We all have needs and wants. When a product or service can meet these we tend to buy. But what are these needs and wants? In general we think of the true needs as food and water and most everything else as wants. But why buy them? What do the products fulfill in us that makes us to want them? Well, a psychologist named Abraham Maslow has outlined some reason why. In a paper in the Psychological Review called “A Theory of Human Motivation” he outlined a hierarchy of needs. The most successful products will fill at least one of these basic needs.
These are the most basic needs. These are food, water and air. The things the human body physically needs to survive as an organism on this planet. This need is so important that theme parks are able to charge $5.00 for a bottle of water. You’ll pay it because you need it. Grocery stores, farms, even the Coca-Cola Company meet these kinds of needs.
To make money meeting people’s physiological needs you will be selling food and water. Maybe air also one day. You don’t have to sell the bare minimum at exorbitant prices to make money. You could start a restaurant to provide special home cooking. In this country food is a commodity that is usually easy to come by. So to make money you need to sell to a lot of people, find a captive audience like the people at an amusement park, or offer something a little better like a nicer restaurant.
As long as a person’s basic needs are met they want to protect themselves. This includes physical security as well as things like health and money. This can be very broad and really comes down to helping people feel safe enough to sleep at night. A lot of products and services fall into this category. Gyms help people be healthier, home alarm systems, doctors, savings accounts and a college education can all fall into this category.
To make money meeting this type of needs requires you to find a way you can help people feel safer or become safer. This might mean helping them increase their own physical security. But it could also mean helping them set up systems to make themselves feel safer. This is some of what I try to do. I want to help people have financial security. That way they can be more protected if something happens. I try and do this through education both through this website and in person. So to make money you need to find a way to help people feel safer with education, products or services. Develop your solution and sell it.
Belongingness is the need to belong to a group. Most people’s first experience with this is their immediate family. This need is also met with social clubs, religious organizations, coworkers and any other group of people that a person interacts with. People want to be accepted as part of the group. As with the other needs there are a lot of products and services that meet this need. Many clubs and organizations are for profit organizations. There are also countless books, websites, and services to help people connect. Dating sites are one example. Facebook, Twitter, and linkedin are three examples of fairly recent major products to meet this need.
To make money fulfilling people’s need to belong you will be helping them connect with others and strengthen the connections. This can mean writing a book to help people connect with other people better like Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, or facilitate connecting people like Facebook has done or by setting up an event.
Once people are secure and comfortable in their lives they usually want to improve their standing in their community and improve their own self-image. Luxury products and services are one of the biggest examples of products and services that meet this need. People want to feel good about themselves and they want to look better to those around them. Many times this means owning a nice car or having an expensive suit. It’s not always frivolous trinkets though. This could also mean being good at one’s job or becoming an expert at something. Or solving problems for people. This is one of the reason that there are leaderboards for so many games. And scoring in general. It gives people something to strive for and a way to show what they’ve achieved.
To make money meeting this need you need to help people feel more fulfilled, or help them achieve more. Or even give them bragging rights. The first civilians to go into space, with services like Virgin Galactic, will be meeting this need.
This is where people want to achieve all they can. People want to reach their maximum potential. This is different for everyone, but there is considerable overlap between people. Once people have met their needs in other areas they frequently want to become an expert at something that is important to them. To reach that they will need the help of other experts. For example, someone that wants to reach the peak of physical perfection may turn to more extreme workout training like P90X. Someone that wants to perfect their skills at the violin will focus on music and training with accomplished musicians.
To make money here you need to help people reach their potential. Is there an area that you’re already an expert in? Help others achieve what you’ve achieved. Do you know experts? Facilitate connecting the people that want to learn to those experts.
All products fulfill some type of need. Otherwise people wouldn’t buy them. Even a weekend at the movies can fulfill a need. Many times the context determines what need is being fulfilled. Food may be bought at the movie meeting the first need. Maybe it’s raining. That would make the movie meet the second need. Going with friends can make the movie meet the third need. Bragging rights for going on opening day may make it meet the fourth need. Perhaps you made the movie and your ultimate goal was to get a movie into theaters meeting the fifth need. And all that is before even considering the entertainment value of the movie which could meet several of the needs.
You can’t always predict how your product will meet a particular person’s need. However, it is important to understand how your product or service meets the needs of your target customer. Develop it around supporting a need, and market it as a solution to that need. That way it’s easy for your customers to understand how it will help them.
Do you currently make money meeting people’s needs? What categories do you see as the best ones to target?