Client avatars are useful marketing tools, but they're not the best choice for dealing with clients on an individual level. The Job-To-Be-Done (JTBD) methodology lets you address your client's REAL pain points, and meet their needs more effectively.
When it comes to planning their marketing campaigns and figuring out which hyperlocal niche to zero in on, lots of real estate agents use a tool called “client avatars.”
If you’re not familiar with client avatars (or client personas), they are “character profiles” of the different types of buyers and sellers that you work with. In other words, they are an approximation of what their typical client looks like, what their interests are, their traits, etc.
For example, if you’re targeting a downsizing market, your client avatar might include details such as:
55+ of age, children have already left the house, haven’t moved in the last 5 years, etc.
The problem that I see a lot of agents run into when it comes to using client avatars is that they fail to acknowledge that this is just a tool. While client avatars are extremely useful tools, clients are not faceless mannequins that can be dressed up and summarized through blanket statements.
These agents essentially focus on which clients they want to market to, and not the problems that those clients want to solve.
The reality is that clients are complex human beings with seemingly endless motivations, just like the rest of us. Sure, buyers and sellers share common traits and pain points. But each one of them is also a uniquely different individual.
Dealing with each client as an individual is especially important in real estate because buying and selling a home is a massive, emotional and life-changing event.
Top real estate agents understand intuitively how to read between the lines here for their clients.
This is why I love the “job-to-be-done methodology” or JTBD for short. Rather than focus on general client qualities or a specific client avatar, it focuses on client motivation.
It repeatedly asks why and how someone goes from general awareness of a problem, all the way to being ready to buy. It investigates what needs drive a client to seek out a particular solution, and zeroes in there.
And for those reasons, it can be the secret weapon in a top-performing agent’s arsenal.
You know that magical moment when you connect the right buyer with the perfect home at just the right time? JTBD can help you to consistently generate this result through a systematic approach.
Do I have your attention now? Great! Let’s go deeper.
What is a job-to-be-done?
Let’s start by defining what we mean by “job” and “done” in this context.
Job = your client’s struggle to achieve or make progress on something.
Done = your clients made progress or accomplished what they desired, or they are no longer struggling with their problem.
To simplify this further, let’s use a simple formula:
When I’m struggling with (problem), help me (do this particular job), so that I can (accomplish something that will make my life better/easier).
This may seem pretty basic. But the reason why this framework is gaining traction is because a “job” is the single commonality you can find across your client avatars regardless of their individual attributes. It also forces you to think deeply about your client’s actual problem.
Let’s take a fun example here. I always like to start with a non-real estate example before we get into real estate specific examples, so let’s go with… Vape cigarettes.
One of the main ideas behind the development of vape cigarettes is to provide a so-called “healthier” alternative to people who smoke cigarettes.
Obviously, tobacco smokers don’t continue their habit for health reasons. So what REAL reasons would they have to the switch to vape cigarettes? Well, here are some common ones:
- I want to get rid of the smell on my clothes and in my car.
- My girlfriend or boyfriend doesn’t like the smell.
- Cigarette ash gets everywhere and it’s annoying to clean.
- It’s annoying to have to go outside to smoke or look for designated smoking areas.
- My friends keep stealing my lighter.
How can we make this into a JTBD statement here?
“When I get stressed or anxious, give me an easy nicotine high, so that I can de-stress without hassle.”
JTBD and Real Estate
Ok, let’s start applying JTBD to some common real estate scenarios.
Let’s say that your client is a single mom. She tells you that she’s tired of dumping money into rent and it would be smarter to finally invest in a home for her and her daughter.
You're discussing her real estate needs at a coffee shop, and as you ask her what her “housing must-haves” list looks like, you notice her kid’s homework spread out haphazardly all over the dining table.
Through more conversation, you notice that she keeps bringing up her concern over student loans. You discover that the reason she’s still renting is that it took her years to pay off her own student debt.
As an experiment, how many things can you read between the lines here? What sort of assumptions can you make about her real motivations without her having to explicitly spell them out for you?
Sure, she obviously concerned about common real estate stuff such as mortgage rates and finding the best deal possible. But now you also know how important her daughter’s education is to her.
Chances are that a good school district is going to be on the top of her “housing must-haves” list and she might be more inclined to like a home if it’s closer to a library or provides a good study environment.
Her daughter’s education is high up on her priorities, and it gives you a clue as to what property traits she’s looking for. And knowing that she herself struggled with student loans, she probably won’t want her daughter to go through the same thing.
So what sort of JTBD statements can we come up with here?
"When I’m working hard on my own to provide for my family, help me find a home in a good school district, where I can minimize my expenses so that I can save more money for things like my daughter’s college tuition."
Make sense? How about another example?
Two of your clients are an elderly downsizer couple whose youngest child has finally left the house. There’s a void there when they wake up, and they no longer hear the usual noise of kids bouncing off the walls.
