Desires, Not Needs

Instead of lecturing your clients, find out what they really want.

There's one fundamental marketing idea I took years to internalize: People don't buy what they need, they buy what they want.

Daniel Priestley illustrates it very well:

Experts agree the world probably needs to adopt a vegetarian diet, but it doesn't really want to. Until a company makes us hunger to eat less meat, we won't stop. The world needs to get clean water to a billion people, but it doesn't really want to. Only when people thirst to make this a reality will it happen. The world needs to stop putting Photoshopped, size zero supermodels on billboards and magazines, but it doesn't really want to. When we feel attracted to a more realistic image of beauty, fashion retailers will change. The world needs to stop producing so much plastic, but it doesn't really want to. When someone makes us desire throwing sustainable goods into the trolley, we will see less plastic.

All of these things won't happen unless people want to do them, no matter how much we might need to. Organizations that try to tell us what we need to do will ultimately fail; organizations that make social change desirable, interesting, cool and fun will win.

We consultants have a special characteristic that gets in the way of truly understanding this. We are experts and sell expertise. This means it's easy for us to enter a "diagnosis mode" and lecture clients and prospects on what they're supposed to do. But this is arguably the worst way to market your services.

The focus of most consulting engagements is to help clients change. And consulting clients are people too - although many advisors and boutique partners seem to forget it. This means the key to nailing your marketing messaging is tapping into people's wants rather than their needs.

Ask clients and prospects what they want, then create a solution for them the way they want it. Present it to them highlighting how they will get what they want. Then include what you think they need with it.

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