What Customers Want

by Paul Simister on November 4, 2011

In the rush to sell products and services, too many businesses make the mistake of creating marketing materials without first focusing on what customers want.

I like customer value thinking and the idea that we buy based on a hierarchy of product attributes, expected consequences and desired goals. These concepts pass between rational and emotional justifications and between the conscious and unconscious minds.

That makes answering the question “What do customers want?” complicated but if you want to different your business and make your marketing more successful, it is worth spending the time thinking through what customers want and carrying out research to find out what customers think they want.

People buy items not for what they are but what they do and what they say about themselves (to themselves and to others).

What Customers Want

In the article I intend to bring together various insights into what customers want and what motivates them to buy including references back to the motivation theories developed for employees and how that relates to buying decisions.

Beware The Concept Of The Average Customer

First I want to break the idea that you should find out what customers want on average and set out to provide that.

There’s no such thing as an average customer but instead segments of typical customers, some of whom are more typical than others.

This is most vividly demonstrated by the example of people and how we are split into two genders, male and female. The average person with one testicle and one ovary doesn’t exist.

It reminds me of the joke about the statistician who had one foot in a bucket of freezing water and the other foot in a bucket filled with very hot water and said “On average I’m fine.”

Creating Customer Personas To Reveal What Customers Want

In face to face selling, we have the option to continually adapt our message to what the other person says which is a powerful advantage although it does open the door for manipulation and deceit by the unethical.

In marketing, we usually lack the ability to adapt the message based on responses on a one-to-one basis but we can create personas or avatars based on typical customers and how they think, feel and act.

What Customers Want According To Rich Schefren

One of my Internet marketing mentors, Rich Schefren, recently sent out an email which included a list of 25 human needs and desires. Hopefully he won’t mind that I’ve shared them with you.

1) Add More Fun To Their Life
2) Avoid Criticism or Embarrassment
3) Escape Physical Pain
4) Be A Good Parent
5) Be More Efficient
6) Be Healthier
7) Be Fashionable
8) Be Independent
9) Satisfy a curiosity
10) Be More Popular
11) Be Proud Of Their Possessions
12) Be Recognized As An Authority
13) Satisfy Their Ego
14) Escape Shame
15) Express A Personality or Creativity
16) Fulfill a Fantasy of an Adventure
17) Gain Confidence
18) Gain Knowledge
19) Save Time or Money
20) Work Less
21) One-Up Others
22) Overcome Obstacles
23) Protect Oneself And Family
24) Relieve Boredom
25) Renew Vigor And Energy

Rich doesn’t claim that the list is everything that customers want but it is a good starting point.

The exercise he suggested was to take each item and to look for connections with your product or service so that you can see how you help customers satisfy a deeper need.

What Customers Want – The 37 Livingston Emotional Benefits

Another or my Internet marketing mentors, Glenn Livingston, introduced me to the work of his wife, Sharon Livingston and the 37 Livingston Emotional Benefits.

1. Feeling Loved
2. Feeling Attractive
3. Sense of Adventure
4. Feeling Financially Secure
5. Sense of Accomplishment
6. Feeling Caring or Nurturing
7. Being Altruistic
8. Being Assertive
9. Feeling Brave or Courageous
10. Feeling Creative
11. Excitement or Liveliness
12. Feeling Fair, Just, or Ethical
13. Feeling Luxurious or Pampered
14. Feeling Healthy
15. Feeling Athletic
16. Feeling Flexible or Adaptable
17. Feeling Free
18. Being a Good Friend
19. Enjoying Humor
20. Feels like a Good Teacher
21. Being In Control
22. Feeling Independent
23. Being Insightful
25. Feeling Wise or Intelligent
26. Taking a Leadership Role
27. Peaceful – Relaxed – Calm
28. Having a Sense of Power
29. Being Productive
30. Feeling Respected
31. Feeling Spiritual
32. Feeling Sexy
33. Feeling Romantic
34. Feeling Safe
35. Sense of Belonging
36. Feeling Trustworthy
37. Feeling Unique

Here is a video of Sharon and Glenn discussing emotional marketing logic.

What Customers Want – To Be Continued

This looks like it will be a very long article so I want to take my time putting it together provided there is enough interest shown in the topic.

If you’d like to know more about what customers want, leave me a comment and share your ideas and thoughts.

Paul Simister is a business strategy coach who helps business owners to differentiate their businesses and develop winning strategies. Get your free copy of my ebook The Six Steps Profit Formula.

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what customers want

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike April 1, 2012 at 8:06 am

I think too many people think about what they themselves would want in a product and don’t actually put themselves in the shoes of their customers. For the most part, our ideas don’t necessarily sync with those of our customers or potential customers. Many businesses owners need to get out of the “I know everything” mindset and realize that what they know doesn’t matter if it doesn’t conform to the expectations of their customers.


Paul Simister April 1, 2012 at 9:01 am

Despite all the talk about marketing being about the needs of the customer and pulling out products and services based on what they want, too much is focused on pushing the next product at the customer.


Mike April 2, 2012 at 10:18 am

Your completely right that people like to talk about how something should be done, then they just go and do things however they want when it comes time for action. This kind of attitude can only come back to bite you in the end. Unless you are a huge brand like Apple that has such global brand recognition that people will buy their products regardless. For us smaller guys, we really need to stand out amongst the huge pool of competing business and become the best choice within our particular marketplace. Of course this can only be done by listening to your customers and potential customers and developing a product that is as focused on those needs as possible.


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