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What They Want or What They Need

For a business to succeed it must satisfy three aims. First, it must provide value to its customers through a product or service. Second, it must identify a group of people willing to pay for this product or service. Finally, it must be able to provide this benefit for less than the cost it takes to produce. Sounds pretty simple, but the real question you need to ask is “What the heck do my customers want?” Furthermore, “Who even are my customers?” These are two of the most important questions any new start-up will face. Solving these issues is the first step to achieving success.

Why Asking Isn’t as Simple as it Seems

You might think that asking your customers what they want is a sure-fire way to get the answers you need. Well, you would be wrong (most of the time). You will discover that what people say they want and what they actually want are two very different things. Your aim is to give people what they want even though they hadn’t realised it themselves! In order to get a sale, you shouldn’t just offer what you think they need, rather you have to offer them something they really want.

The Customer is Wrong

Meeting people’s needs and going beyond them whenever possible is not a simple task. You must work out what your customer wants. If you start asking individual customers, you will soon discover that any single customer does not always know what is best for the whole business. In fact, they might not even be the right customer for your business. You can use validated learning to identify and understand your target customer population, and this will provide the tools to help you give your customers what they actually want.

Providing Value

You might wonder how you can provide people what they actually want? This is simple. You need to provide them with value. Value is something desirable to your customers and is created through exchange or effort. The easiest way to visualise value is to think about how you can help your customer. The more your product or service helps a customer, the more value you are providing them. When all else fails, simply ask yourself how you can help people more.

Hidden Needs, What People Really Want

Humans are emotional creatures, and our actions are seemingly governed by such feelings whether we realise it or not. When you are offering a product, your customer is not simply buying a product based upon the features it offers; they are purchasing the benefits your product affords. Features are descriptive, benefits are emotional. These benefits can be separated into two categories and refined down into our basic human needs:

More Of

  • Love
  • Money
  • Acceptance
  • Free Time

Less Of

  • Stress
  • Conflict
  • Hassle
  • Uncertainty

The aim of any product you offer is to give more of the first category and to reduce any of those found within the second. If you make your start-up about helping others, you will always have plenty of work. By freely giving, you will freely receive.


  • The Lean Startup; Eric Ries
  • The $100 Startup; Chris Guillebeau