5 Ways You Can Improve Your Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) Strategy with JTBD

by | Mar 16, 2017 | Adaptive Persona Development, Digital Marketing, Job To Be Done

This post was originally created in 2017, and has been updated for 2022.

It’s been a few years since I completed an amazing certificate program on Disruptive Strategy through Harvard Business School’s HBX, I’ve been giving more thought as to how that framework can be applied to marketing, and how we can make improvements to integrated marketing communications (IMC) in general.

It’s been clear over the last 2 or 3 years that the general “inbound marketing” model on its own is pretty broken. We’ve spoken with countless marketing and sales teams, mainly in the context of hiring an agency (that IS what we do), and their story is generally the same:

  • Client hires new marketing agency.
  • Agency audits existing marketing and delivers dire news.
  • Agency spends 3 months (or so) creating a strategy.
  • Agency redesigns website.
  • Agency blogs a bit.
  • After 6 months or a year, client can count the number of warm leads generated on both hands (maybe).
  • (let’s not talk about the issue of lack of access to scientists, engineers and other internal thought leaders).
  • Rinse and repeat.

The last client we engaged had gone through no less than 4 agencies in the last 5 years.


So before I get into how you can improve your IMC strategy leveraging JTBD this year, I want to be clear. I don’t think that client-side marketers OR agencies are to blame. Today’s marketing landscape provides the most opportunities to connect and engage your buyer than ever in history—and it’s the fastest evolving terra we’ve really ever seen. What worked yesterday may not work today, and so on.

IMC strategy marketing landscape

2 Factors at Play

First, marketers face an interesting and frustrating cycle. Typically, when a content marketing professional is brought in (either as a consultant OR full-time employee), the company has either had little to no marketing done and looking to jump start it (so has no data), or they have had poor prior marketing experiences, and don’t have a very high bar. In both these cases, the internal perception of what marketing is and can do really isn’t a great one—and that generally means—in the beginning at least—marketers “don’t get any respect” or resources.

Since marketing is really about learning what works and asking the right questions, ROI can be challenging to prove in the early months. What worked for one company may not work for another. Too many times the C-suite sees this learning curve as failure or fault, resulting in further validation of their perspective on marketing.

Second, I think that marketing automation platforms are partly to blame. I personally get 5 – 6 emails a day for the next “must have” most epic marketing resource from any number of marketing automation platforms. They’ve invested a lot of time and money making the C-suite believe that if we just have this particular marketing platform, leads will leap into the sales team’s buckets, and the business will absolutely take off. Marketing automation platforms need to kick the rhetoric down a notch or two.

Moving on.

IMC strategy marketing automation

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) Strategy

No blog post is complete with defining something you probably know already—typically rehashing a reference to Wikipedia or Google. If you know what an Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) Strategy is, you can move on. I will however warn you, my definition is slightly different, so you might want to at least skim the following.

At MESH, I have defined an IMC strategy as “the optimization of communication leveraging all relevant and available thought leadership, channels, and means in a manner that builds your brand, engages your community, and advances your strategic business goals and objectives”.

In essence, you use the tools, methodologies, and experts best suited to your brand to connect with your audience and generate leads. The key difference for us is to tap into thought leadership at an early stage of the process, and combine multiple channels to increase value to the end user.

The goal of an IMC strategy is to create a cohesive message across all channels, but also leverage each channel to its fullest potential. This means using various methods and tools to reach your target market, including:

  1. Content Marketing
  2. Social Media Marketing
  3. Email Marketing
  4. Influencer Marketing
  5. Web Design & Development
  6. Paid Search Advertising
  7. Mobile App Creation
  8. Digital PR
  9. SEO
  10. Conversion Rate Optimization
  11. Lead Generation
  12. Data Collection
  13. Customer Retention
  14. Brand Awareness
  15. Community Building
  16. CRO
  17. Website Analytics
  18. Sales Enablement
  19. Sales Automation
  20. Demand Generation
  21. Market Research
  22. Measurement
  23. Reporting
  24. Segmentation
  25. Storytelling
  26. User Experience
  27. Usability Testing
  28. UX/UI Design
  29. Visual Identity
  30. Voice of the Customer
  31. Virtual Reality (Metaverse anyone?)
  32. Video Production
  33. Viral Marketing
  34. Word of Mouth
  35. Workflow Management

And more… it’s a lot, right?

