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  • Writer's pictureJeni Whitchurch

January Lists: Focusing on what customers want instead of what they need

People are complex.


At times advertising has boiled us down to be quite simplistic in our desires and interests.



Despite their one-track mind, advertisers have been rightly aware that humans have some basic and primal needs that must be met.


However, a lot of ads still don't seem to land as well as expected.


My theory is that we can easily speak to customers' needs in our messaging, instead of speaking to their wants.


I like watching property shows on TV at the moment. In the latest episode, a young woman was buying her first home with her Dad's help. They had viewed 60 properties throughout two years of house hunting.


His focus was very much on making a sound future investment (3-bed property, slightly out of the hip area full of places to brunch with friends and shop). She wanted to be able to maintain a young and carefree lifestyle, which meant a 2-bed flat in the location that would enable her to walk a short distance to a trendy eatery.


This is what she ended up buying. What she wanted, as opposed to what made most sense and met both her present and future needs.


When it comes to buying anything, even B2B services, people will take action over what they want on an emotional level, not what they need.



Why do people put off doing a will? It's something they need to protect the interests of their loved ones. It won't bring their death along sooner. Yet, anything that reminds us of our finite existence doesn't FEEL GOOD.


So we avoid it.


And often, what people SAY they want is in fact, not the true story.


There is a stark difference between 'needs' and 'wants'.


And often, our messaging is speaking to the needs and not the wants of our customers.


No one NEEDS a top-of-the-range 4x4 to drive around the busy, suburban streets of south London where the only thing that warrants epic suspension is the odd pothole, yet I see many.


Marketers refer to prioritising the benefits of your product/service over the features. But I think the priority should be ensuring we're speaking to wants instead of needs.


Here's my list, and you might get what I mean:


  1. I need to get my pet insured -> I want to feel less anxious about my finances and sudden expenses

  2. I need trainers -> I feel embarrassed about the way I look whilst running so I want trainers that look good

  3. I need professional headshots -> I want to look like I know what I'm doing because I often don't feel like it

  4. I need a service that's convenient and flexible -> I want to be less stressed around my children

  5. I need to give to charity -> I want to feel less guilty about my privilege

  6. I need a business coach -> I want to earn more

  7. I need accounting software -> I want to feel more in control

  8. I need a commuter bike -> I want to feel less inadequate around my super fit and healthy friends


About January Lists: I want to add more content to my website but realised, that with a Bebe in tow, time is limited. So, for January, I'm going to be populating my blog with lists. Maybe it will go on for longer, who knows. I'm all for respecting the impact of SEO, but also doing what works as a priority. Plus, SEO isn't going to help me if I can only put out a long-form, keyword-rich post twice a year.


I can get across quite a bit of information about me, my business, and what I believe and know with some punchy lists. And maybe you'll appreciate some quick, digestible content too.


Here's another list for your perusal: Things that make 2023 better

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