Understanding customer needs should be the primary focus of marketing and communications. This is much easier said than done, especially because customer needs are dynamic. They change daily, sometimes hourly.
Why this matters:
- Meeting customer needs is like trying to guess what is relevant and what isn’t to a group of people that you don’t know. For example, when I was in the market to refinance my home a few years ago, I was targeted by advertisers in my Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, Google search results, and more. The ads followed me everywhere.
I noticed every billboard, commercial, podcast, and radio ad. I overheard conversations in the grocery store, the office, and other public places when “refinance” was used. Off the top of my head, I could tell you the interest rate of every bank and credit union for a 30-year fixed mortgage.
This was my need. I needed to find the best interest rate possible for my current situation. Interestingly, the minute I closed escrow on my refinance, I stopped noticing the ads, conversations, billboards, etc. The reality is that they were still there, but that messaging did not meet my needs any longer.
They say that the customer is always right. Not sure I agree with that, but let’s go with it for this post. Marketers need to understand what customers want and quickly respond to their needs. With big data becoming more readily available, there are now more ways than ever for a brand to acquire customer feedback and use it to improve the customer experience and products they introduce into the market.
It’s no secret that meeting customer needs should be the primary focus of any marketing or communications strategy. However, understanding those needs can be difficult, mainly because they constantly change. And as soon as you think you’ve got them figured out, they change again. Consumer brands, B2B, and technology firms must continue innovating because meeting customer needs must be a priority.
What are Customer Needs?
Customer needs are the psychological, emotional, and physical motivations that encourage a customer to take action and buy a product or service. That “reason to believe” or customer need becomes the reason for purchasing.
For example, a customer’s need develops once a decision is made to purchase a new vehicle. Perhaps the existing car has ongoing engine trouble and is becoming too expensive to fix every six months. Gas prices might be a factor. Or, maybe a teenager at home just got their license. Whatever the reason, the customer need is buying a new car. The car type, make, model, color, used, unique, and leasing options will determine how customers decide to satisfy their needs. It’s up to companies and brands to uncover the customer’s unmet needs and reach them with relevant content, messaging, and ads.
Why Does a Business Need to Understand Customer Needs?
Brands must understand what their customers want and stay ahead of the competition. This can be done through a market analysis, which involves collecting audience data about potential and current customers. Once a business has this data, it can use insights to inform brand messaging or product development. This is crucial in meeting customers’ unmet needs and maintaining long-term business growth.
When brands don’t understand their customers’ needs, they risk losing them to a competitor. By understanding customer needs, they can develop a product or service that meets those needs to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Businesses must understand what customers expect from the brands they buy from. The first step of this process is identifying customer needs.
What is a Customer Needs Analysis?
A customer needs analysis is a process used to identify and document the actions required to improve a product or service from the customer’s perspective. This analysis ensures that the final product, service, or customer experience will meet customer needs.
Most brands use a customer needs analysis at some stage in product development. Still, it is also helpful in other areas, such as market analysis, sales, and customer service.
How to do a Customer Needs Analysis & Why is it Important?
There are several ways that brands can conduct a customer needs analysis. This includes primary research, surveys, interviews, focus groups, and customer feedback.
Once the data is collected, it is essential to analyze it and identify patterns and trends of what customers want, expect, and why they purchase. This will provide actionable insights for marketers to make data-driven decisions about what products or services to offer and how to market them to various audiences.
The most crucial part of identifying customer needs is taking action on the findings. B2B brands need to implement these changes to create value and meet the needs of their customers, however minor they may be. This might involve product innovation, changing how they price their products or services or altering their digital marketing strategy.
Customer feedback is a crucial part of understanding customer needs. It allows brands to get direct feedback about what they like, and don’t like, media preferences, unique interests, and characteristics. By collecting feedback, brands can better understand how to serve their customers and meet and exceed their needs and expectations.
How to Use Customer Feedback to Uncover Unmet Needs
There are many ways businesses can use customer feedback to uncover unmet needs. Here are some of the most common methods used to collect customer insights:
- Online surveys: Brands can use online surveys to collect data and insights from customers about their experiences and satisfaction with a product or service. This feedback can improve the customer experience and make necessary changes to products or services.
