Red and Yellow Strategies. Business psychology
Do people have a need for a new iPhone? Not at all
When they believe they do, they need something else
Needs as a cliché
The words "customer's needs" sound like a cliché for any businessperson. It seems obvious that it's crucial for a company to meet its clients' demands. But what appears self-evident often fades into the background – it isn't worth thinking about due to its obviousness.

Take a look at that list. What of the listed below does look like a human need?

  • To get a discount
  • To buy hammer and nails
  • To go to a restaurant
  • To buy a fancy jacket
  • To answer a message
  • To make a selfie
The right answer is "nothing". None of the above is a need, but only a way to fulfill another, deeper desire.

We want to get a discount to save some money or outsmart others who haven't got it. We need a hammer and nails to hang a painting. Moreover, we need a picture on the wall to, say, create some sense of belonging to an elite group of experts. Or to show off. We go to a restaurant to cover a variety of demands at a time – from basic (to support our bodies) to social (to make an impression). And we feel it obligatory to return calls and answer messages because we don't want to look impolite, etc.

Whatever we want or do, from eating scrambled eggs for breakfast to writing poems, we are driven by some basic wishes. Steven Reiss, an American psychologist, believed that there were not more than sixteen of them. All human beings come to this world with the same pre-loaded set of desires, but we develop them differently. Some people feel a strong need for power and, consequently, become leaders. Other people, on the contrary, are indifferent to the power. If you know somebody who's ready to work alone, on a distant island, she is probably one of them.

Steven Reiss
What do we need?
Reiss's colleague, another American psychologist Marshal Rosenberg assumed that there are more than 40 fundamental needs in human nature. But if one looks at his list carefully, it is a detailed and nuanced version of Reiss's list. What do both theories have in common is a belief that the number of human desires is finite.

People want to possess a new iPhone not for the sake of the iPhone itself but for an array of fundamental human needs. Maybe they want to brag (a social desire as ancient as the world). Or they believe using it will bring them new positive emotions. Or they have been an iOS user for many years and don't want to learn Android (laziness). Therefore, businesspersons should ask themselves, "What basic customers' needs do my products satisfy?" as often as possible. It helps them stay focused on their clients in a hectic daily routine.

Once I conducted a strategic project for an FMCG company producing convenience food. A research company made a thorough analysis of customers' desires for us. Here are some takeaways from it:

  • Not more than 15% of women really like to cook and have a need to do it (it was in an Eastern Europe country). Others cook at least once in a while but would stop cooking completely as soon as they get a suitable replacement.
  • A half of those 15% like to cook only over the weekend. They don't have time to cook on weekdays, but sometimes they have to.
  • Around 25% of men are, as the researchers called them, "calories consumers". They don't care much about food; it must be hearty and inexpensive – that's enough.
  • Not more than 10% of both sexes' representatives are cookery experts.
So, everyone needs to eat, but our nutritional desires vary across society.

It seems logical when it comes to ordinary people's (that is – customers') needs. But it works the same way in the b2b world. For example, when a professional procurement manager orders cold-rolled steel or chips for their plant, they behave exactly the same way as they do while buying something for themselves. You can learn how it happens by subscribing to this blog.

Svyatoslav Biryulin

In my blog "Red and Yellow Strategies. Business psychology" I tell readers exciting stories about customers' behavior and modern strategic approaches. You may subscribe for free in a variety of ways, see all the links below and choose a perfect option for you. Every subscriber gets a mini-book by Svyatoslav for free! Stay tuned!

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