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Instead of filling a need, fulfill a desire

It’s in all the Business 101 texts: to be successful in business, all you need to do is to find an urgent need and satisfy it.

That may seem logical, however the story continues from there. Because if all I’m doing is satisfying a “need”, then what happens is that I’m engaged in a race to the bottom, a direction that leads to disaster.

Say you’re very hungry and you’re offered the choice of a Big Mac right away, or a freshly prepared, balanced and nutritious meal two hours from now, what do you think you’ll choose? Many (most?) people choose the Big Mac, but why?

It goes back to the basic Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: when physiological needs like food, shelter, sex are lacking, this creates stress. And people want to relieve that stress quickly, cheaply, with the least effort and investment.

So if I aim my product or service at meeting a need, then all I am doing is relieving stress, and I have to compete with other ways of relieving the stress that are cheap and quick. No wonder MickyD’s business is booming, it’s not about the taste or the quality, it’s about that quick hit.

If I focus on the values at the top of Maslow’s need pyramid, around self-actualization, then I attract people who are motivated to seek more. A person seeking self-actualization appreciates the experience of the home-cooked, balanced, nutritious meal: they want a fuller experience of taste, they recognize the long-term benefit of nutrition, they appreciate the time and care that goes into preparing the food.

By directing my offer to fulfiling desires, it may take longer to build my business, but it will be stronger and last longer, because then I can build in other values like loyalty, trust, even love

Focus on filling needs, and you become a commodity, where you are judged on price alone, with the winner being the lowest cost option. If you choose this direction, take your money and run, because it is very difficult to create a lasting business because you will always be fighting against slim margins to eke out a profit.

Shift to fulfilling desires, and you attract those who want more and who are willing to commit (invest) more time, energy, patience and money in what you offer. You will have fewer clients, but they pay better and are much more fun to be with.

So if you’re tired of being a slave to your customers, it is time to turn conventional biz wisdom on its head. Focus on igniting and fulfilling a compelling desire, and you will work less, make more and have much more fun with people who value who you are and what you offer.

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