- Social media: Social media is a great way to collect real-time feedback. Customers often share their thoughts and opinions about products and services on social media, which can be helpful for businesses looking to improve their offerings.
- In-person interviews: This approach allows a business to gather in-depth information about customers’ needs and motivations before and after purchasing.
- Focus groups: A focus group is qualitative research involving a small group of customers (typically 8-12) who are asked about their opinions on a product, service, or specific brand. This type of customer research can be helpful in understanding purchase behavior throughout the customer journey.
- Industry trends. A business must stay up-to-date on industry trends, cultural developments, and societal issues. This helps them anticipate changes in customer needs and deliver educational customer experiences.
- Audience Analysis: Audience insights are a powerful way to identify customer needs, especially when it comes directly from what customers post on social media. By analyzing customer data, businesses can identify trends and patterns that can improve the customer experience or new products they introduce into the marketplace.
Understanding the Common Types of Customer Needs
Identifying customer needs should be the foundation of your marketing. So, it’s essential to understand them. Several customer needs should be addressed to convert them into paying customers.
If you have read Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, many of these will be familiar.
- The basics are the needs that must be met for a customer to survive. They include food, water, shelter, and clothing.
- Safety: Customers want to feel safe and secure in their personal and professional lives. They need to know that you will protect them and their information. This applies to car manufacturers, airlines, and even social media companies that access customer data.
- Belonging and Love: Customers need to feel like they belong and love. They need to feel accepted by you and your company.
- Self-esteem: Customers need to feel important and valued. They need to know that you think they are worth your time and attention.
- Self-actualization: Customers need to feel like they are achieving their personal and professional goals. They need to know that you are helping them reach their potential somehow. Brands like Nike reinforce this messaging with their products and customer experience.
- Functional: Customers need your product or service to work the way they need to solve their problems. This is highly applicable to B2B and technology companies.
- Social: Customers need to interact with other people. They need to know that you are a business that values human connection. Dating apps, social networks, and local companies have the opportunity to deliver against this need.
- Emotional: Customers need to feel positive emotions. They need to know that you are a company that cares about them and their feelings.
- Mental: Customers need to stimulate their minds. They need to know that you are a company that is innovative and forward-thinking.
- Spiritual: Customers need to feel connected to something bigger than themselves. They need to know that you are a company that values meaning and purpose.
- Creative: Customers need to be creative in their personal and professional lives.
- Hedonic: Customers need to feel pleasure in their personal and professional lives. They need to know that you are a company that provides excellent customer experiences.
- Nutritional: Customers need to be healthy in their personal and professional lives. They need to know that you are a company that provides healthy products and services.
- Environmental: Customers want to feel like they are doing their part to protect the environment. They need to know that you are an environmentally responsible and socially conscious company.
- Economic: Customers want good value for their money. They need to know that you are a fair and honest company in your pricing with quality products.
- Political: Customers want to know that they are supporting a company that aligns with their political beliefs. They need to know that you are a company that shares their values.
Any brand or business that can identify customer needs and map its marketing strategies to the customer journey will be destined to see long-term success and growth.
How to Respond to Customer Needs
Now that you know the different types of customer needs, it’s time to learn how to respond to them. Here are four tips:
- Be sincere: Customers can tell when you’re being fake or insincere. They want to know that you care about them and their needs. So, be genuine in your interactions with them.
- Listen: Customers want to feel like they are being heard. They need to know that you are considering their needs when creating your products and services. So, ensure you listen to what they say, even if it hurts.
- Respond quickly: Customers expect a quick response to their inquiries. They want to know that you value their time and take their needs seriously. So, make sure you’re responsive to their questions and concerns.
- Be flexible: Customers want to know that you’re willing to change your products and services to meet their needs. They don’t want to feel like they’re being forced to use something that doesn’t work for them. So, be flexible in your approach to customer needs and product innovation.
- Offer solutions: Customers want to know that you’re offering solutions to their problems. They don’t want to feel like you’re just trying to sell them something. So, make sure you’re offering solutions that meet their needs.
