Product features are really “what that little thingy you’re trying to sell does”, while a customer’s benefit is what he/she gets if he/she buys it. The customer’s needs (something often ignored) are why those benefits are actually appreciated. Now, any educational psychologist (or market researcher) understands these needs will be broadly classified somewhere under Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
The needs are broadly under five simple categories:
5. Self Actualization/Fulfillment
Now, when you sell any product, you try to figure out what need in that pyramid actually is served by it.
Additionally, when you plan out a product, you start thinking of the ideal customer. Some one who is logical, analytical, objective and looking at measurable traits of your product.
Unfortunately, a majority of the customers are likely to be subjective, emotional and invariably choose your product for reasons completely unrelated to it’s quality alone. This is because what often matters is “Which of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are satisfied?”
Like frequenting a restaurant for example. If someone asks you what a restaurant needs in order for you to go to it, you’ll most likely say that the price a critical factor. The other factor is the quality/value of the food you get. A third might or might not be ambiance.
But when you look at the restaurants you actually go to, you decide based on a whole bunch of other factors that are not based on value or quality. Like for example, the availability of parking, or the accessibility of the restaurant, or the “kid friendliness” of the place, or the music that they play there, or the quality of the waiters. But these were NOT the reasons you said were most important for you. It’s the emotional pull that takes you there, since it satisfies almost ALL of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Still, some products do very well only by focusing on quality features and benefits, because they implicitly understand that Maslow’s needs will be satisfied if the emphasis is on quality features and benefits.
Where is this all going, you ask? Has “Balancing life” lost perspective on life? No, this is NOT the first chapter of my new book ”Count your ducklings before the eggs are laid” (though perhaps it should be). This just summarizes something I learnt at a course in a real business school, which is really ranked, with faculty who really publish research, and taught by a real lecturer.
The blogsphere has been abuzz with the actions of an institute, IIPM, some Imaginary Institute of Planned Mismanagement.
Clearly, their original image was built fortuitously to satisfy Maslow’s needs. In a country where there are droves of unemployed graduates, a school claiming to offer a no-holds barred MBA would have takers. It clamed to provide the “security or safety” need, by promising jobs and the sky. It did provide a sense of belonging (to IIPM), and self-respect. But it didn’t really provide self-actualization or fulfillment.
Yet, any product promising to do some thing, but not really doing so, only has “features” without satisfying customer needs or providing him/her with a benefit. It remains vulnerable, and so, in order to succeed it needs to camouflage its vulnerability. Unfortunately, IIPM chose threats as its means of camouflage.
Now, it’s success, built purely by satisfying needs, is falling apart, since all those needs are under threat. It doesn’t seem to have features or benefits to fall back upon.
Perhaps I can become a self-styled management guru, and write a self-help book called ”How not to run poultry farms……uh….management institutes”.
(This was a lunch break well spent. Have a good weekend y’all).