How to market the Job-to-be-Done

What job are customers hiring your product for?

At Intercom the answer to this question informs our entire go-to-market strategy, from the way we position our products, to the audiences we target and the content we produce.

Yes, it’s an approach that runs counterintuitive to classic, persona-based marketing, and does so purposefully. Focusing on customer attributes really means focusing on what you want to sell, rather than what your customers actually need. Those customers come from a variety of backgrounds, industries and verticals, but their one commonality is their motivation, the Job-to-be-Done.

During our recent Inside Intercom event in San Francisco, I outlined how we identified the jobs people hired Intercom for and used them to reshape our full marketing strategy – from the top to the bottom of the funnel. We’ve since repackaged and remarketed what was a single product into four distinct products that each serve a different Job-to-be-Done. The results have proven to be overwhelmingly positive – and come from a pattern any product company can follow.


This is what the marketing site looked when I started at Intercom in March of 2014. Back then we sold Intercom as a single product, and we marketed four use cases that we thought Intercom was great for. We had a typical SaaS business model where you could choose from one of four plans, with our premium plan having everything on it.

This is what traffic to our marketing site looked like back then, from a period of October 2013 to March 2014. We were averaging about 35,000 uniques every month. Growth back then was largely organic and driven by word-of-mouth.

We now have a team of 22 people across all of marketing. There is a lot of work that has gone on across the business to help us reach this point, but we now average about 220,000 uniques every month. That’s close to 5x growth.

That begs the question, how did we do this? Today I’m going to talk about some of the things we did in marketing over the past year and a half that I believe are primary contributors to this next phase of growth in the business.

This is what our marketing site looks like today. Our vision hasn’t fundamentally changed, but the way we take Intercom to market completely has. We now sell four products that are integrated on this one simple platform that is Intercom.

We got to this point based on the Jobs-to-be-Done methodology. Can I get a show of hands of how many of you in the audience are familiar with Jobs-to-be-Done? It looks like about 20-25% of you. For the sake of the rest of you, I’m going to quickly explain what that means, and then I’m going to talk about how we’ve applied that line of thinking to our entire marketing strategy.

If you Google Jobs-to-be-Done, you’ll find this video from Clay Christensen, who is a professor at the Harvard Business School and really the brains behind this methodology. It’s a great way to think about and understand customers’ motivations and why they buy your products. Although Clay uses milkshakes as the example in this video, I’m not going to talk about milkshakes today. I’m going to start by showing how we’ve applied this thinking to a part of our product, and then show you how you can apply that same thinking to your marketing strategy.

Some of you may be familiar with this – the Intercom user map. It’s a live view of all of your customers all over the world, and we thought of it as just that. We thought of it as a map. But when we looked at how our customers were using it, we noticed some really interesting trends.

Primarily people were using it to share, whether that was at an event and they wanted to impress the people coming to their booth, or sharing it on Twitter to impress investors. When we thought of this thing as a map, we went and built all of the typical features and functionalities you’d typically expect in and associate with a map. But when we actually understood the job, we went and did all these other things. We understood that it was actually a vanity showpiece for people, so we went and built this – a live, animated, and shareable version of that same map.

It’s based on helping people do that job of showing it off, and it turns out a worse map actually does a better job. More and more of our customers now share their map on Twitter as a result.

The key thing I wanted to highlight here is once you understand the job, understanding how to improve the product becomes so much more obvious. That same thinking can be applied to marketing.

Conventional marketing techniques treat you to group customers by attributes and focus on personas. The problem with that approach is your product tends to be too focused on what you want to sell and not enough on what your customers actually need. That “need” is the job they need to get done.

While your customers do come in all shapes and sizes and across all different verticals and all types of industries, the one thing they do have in common is the job they need to get done. So, how do you actually go about understanding what those jobs are? You need to talk to lots of different people. You need to talk to a broad spectrum of your customers – brand-new customers, people who just signed up, people that cancelled last week, people that have been users for a long time, etc.

To do this we worked with a group called The Rewired Group. They are a consultancy based in Detroit and specialists in the Jobs-to-be-Done methodology. They helped us conduct 45 phone interviews with customers, and then over a period of two days we went to Detroit and deeply studied 15 of those phone conversations. After a lot of debate and often heated discussion, we came away with a core understanding of these four jobs people hired Intercom for.

