into four forces that improve or reduce the customer’s desire to switch.

  • Push — The struggles that a customer faces in their current situation, pushing them to seek or adopt something better. This is the motivation for progress.
  • Pull — The attraction of a solution that’s pulling the customer towards it. This is the idea or aspiration of how the solution will solve the problem.
  • Anxieties — This can be a concern that the customer chose the wrong solution or doesn’t work the way as expected.
  • Inertia — This is holding the customer back from switching to a new solution, such as a habit that they’re used to or the unrealistic idea that they have to accept what they have.

Identifying a customer’s struggle and the Forces of Progress is a crucial part of JTBD. While it is tempting to jump to a conclusion and offer a solution immediately, it is best to keep digging until you’ve truly discovered their struggling moment.

By understanding the struggle in detail, you’ll uncover a wealth of information that tells you:

  • If the customer is truly struggling or merely inconvenienced.
  • If the customer has tried another solution in the past and what the customer did and didn’t like about it.
  • What the customer considers as a competitor.
  • New opportunities for innovative services or products from different partners in your ecosystem.

Understanding the customer’s JTBD will help you improve your ideal partner profile, create a better marketing message around your joint value, and allow you to evaluate if your current ecosystem is meeting the needs of your customers. Remember, a JTBD is a process that the customer goes through whenever they want to transform their current situation in life or at work into a preferred one, but cannot because there are obstacles that prevent it. Knowing your customer’s jobs and creating a valuable partnership around the solutions or services that addresses their struggles will be a competitive edge in today’s crowded market.

This post originally appeared on Partner Trends. To get this story and future articles straight to your inbox, subscribe here.



Peter Lai

I help businesses build and leverage successful partner programs