Customer’s Wants vs. Needs


A customer’s wants vs. needs – This subject has been part of numerous conversations I have had in my working life. Every time I go to India on vacation to visit my family, I always think about this topic. I come back from these trips thankful of what I have and telling myself to appreciate what I have. Whenever I discuss this with friends or whenever anyone asks me what it is to live in India, I draw the following spectrum.

I explain that the vast majority of the US population falls in the WANTS spectrum. We have everything we need, we own/rent a house, we have food to eat, we drive cars or ride a bus, we have TV’s, we have electricity and running water. But we are constantly focusing on satisfying our WANTS with the next better/faster/safer gadget.

India however has a vast majority of its population still living in the NEEDS spectrum. All the IT improvements and the other technology advances that the country has made is still a drop (though a good size one) in the bucket that has made a small chunk of the population to move into the WANTS spectrum. Do not forget that India is a country of over 1 billion people.

So, why does all of this matter to you as a product manager. I liked what Seth Godin said at the Inbound Marketing Summit “We are living in a society where we have everything we need and hence we are left selling what customers want”. It is extremely important for us as product managers to clearly understand what our customers are asking for – is it a real need or is it a want?

Some customers may pay money if you satisfy their WANTS, but more customers will pay a whole lot more money if you satisfy a NEED that is unmet by you or by anyone else in the market place. So whenever you are talking to customers and they propose needed improvements, do the following

  1. First understand the underlying problem
  2. Second find out if it is something they NEED or WANT
  3. Third, is it a large enough NEED/WANT that they will pay you money if you solve them and
  4. Fourth, build solutions for ONLY those problems which a LARGE number of customers are willing to pay you money for.

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One thought on “Customer’s Wants vs. Needs

  1. Perfectly said. It is a constant struggle to get past the “I want” phase or the “be really cool if you had…”

    Great to hear about your perspective of Indian culture. Always hard to wrap my head around 1 billion people.

    Derrek

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