They largely validated a lot of the hunches we had already, but what was really impactful and valuable to us was having a very, very clear articulation of what those jobs were. You can see these job cards that we produced after those two days with The Rewired Group. In the top left corner is a very clear articulation in plain English about what each job is, and then there’s more information about what the job is about and the journey the customer goes on when they look to hire a product to do this particular job.

So we took these job cards and working with our product, pricing and packaging strategy we completely rethought how we took Intercom to market. We ended up with these four products, each designed to hire Intercom for one those four jobs.

In marketing it was our job to then take those jobs and clearly articulate the problems they solved. This is an example of our landing page for our Engage product. It helps you understand the problem and then goes deep into how the product works and how you can use it. This is a whole nother talk in itself about how we produce these pages. I wrote a quick blog post about it and recommend you check it out to learn more about that process.

The key thing here is when you understand the jobs your product is hired for, it can inform your entire go-to-market strategy. You can be so much more strategic about identifying the different channels, mediums, and tactics you want to use to reach your audience. For us that starts with reaching those people. Who are the people who would want to hire Intercom for one of these four jobs?

We also want to be attracting these people and introducing them to the Intercom brand and products. Once we’ve done that, we want to convince them that one of our products can be hired for one of those jobs. Then when they’re in the product itself, we want to educate them and help them get more value out of those products. Lastly, we want to be continually delighting our customers so they become promoters of those products.

We think about this across each and every one of the jobs and all four products. There’s lots of different things that we do across every stage, but I’m going to focus on just one of our products, Learn, and talk about a few things we’ve done across each of the stages.

Starting with reaching your audience, we like to sponsor trade shows and events, and we identify events where we could meet the people who could hire Intercom for this job. This is Colin Bentley. He’s one of our product managers in Dublin. This is him at our booth at Mind the Product in London, which is an event targeted at product managers. This is a perfect audience for our Learn job, which is all about helping you get rich, quality product feedback from the right customers.

We also seek opportunities to speak at these events. This is our co-founder Des Traynor on stage at Mind the Product speaking about product strategy.

We invest a lot of time in producing content to attract people to Intercom and introduce them to the brand, the way we think, and ultimately our products. How many of you subscribe to the Inside Intercom blog? The blog is a company-wide effort. People across engineering, marketing, sales, finance, product, design, customer support – everyone in the company contributes.

We also write books. This is the first book that we wrote, on the topic of product management. And the last piece of content I want to highlight is a landing page we put together. It’s all focused on the learn job and helping them make better product decisions.

Once we’ve attracted these people and introduced them to Intercom, our next step is to convince them to hire our product for that job. That’s where our product landing pages come in. Hopefully we’ve told a good story and we’ve convinced you to sign up and try our product.

Once you’re in the product, we then make use of very timely, targeted, contextual in-app messages to help you use our product for that job. You combine that with documentation. Again, all that documentation we create is structured around using our products for a particular job.

Lastly, we conduct weekly Intercom demos of each of our products, which again, are structured around doing the job.

Finally, it’s very important to make sure that all of you guys are happy. Our product team spends a lot of time and energy on continually shipping new features and new improvements. They’re all focused on helping you do jobs better. This is an example of a feature we added to our Engage product, which helps you understand the effectiveness of the messages you are sending to customers.

You’re probably wondering, does this actually work? I can confidently say yes, it does work. Remember that slide from the beginning of the presentation showing our traffic growth? That’s not what’s important. When you layer email signups and the people who are signing up to try Intercom on top of that, you can see that over the same period, they are growing at pretty much the same rate.

It’s a really good sign to me that we’re generating quality and qualified traffic, and attracting the right people to Intercom. I firmly believe that if you can align every phase of your marketing strategy, from the content you’re producing to the acquisition tactics you employ, to understanding the job your customers are hiring your product, as long as it all leads back to the product, then you’ll be successful.

The question I want to leave you with, which hopefully some of you want to go away and answer now, is what job do people hire your product for? Thank you.

Our fourth book, Intercom on Jobs-to-be-Done, is a collection of our best thoughts and ideas on the topic. The goal: help you understand what needs customers meet with your product, and how to ultimately improve upon that experience.