A newsletter on progress-space research and audience development for cultural leaders. One reader calls it, "sometimes funny"

(Reading time: 2m, 52s)

Check out this article on value propositions for museums by Anna Faherty on MuseumNext. (Hat tip to Carissa for getting this in front of my eyeballs on LinkedIn.)

Value propositions are a recurring theme in these letters. I wrote about them here, here, and here; then here; here again; most recently, Value Proposition appeared as a murderer in a bedtime story for my son.

So, I was excited to see someone writing about them, but what really got my heart beating was Faherty’s mentions of customer “Jobs” in relation to museums.

Jobs To Be Done (JTBD) is a framework for understanding demand and competition. JTBD differs a bit depending on who you talk to, but I’m drawn to the emphasis Alan Klement places on Jobs as expressions of how people aim to make progress in their lives. That means that Jobs aren’t tasks or activities. A Job is the underlying motivation that compels a person to "hire" a product, service, or experience; That product helps the person become some better, more desirable version of themselves.

Faherty lists three areas of focus when creating a value proposition:

A value proposition is often a deceptively simple statement. Deriving such a straightforward offer from the complex activities of most museums requires gathering information and insight in three broad areas:
  1. The ‘jobs’ your target audiences need or want to get done and what stands in their way (these could include tasks like learning something new, spending quality time with family, finding space to think or being creative),
  2. the experiences the museum develops and offers (both on and offline, including aspects like access routes, shopping and catering), and
  3. how the museum’s activities compare with other experiences accessed by the target audience.

I don’t entirely agree with #1 — a Job isn’t a task — but it feels like quibbling to make the distinction. This is only the second time I’ve found anyone talking about Jobs in relation to cultural organizations. When you’ve been alone on a desert island, you don’t start scratching out a dress code in the sand the moment a boat appears on the horizon.

Each of the three areas of focus above is important, but #3 might be worth special attention.

In my experience, it’s rare for any nonprofit to look beyond itself or its relationship to the constituent and compare its offerings to those of other organizations, businesses, or experiences.

For example, if someone donates, there’s no investigation into what other organizations people are supporting, or how they’re going about supporting those other organizations, or why they’re supporting those other orgs. Or, if a for-profit children’s play space is competing with a science museum for parents’ time with their kids, there’s little effort to understand how that play space is reducing friction for parents as they try to decide where to spend their time.

I think digging that deep into people’s lives can feel tangential. In the closed mode, there’s little time or space to stray from the list of tasks we need to complete. Employees may feel obligated to stay on task and to appear focused on the organization’s mission at all times.

But, as Faherty points out, a deep understanding of the underlying motivations of different kinds of visitors is how we uncover value. And to gain that understanding, you need a deeper understanding of the context in which visitors are making choices.

Understanding visitor motivations helps organizations develop more effective marketing, yes, but it can also guide product development:

Without a value proposition, even the most creative marketing initiatives may fail to connect with their intended audiences. With a value proposition, an institution can go beyond communicating its offer to rethinking aspects it takes for granted, such as opening hours, ticket pricing, events programming, online content and on-site facilities and policies.

The only other example I’ve found of JTBD being applied to cultural organizations is here. The article describes how Form Theatricals helped a theater company apply JTBD to better understand its audience. As a result of the interviews they conducted, they found that they could save money by abandoning one offering, and they wound up creating a new theater subscription product.

Are you familiar with JTBD? Have you found other examples of it being applied to cultural organizations? Let me know in a reply.

Take the weekend off,



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