The bottom line is that customers have needs, and companies must do everything they can to meet them. Here are a few examples of using data to meet your customers’ needs.
Using Intent-based Social Conversation to Find Customer Needs
Consumers today are not shy about telling the world which products they plan on buying or which ones they have just purchased. Even if you don’t have a social listening platform, you can do a native search for keywords like “going to buy,” “just bought,” or “thinking about getting a” coupled with a product name, and you would be surprised at what you’d find.
Twitter is great for starting your search because the platform is conversational. In real time, you can understand what people say about a product, service, or brand.
Innovate Your Product Lifecycle Using a Customer Needs Analysis
The product life cycle is a model that illustrates the time a product is brought to the market and introduced to consumers until it either goes away, innovates, or pivots into something new. It’s broken down into four stages—introduction, growth, maturity, and decline.
To innovate your product life cycle, you must understand your customers’ needs. What are they looking for? What are their pain points? What do they want from a product or service? These questions can be answered by doing a customer needs analysis.
Once you understand what your customers want and need, you can start to innovate your product or service to meet those needs. This will help you stay ahead of the competition and keep your customers happy.
It’s not too difficult to map social conversations to each product lifecycle stage. It’s similar to mapping conversations to the purchase funnel, which is smart and can inform a B2B social strategy. This also plays well into product innovation, a core driver and byproduct of a customer advocacy program.
Uncover Trends in Customer Needs Using Percent Change
Using data and insights to track and share a voice around a product, service, or even topic and then following that data over time can uncover patterns and trends. This is extremely valuable for marketers as it can help them understand what customers are talking about, when they’re talking about it and how that might be changing.
One way to track this data is by using percent change. This helps uncover if there is an increase or decrease in customer needs around a specific topic. For example, let’s say you’re tracking the need for a new product feature. If you see a significant increase in the percentage of customers talking about that need, it’s likely something you should consider adding to your product.
On the other hand, if you see a decrease in the percentage of customers talking about a specific need, it might be time to re-evaluate your product offering. This is just one example of using data and insights to track customer needs and uncover trends.
For B2B audiences tracking the percent change in mentions of 5G as an example might indicate that 5G is no longer top of mind for that audience. Aired with other data, this could be an early indicator that B2B customers are ready to move on to the next new thing. Perhaps they are more focused on 6G or the latest in the metaverse.
For the general public and consumers, imagine tracking issues in a particular state leading up to and after an election.
Final Thoughts on Anticipating Customer Needs
Understanding customer needs is critical for brands of all sizes. By aligning their brand strategy with unmet customer needs, brands can differentiate themselves from their competitors and better meet the needs of their target market. There are many ways that organizations can use customer feedback to uncover unmet needs, including online surveys, social media, in-person interviews, and focus groups.
Additionally, brands can keep up with industry trends, conduct market research, listen to customers, and use data analysis to understand customer needs better. By asking questions, businesses can get to the root of their customers’ needs, develop products or services that meet them and communicate that value through an integrated PESO marketing strategy.
Q: How does customer support play into meeting a customer’s need?
A: Customer support can play a vital role in meeting customer needs. A business can develop solutions that meet customers’ needs by listening to and understanding their pain points. Additionally, providing prompt and efficient customer support can show their customers that they value their satisfaction and business.
Q: How can a business use data to understand customer needs?
A: A business can use data to understand customer needs in several ways. They can track customer feedback on social media, conduct market research, and use data analysis to uncover trends. By understanding the data, businesses can better understand what their customers want and need.
Q: How can a brand differentiate itself from its competitors by meeting customer needs?
A: A brand can differentiate itself from its competitors by meeting customer needs in several ways. They can develop unique products or services that meet the needs of their target market, offer superior customer support, and stay up-to-date on industry trends. Additionally, by understanding their customers’ needs, they can develop targeted marketing campaigns that speak directly to them.
Q: What are some standard methods for collecting customer feedback?
A: There are several methods for collecting customer feedback, including online surveys, social media, in-person interviews, and focus groups. Additionally, businesses can use data analysis to uncover trends. Companies can better understand what their customers want and need by understanding the data.