Understanding Customer Needs

Understanding your customers needs takes place as part of the Market Model.  

Understanding Customer Needs

It’s the next step down once you’ve defined your demographics. Some marketers use the phrase “job” as a way of describing the needs or underlying motivations of the customer.

You see many businesses are focused on the product or service and are only looking at the superficial levels of any transaction. To truly add value and satisfy your customer, you need to go deeper and understand the need. There’s a great YouTube video of Clayton Christensen discussing this in the link below:

Understanding the Job

The example given is that of a fast food company that wants to sell more milk shakes and embarks on a series of customer interviews designed to improve their product. So, the interviews were structured around the product, inviting people to answer questions about taste, price etc. The company went back and produced a better product but hey ho, sales did not improve.

After employing a specialist marketing consultancy to come in and observe behavior’s, they realised that half of milkshake sales happened before 8am in the morning. So, the following day the consultancy came back and questioned those customers about why they decided to go there and buy milk shakes at that time.

After analysing the responses, it was surprising to discover that they all had one thing in common – a lengthy and boring drive to work.

The job / need being satisfied was one of making the trip more pleasant by occupying one’s time.

Of the things they could have bought to make their journeys less boring where items such as bananas, bagels, chocolate but these all had draw backs. For instance, bananas lasted only a few minutes and they were hungry soon after; Bagels too filling and chocolate left them feeling guilty. Milk shake was the best choice because they could make it last up to 20 minutes, it was healthy enough not to feel guilty and it sat in the stomach long enough to interfere with bites later in the day.

So, how we would we go about understanding the job?

Here’s how.

  • Identify the specific demographic you want to explore further. In the case above it was milk shake purchasers
  • Engage those customers in a dialogue about the need. Structure these questions around a set of open and closed questions so you get to understand the conditions under which the need is satisfied, the triggers, the emotional states and what alternatives there are.
  • Explore what good and bad looks like. Not just for your product but all the alternatives

A useful product to use in a workshop setting is an Empathy Relationship Map, example below

The above example was completed with a popular members club in North London who wanted to attract younger ladies into its establishment.

A series of workshops with the 42 – 50-year-old demographic identified the need to socialise with other like-minded women in the area. The underlying need for these women was to feel a sense of belonging and connection. They needed an environment that was safe and supportive and that allowed them to feel comfortable.

As we talked further about the club, we discovered that they would not frequent it because, in their opinion, a small number of members dominated the club and were obsessed with football, sometimes drunken, loud and intimidating. Women often chose the alternatives of the local café’s because they were safe and clean. However, the cafés were often too small for a larger group and limited to tea and coffee and were they were not encouraged to stay.

The information gathered from the above map was translated into a Needs Analysis for that demographic.

And from this you can design and price your product.

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