IMC Strategy Tools and Methodologies

JTBD (Job to be Done) Methodology

Having spent a significant amount of my twenty-something year career (plus about 7 weeks in the HBX Disruptive Strategy certification program), I’ve had ample opportunity to develop a deep understanding of what drives truly successful IMC programs. Time after time, it all comes back to the buyer and their JTBD.

IMC Strategy Programs and JTBD

The Job to Be Done (JTBD) methodology, is a framework/theory developed by Clayton Christensen, a professor over at Harvard Business School.

According to Christensen:

“Customers rarely make buying decisions around what the ‘average’ customer in their category may do—but they often buy things because they find themselves with a problem they would like to solve.”

What Is JTBD?

Christensen defines JTBD as “a set of problems customers are trying to solve, and the solutions they seek when they encounter those problems.” In other words, if you understand your buyers’ jobs to be done, then you can design marketing strategies that address them directly.

How Does It Work?

The JTBD approach has been used successfully in many industries, including retail, healthcare, technology, manufacturing, finance, and even education.

It works by asking three questions:

1. What is the problem or need that the customer wants to solve?

2. Why does this problem exist?

3. How will the customer know whether the solution worked?

Once these answers are identified, you can begin designing a campaign that addresses the problem directly.

We’ve applied this approach in various degrees for years, and find that by truly understanding the deeper motivations to solving specific problems, everything we do is more successful.

How JTBD Can Help Your IMC

So how does JTBD factor into your Integrated Marketing Communication strategy? Consider these five quick tips:

1. Develop empathy.
One key area that is lacking from many marketing strategies is empathy with the buyer. PR is impersonal, blogs are still written from the author’s perspective (even this one), and retargeting campaigns stalk buyers around the web, often making them feel uneasy. By leveraging the JTBD methodology, you can begin to truly understand the buyer, their challenges, needs, and emotions, and you can tap into that to help make your IMC that much more empathetic.

2. Develop a common language.
Often, when developing IMC for technology companies, there’s misalignment with the approach to language. I find that companies are either too technical in their communications, or not technical enough. There’s a very good chance that your prospective buyers don’t KNOW what your specific solution is called (how many of you have optimized your website SEO for your product names), but they sure know how to describe the problem they are having. By digging into JTBD, you’ll discover how your buyer talks about your solution—and more importantly—their challenges.

3. Understand their motivation.
Whatever your solution is, you’ve experienced the following: either your buyer is already using your competitors to solve their problem, or they are performing some sort of workaround because they don’t know you exist. As part of the larger overall JTBD methodology, you can understand WHY your buyer has finally decided that they are no longer satisfied with your competitors or their workarounds, and how best you, your marketing, and your sales team can position your solution.

4. Understand specifically what they are looking to accomplish.
Let’s look at a common CRM like SalesForce. Your company isn’t looking to buy SalesForce. You’re looking for a way to track leads or deals through the entire process. Or Bob the sales guy has all his leads in a spreadsheet (MAYBE), or perhaps sales doesn’t nurture clients the way you’d like. Whatever the motivation, it wasn’t about buying a platform, it was about solving a problem. By defining the JTBD, you get a good understanding of what they are looking to actually accomplish, and what to communicate in your IMC.

5. Develop innovative products.
More and more, companies are looking to marketing for innovation. “What do our customers need next?” is often pushed to marketers who have the most data and insight into customers’ lives. Leveraging JTBD can help you identify performance gaps and functional opportunity, which can lead to innovative product development, further driving a successful IMC Strategy.

IMC Strategy Tips

What You Should Do Next

If you’re truly looking to push your IMC further with JTBD methodology, you should talk to your customers, and really dig into what they were trying to accomplish when they bought your product. Use this data to go deeper and discover other, related needs in the space—specifically through in person observation and unstructured interviews. Ask the right questions and dig into the WHY of every interaction, and you will uncover gold.

Need help in developing an unstructured interview with your customers? Want to learn how to ask the right questions to get the answers you’re looking for (while avoiding confirmation bias)?

We at MESH have extensive experience in JTBD, and we are recognized as a top Integrated Marketing Company on DesignRush. Contact us for a brief one-on-one conversation today.

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