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Marketing 101: Jobs-To-Be-Done

An Introduction to Marketing

Diagram of a person going through career development and upskilling
What is the job of coaching?

Something that every coaching business will have to address at some point or other is marketing, specifically, telling people what you are selling and why they should buy it.

There is no avoiding advertising one’s business and some strategies to do so work better than others. Join CLCI as they tackle the broad topic of marketing: its perks, pitfalls, and processes.

To introduce the subject, Jen Long (MCLC), Jerome LeDuff (MCPC), Lisa Finck (PCC) Anthony Lopez (MCPC), and Brooke Adair Walters (ACC) start from a very general yet important approach by discussing the concept of the “jobs to be done”. Tune in while they tackle why milkshakes are hired by consumers, and what job a client would hire a coach to do.

The Theory of Jobs-to-be-done

The jobs-to-be-done approach was spearheaded by Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen. That same school explains the theory as a viewpoint that has a company look at its products like customers do: “as a way to get a job done.” This ‘jobs to be done’ theory has taken off in marketing spheres and risen in exposure, popularity, and case studies.

But most importantly, one has to wonder if this approach even works. If it doesn’t, why bother looking at it? Harvard Business School points out that “Several major companies that have succeeded with a jobs-to-be-done mechanism”; they include the examples of FedEx, whose job to be done is “getting a package from here to there as fast as possible":, Disney, whose job niche found was to provide “warm, safe, fantasy vacations for families”, and OnStar, for providing “peace of mind”. But perhaps the most famous job to be done was that which a milkshake was “hired” for.

Christensen can be watched explaining the milkshake story here.:

The story centers around an attempt to make a profile for a customer of milkshakes at a fast-food chain that wanted to increase their sales of the item. Christensen’s approach was to think that there was a job, unknown to them so far, that the customer needed done that caused people to buy milkshakes. His team just needed to find out what that job was. So they studied the people that bought the milkshakes at this chain and noted details such as if the customers came alone or in groups, whether they bought other food, whether they ate in the restaurant or outside, and more. They discovered most milkshake consumers came in the early mornings, bought just the shake, and ate in the car.

The next step was to ask these customers why. Why did they decide on a milkshake in the morning? What did the milkshake do that another food couldn’t? What was the job that they required this milkshake to get done for them?

What Christensen found was that the ‘job’ was a long, boring drive to work, where they would have a long day, and these customers needed something that would keep them engaged for their drive and full by the time that 10:00 a.m. rolled around. As opposed to ‘competitors’ for this job, the milkshakes would take around 23 minutes to eat rather than the speed of something like a banana or snickers bar (which would still leave the costumer bored for their long morning commute), would be more contained and less messy than bagels, etc. Compared to its competitors, the milkshake did the job for this market better- and others out there who also faced boring morning commutes could be marketed towards by this restaurant chain, who could tell them that they had a great milkshake to “hire”.

Since the milkshake story, Christensen has continued to talk on the jobs to be done theory. Harvard Business School notes that he “also cites the importance of "purpose branding"—building an entire brand around a particular job-to-be-done.” Marketing strategists around many fields have looked to this approach curiously.

In summation, ‘jobs to be done’ is an approach which seeks to find a solution to whatever ‘job’ the customer needs to happen: entertainment for a daily drive, something filling for multiple hours, on and on. When someone hires a life coach, what’s the job to be done?

Hiring Coaching For The Job-To-Be-Done

A client and a coach, conversing on a couch
Do your clients want a quick fix or something more?

The milkshake story makes this theory palatable and simple. But can we see the same metaphor of hiring and jobs in the world of life coaching? The first step in trying would be to wonder what a client is trying to hire.

The answer isn’t a coach here. Rather, life coaching might be one of the potential hires in a market that would include coaches competing in the same niche, self-help books., to therapists and more.

A client might be putting out a recruitment call for support. For being seen. For having their potential seen. Having the space to let goals grow. For accountability. For reconnection with a partner as a couple. These are the jobs they want to hire someone to do- and a coach can be that someone.

And your marketing can lean into that.

You can offer transparency in your services. Be honest with your pool of potential customers. Goals in life coaching take multiple months to see the results of. It’s not a fix-all process. Fixing implies something is broken.

And your clients aren’t hiring a solution for brokenness because it’s not there.

Transparency in what coaching is will only make it more obvious that itself, rather than a competitor, will do the job best. Further marketing can drive in the appeal. For instance, you might offer a product at a deal, in a package for couples, with a cheaper trial period, etc. All while tying back to the ideal client who’s looking for a job to be done for them, whether it’s subconscious or not-just like that milkshake.

Your job-to-be-done as a coach isn’t to give results to a client or fix them. They’re picking coaching to do a job: to offer a process of support and empowering that lets them find their goals and accept they aren’t broken.


Thank you,

Jen Long (MCLC), Jerome LeDuff (MCPC), Lisa Finck (PCC) Anthony Lopez (MCPC), and Brooke Adair Walters (ACC)!

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