Before you found your first client, wrote your first inbound blog, or even got involved with marketing at all, you probably (hopefully!) had one very crucial understanding of how B2B content marketing works – to know what to market or how to do so, you had to know what kind of person you’re targeting. In other words, you had to identify your target market.

Being clear on what problem you’re trying to solve with your product or service is the golden ticket to effective marketing. Up to now, Inbound Marketers around the world have put a ton of time and energy into doing just that: defining their Buyer Persona, a representation of their ideal client and the pain points to which they can focus their efforts.

But as the modern buyer’s needs are constantly evolving, how can you best keep track of what they value and need? With this question in mind, another visualization has been creeping up the sidelines: Jobs to Be Done (JTBD). 

While Buyer Personas have been the go-to when it comes to setting up your inbound marketing strategy, are these personas in today’s age still enough? What really are JTBDs?

And most importantly: can Buyer Personas and Jobs to Be Done work together to give the optimal solution?

What Are Buyer Personas

What Are Buyer Personas?

A Buyer Persona, in short, is a figurative representation of your target audience. With these Personas, there is often the critical misconception that its purpose is only to describe quick facts about your viewers’ demographics. However, this idea of a persona is missing the fundamental understanding of who your audience really is, beyond face-value statistics, which is a crucial aspect in developing stand-out marketing strategies.

A great Buyer Persona encompasses a set of demographic, behavioral, and attitudinal traits to give you the full picture of who you’re trying to market your product or service to; their race, gender, career, buying behavior, brand preference, maybe even their favorite colour.

Painting a picture of your ideal buyer means pinpointing a variety of rich characteristics; an effective Buyer Persona is as elaborate as a real person would be. Consider things from what a day in their life might look like, to what their pain points – the problems they are seeking solutions to – are.

Laying down these facts requires valuable qualitative research on your existing clients to understand the intent behind their actions.

There are numerous advantages to approaching your target market this way:

  • Placing priority in who your buyers are makes your marketing strategies very personal, which helps you connect with your viewers and tailor your efforts directly to what they need. As we know, appealing to the audience's emotions is key to generating leads.
  • Buyer Personas keep the user as the main focus. After all, they remind you that you’re marketing to humans with their very own, individual wants and needs.
  • They consider the context in which a potential lead may find themselves in. For instance, knowing their daily routines will reveal what is generally a good time to contact them about your product (and when isn’t).

Having said that, Buyer Personas are not the be-all-end-all solution (or else we wouldn’t be here!):

  • These personas, although based on traits of existing people, are hypothetical, which in itself poses several limitations.
  • With such a focus on who your audience is and what their problems are, businesses often find themselves forgetting to push the limits and find solutions to their pain points that improve upon existing methods.
  • With too much demographic and emotional information, it’s easy to get distracted and fall into tunnel-vision. That means, if your Buyer Persona is too specific, you might find yourself actually excluding potential clients or getting caught up in irrelevant details.

So Buyer Personas alone are not the ideal solution for the modern client. But what other options are there?

What Are Jobs to Be Done

What Are Jobs to Be Done?

The Jobs to Be Done (JTBDs) paradigm takes on the other end of the spectrum. Its focus is more on the solution to the question rather than who is asking it in the first place. The main idea is that buyers have a specific “job”, or outcome, that they want resolved. And your product or service can then be “hired” by these prospective clients to complete this task.

These sets of “jobs” are essentially a comprehensive list of your audience’s needs, the problems that they’re seeking answers to. With your products more or less “for hire”, your focus with JTDBs is on the context in which they will be needed, the goals of the users hiring them, and what types of interactions these users are looking for.

Rather than offering the same solution as everyone else, great JTBDs find ways to solve problems in new ways. A famous quote by Harvard economist Theodore Levitt says, “people don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.” In layman’s terms: your clients don’t care how you solve their problem, as long as you do it as effectively and efficiently as possible! 

For example, if a potential lead wants to improve their SEO, under the JTBD framework you wouldn’t just analyse their existing keywords but tackle new solutions, finding new ways to help them generate traffic.

In order to be this innovative, great Jobs to Be Done strategies involve finding out which competitor products your prospects must be ready to “fire” to take on your product instead. 

And similar to Buyer Personas, JTBDs are also born out of qualitative user research, but unlike concentrating too much on the person itself, JTBDs assess the context solely of the customer’s needs to create a new method of resolving a problem.

