Many businesses focus on themselves when talking about their services and their business. Yet understanding what our customers deeply desire in life and business changes everything, writes Cynthia Marinakos.
You see, when our customers feel like we understand them, we can better connect to them. And they’ll be more open to what we offer. It gives us insight and opportunities to adjust our services – and market our services – so we truly meet their needs.
A popular approach to getting someone’s business is to offer them a better price. But we all know that’s not all that matters. And when we look at Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we’ll see people value more than money.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
A helpful way to understand what matters to prospects – to us – is a tool created in 1943, more than 88 years ago. By a man who was overwhelmed with sadness after Pearl Harbor – and realized people’s lack of understanding of each other was holding back progress. Abraham Maslow had a dream that pushed him to devote his life to “discovering psychology for the peace table”.
The insights he gained were gathered into what we know as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The hierarchy was first introduced in a 1943 paper, A Theory of Human Motivation in Psychological Review by Maslow.
Maslow believed when basic needs are met, the deeper desires of creativity and fulfilling our potential can be addressed. Unlike other psychologists of his time, his studies focused on happiness and health. His hierarchy has been widely used to understand human motivation and happiness, particularly in management.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs gives us insight into what our prospects value
Let’s delve into a brief overview of the theory and examples of how to apply it to 3 different businesses.
Physiological needs: basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing, sex, sleep, excretion.
Safety: safety needs include health, morality, family, property, employment, and personal security.
Love and belonging: an important part of happiness that includes friendship, family, and a sense of connection.
Esteem: the need to be noticed for our unique abilities, and be respected by others which builds confidence, self-esteem, and generosity toward others.
Self-actualization: the ultimate aim to fulfill our potential — “what a man can be, he must be… the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.” – Maslow
How to apply Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs when writing for business websites
Below are real-world examples shared based on interviews with clients – and copy I’ve written for their websites (names have been changed). Note that we don’t need to mention every need in our messages – but it’s important to know them.
Business 1: Commercial bulldozer hire
The major concern of customers who hire bulldozers are not having them long enough to finish the job. And poor quality dozers that break down. It costs them money, which flows onto their ability to meet their family’s physiological and safety needs.
Worse than even the financial cost is the time away from the people they love. The dissatisfaction of not finishing a job. And the impact on their business – and personal – reputation.
‘At Daryl’s Dozers, we don’t hire machinery. We own them – and we maintain them well. This means you’re guaranteed a high-performing machine for your project – when you need it – for as long as you need it.
So when we take on your project, there’s no risk of a truck being hired out to another company when you need it. No risk of a truck breaking down with no replacement. No risk of not knowing the best route to get a truck to your location – no matter how remote.’
The dozer company reassures by offering a guarantee that removes a common, frustrating, costly problem. It empathizes deeply by highlighting the struggles unique to companies working in upper North Queensland.
In doing this it differentiates itself from other dozer hire companies who fail to address these problems through their inflexible hire policies.
Business 2: Cafe interior designer
Cafe owners need their cafe to run at a profit to stay in business – and ultimately to feed and house their families. Yet more than the financials, many cafe owners take pride in giving patrons a great experience and building a community.
A cafe may be more than a business to some: it’s a passion. A dream. A reflection of who they are. A way to challenge themselves to reach their full potential.
‘A strong cafe design goes beyond the aesthetic. A great cafe design promotes brand loyalty. We’ll delve deep into your niche, your customers, competitors – and future trends.
Not just all that: the heart of a successful cafe interior design is operations designed to seamlessly work with the flow of customers. Your design must consider every aspect of customer and team flow, from the moment they step in with anticipation until they leave.
Together we’ll carefully consider all these factors to design a cafe that will be unique, relevant, and memorable to your customers.’
Prospective cafe owners realize they need to create something special to survive, particularly in Melbourne. The interior designer shares insight that lets owners know a good design is more than choosing the best theme.
By sharing insights that weave into the cafe owner’s obvious needs – and hidden needs – the interior designer shows empathy as well as expertise. This is an enticing combination for any prospect who’s looking for guidance to make their cafe dream a reality.
Business 3: Plasterer for commercial high-rises
Reputable commercial construction companies deal with many moving parts to deliver a high-quality build on time within budget. A couple of common challenges they face is budgets blowing out and contractors who aren’t financially sound. For them, there’s more than cost at stake for a bad build: their reputation in the industry.
‘CBD Plastering offers commercial high-end builders a premium plastering service with a 7-year installation warranty — and value management options for the best design and construct without compromising budget or quality.’
The 7-year installation warranty reassures builders this plastering business has confidence in the quality of their work. It tells the builder the plasterer understands building warranties are offered for 7 years and are willing to work together for the client. And it implies the plasterer is in a good position to offer this reassurance.
The plasterer offers value management options because it knows commercial builds are designed by architects – and architects often don’t share alternative material options which could save on costs without compromising quality.
In a nutshell
How do we offer services that are useful to our customers? How do we truly “speak” to our customers in our marketing? Instead of an inward focus, we need to look outward to the people we’re in business to serve. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs helps us do that.
Today you’ve learned about this classic 78-year-old tool with examples of how to apply it within three different businesses. Give it a go in your own business.
This post first appeared on Flying Solo on July 29 2021. It was republished December 29 2021.
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