They know that moving into a smaller property is the logical choice but whenever you show them a house, they get wishy-washy.
So you try showing them a home in a neighborhood with an active and friendly community that will help keep the loneliness at bay.
You know that they're dealing with empty-nest syndrome. That rickety old dining table covered in stains and marker ink? That table represents family dinners, reviewing homework, and generally speaking, quality time spent with their family over the years.
If they’re not ready to sell these things right away, help them to find them a storage unit so they can deal with these items at their own pace. And if you see that their struggling, be the one to suggest this first. That’s called empathy - another secret weapon that we’ll cover in another article 😊
Here’s a good JTBD for this situation:
"Now that we’re closing an old chapter in our lives, help us ease into our newest one so that we can learn to enjoy our retirement years."
Practice active listening when speaking with your clients. Take their responses, and dig deep. If you take the time to find the underlying reason behind their move beforehand, you’ll save time, gas and mental energy while checking out properties for your client.
When you go above and beyond the normal considerations, you’ll have more satisfied clients who would be quick to refer you to their friends.
The journey to the “close” is more than guiding a client around obstacles and through the paperwork. Make it a point to understand the JTBD of every client that you work with.
By doing so, not only will you remove friction from future transactions, but you’ll create an overall experience that will have your clients raving about you to their friends.
Innovation consultant Bob Moesta perfectly described the Real Estate industry’s JTBD.
“It’s not just a business of buying and selling homes. It’s a business of moving lives.”
How to use JTBD to Turbo-Charge Your Marketing
So when it comes to marketing, after you’ve figured out your client avatars, you can use JTBD to unlock powerful insights that you can use to turbocharge your marketing efforts. Let’s take Facebook Marketing for example.
I’m going to share an example here from an extremely comprehensive Facebook Marketing case study we did here at AgentFire for Janie Howard of Woodleaf Realty, where we generated over $50k in returns on only $2.5k investment.
When AgentFire first started working on Janie’s marketing, the first two steps in our process were to
- Identify the ‘client avatars’ with the highest potential ROI in her market
- Listen to Janie & her team explain various JTBD scenarios within those avatars
Using that information, we were able to figure out the ‘targeting’ of the ads using the client avatar information, and then source ad images and craft ad copy that spoke DIRECTLY to the most common JTBD scenarios within those avatars.
I highly recommend you check out if you’re interested in Facebook Marketing and ROI as there isn’t another video like it in the entire industry… believe me, I’ve looked.
If you’re more of a reader, you can find the full article here. Seriously, it’s free knowledge and gives you a lot more insight than most workshops out there today.
So in a nutshell, we targetted a ‘Likely to Downsize’ demographic:
- 55+ years old
- Children have left the house
- Homeowner for 6+ years
So that’s the ‘client avatar.’ A certain age and demographic consistent with individuals who are more likely to be ready to downsize to a smaller home.
Believe me when I say that if we were ONLY considering the client avatar, there’s no way that we would have generated a $50k return. We also incorporated JTBD into the copy of the advertisements.
Check out this carousel ad as an example:
“Tired of stairs?”
Not only can JTBD help you to understand the "between the lines" of what they need in their next property, but it can also help you to understand why they want to sell their current property.
In this case, they may be tired of having to go up and down stairs now that they’re older.
Here’s the JTBD statement behind the ad:
"As I’m getting older, help me to find a single-story home with less upkeep so that I can live stress-free."
Every time you identify a new JTBD within the niche that you’re trying to target, you can craft your advertisements around them. And THAT’S how you succeed with your Facebook and other sources of online marketing.
Again, this takes research and a deep understanding of your market. But don’t worry, this becomes easier to do as you gain more experience.
Let’s summarize everything that we just talked about:
- Your property’s job-to-be-done or “job” is the specific solution that solves your client’s problem
- The formula: When I’m struggling with (problem), help me (do this particular job), so that I can (accomplish something that will make my life better/easier).
- A good JTBD takes into account the functional, emotional and social levels of a client’s needs.
- JTBD is great not only for helping your clients to find their true dream home, but also to figure out why they’re selling the current one in the first place.
- JTBD is not a replacement for customer personas - it’s a supplement.
- Use client avatars for targeting your marketing, and JTBD’s for writing ads that resonate with those avatars on an emotional level.
But beyond applying the job-to-be-done framework, the key point that this article is trying to make is simple: know your client. Know them past the preliminary interview, look deeper than what they’re flat out telling you. Read between the lines!
People who conduct focus groups understand to a T that people usually only say what they think they should say, instead of how they genuinely feel about something.
If you can learn how to identify how they really feel, you’ll drastically improve the experience of your client, you’ll close deals faster, and your clients will refer you to their friends and family.
You’re not likely to find gold if you’re not willing to dig!
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