The pros of Jobs to Be Done:

  • As lesser importance is placed on specific trademarks of potential buyers, such as their attitudes or behaviors in specialised scenarios, JTBDs allow you to generate more inclusive solutions that are not limited to demographics.
  • The main motivator is innovation; you’re pushing for new solutions and putting solely your clients’ needs at the front line, so you’re more likely to discover unique strategies that will catapult you miles ahead of your competition.

There are some limitations too, however:

  • JTBDs are so focussed on achieving a desired goal that sometimes it misses the nuances of why someone would want or even need the solution. It generalises your users’ emotional and social contexts, and from this you may find yourself struggling with connecting with your audience.
  • While Buyer Personas shield you with a sort of tunnel-vision, JTBDs are the opposite. As they are not tailored specifically to a specific kind of person, prospects are more likely to find it irrelevant to their distinct personal situation and discard your product or service altogether.

What does this mean? 

In essence, although sounding similar at first, there is a big difference between the two methods. Buyer Personas go super in-depth into an audience, including their attitudes, what they value, even their daily routine. Meanwhile, Jobs to Be Done places a heavier focus on the solution, the action you want to facilitate among your clients; they are much more goal-oriented.

Thus: Buyer Personas are in danger of considering too much context, while JTBD don’t consider enough of it.

The Unbeatable Duo

The Unbeatable Duo

The solution? Combine the two!

If Buyer Personas are the “Who” of marketing, then Jobs to Be Done are the “Why” and “What”. Synthesising both methods leaves you with a happy medium between how much you focus on the person versus how much you focus on the task at hand. This way, you can consider some of the attitudes and values of your audience and still have the resources to come up with an effective solution.

What are some of the benefits?

  • Understanding the ‘job’ for which customers find themselves ‘hiring’ your product or service (JTBDs) and who the buyer actually is, their attitudes, values, motivations (Buyer Personas) reveals an appropriately holistic picture of the entire person and what they need to achieve.
  • Ultimately, JTBDs present the actual solution. However, Buyer Personas are the oil that gets that marketing wheel turning; these personas are what help you connect with your audience and deliver your services in a way that will be well-received.

This sounds ideal in theory, but transforming your whole strategy in reality can be a much bigger struggle. 

Here are two tips for combining the two methodologies:

  1. Determine, in full detail, the actual problem that people need solved. Compare existing solutions already on the market and use qualitative research to find new ways of approaching the obstacle.
  2. Once you have found this solution, find ways to advocate it in a way that appeals to your audience’s emotions – this is where your knowledge of who the buyer is at heart becomes fundamental. 

For example, if a client presents the problem of not having any valuable content to publish on its blog and seeks your services for coming up with ideas: from the JTBD perspective, you might suggest new content ideas or ways to repurpose existing work. From the Buyer Persona perspective, you would then think about the style it’s written in, the tone of voice, graphics, font, and all other factors that link to the viewers’ implicit preferences.

Combining effective solutions with the right delivery method is key. After all, 45% of consumers would leave a website if its content displays poorly on their device. 

This is only one of many examples of how beneficial it really can be to align JTBDs and Buyer Personas.

Client Problems Continue to Evolve

Clients’ Problems Will Continue to Evolve – And so Should Your Solutions to Them!

Clearly, the two strategies follow two very distinct approaches, each with their own benefits and limitations. Inbound marketers who rely solely on their vision of a Buyer Persona might miss the point of what a client actually wants to accomplish, and JTBD loyals could end up lacking empathy for the future user of their product or service. Each strategy alone does not suffice to give you the best possible chances at converting leads; only by combining these effectively do you truly get the best of both worlds.

JTBDs launch the valuable, yet hypothetical, details of a persona into reality, offering smashing solutions that also speak to clients on a deeper level. Thus, approaching a task with a Jobs to Be Done mindset and later refining your delivery strategy with Buyer Persona techniques will help you to keep innovating your approaches to your clientele’s demands.

After all, the “job to be done”, the problem at the root of all of this effort, will always exist – it’s the ways to solve it that will constantly be evolving, and you need to keep evolving with it.

Yuki Braun

Written by Yuki Braun

Yuki has loved to write from an early age, whether it was embarrassing fanfictions or real blogs for real people. She couldn't be happier working with &weekly – and as a student at the University of St Andrews, the extra pocket money comes in hand for a pint and some chips at the nearest pub!