Have you ever wondered why a certain product or service isn’t doing so well, even though you’re sure that it’s exactly what your target market needs?
It could be that you’re not marketing to their level – and the psychological findings of Abraham Maslow just might have what you need to nail it.
Abraham Maslow was a pioneer psychologist who was a bit of a rebel. While most of his peers studied dysfunctional individuals and behaviors, Maslow did the opposite: he studied healthy, successful, and exemplary people to learn about their personalities and motivations.
Why were these people doing well? What motivated them to achieve more? What was the progress of their development, growth and success?
Maslow’s work resulted in a theory of human motivation, known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Represented by a pyramid, the hierarchy had five levels of human needs, from the most basic to the most evolved: Physiological, Safety, Love and Belonging, Esteem, and Self-actualization.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs might be decades old, but there’s wisdom in it that you can apply to your marketing today. It’ll help you better understand your target market, and what they seek, so that you can create a message that really resonates.
The Levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
According to Maslow, we all start at the bottom of the hierarchy, seeking to fulfill our most basic needs, the Physiological: We need food, water, sex, sleep, and shelter to stay alive.
When our basic survival needs are met, we move up a level on the hierarchy to fulfill the needs of Safety. We look for a steady job and stable income, and we seek personal safety to feel secure in our environment.
The next level is that of Love and Belonging. This is when we seek intimacy with others. We build friendships, find spouses and start families. We connect with others and develop relationships.
Then we move up to the next level of Esteem – both for ourselves and for others. This level is where we begin working on our self-confidence. We also seek to gain respect and increase our status in the world.
Finally, with all other needs met, we can work on achieving the pinnacle of Self-actualization: realizing our full potential and becoming the most we can be.
Some people do achieve this goal, but most of us move up and down the levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy as events and situations unfold. Our place in the hierarchy isn’t stable – we can move down a level or two should circumstances shake things up, such as losing a job.
Why does all this Maslow stuff matter to your marketing efforts? Keep reading… you’re about to find out.
The Hierarchy Level of Your Target Market
When you know the level of your target market in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you can quickly determine what your prospects want, seek, and desire.
But when you aren’t sure about where your target market might be on the hierarchy, your marketing efforts become ineffective. It might seem like you’re pitching likely prospects, but if you’ve chosen to market to an audience in the wrong level of the hierarchy, you’ll never meet their needs.
For example, let’s say you have an info-product on how to build confidence. You decide brand-new freelancers or those about to start their freelance business would be a perfect target market – surely they need to build confidence to earn their first clients!
That may be true, but according to Maslow, building self-confidence is for people at the fourth level of the hierarchy, that of Esteem. Brand-new freelancers hoping to create a stable business and steady income would be at the second level of the hierarchy, that of Security.
An info-product on building confidence is far better suited to established freelancers with a spouse or family who want to take their business to the next level or who are seeking new opportunities. The needs of Security have been fulfilled, so they’re mentally ready to tackle self-development, like building confidence.
The Fears and Anxieties of Your Target Market
How people move up and down the levels of the Hierarchy of Needs is clear: We need to find a good home before we can work on building confidence. We need a steady income before we work on earning respect from our peers.
We aren’t ready to tackle more evolved needs until more basic needs have been met.
But here’s something interesting: When we fulfill a need, we don’t really care. It’s no big deal. We have momentary pleasure, sure, but meeting a need isn’t a monumental life achievement or cause for a parade.
We didn’t have a job, and now we do. We didn’t have status, and now we do. We fulfill a need, feel happy about it, and then move on to the next unfulfilled need.
Here’s something else that’s interesting: While fulfilled needs aren’t that big of a deal… unfulfilled needs definitely are. They cause us stress. We worry about them. We feel anxious. We just don’t feel comfortable having these unmet needs in our life.
This makes perfect sense. If you don’t have a job, you’ll be anxious about finding one and worrying about an uncertain future until you do. If you have trouble gaining status with your peers, you’ll feel insecure and unsettled until you finally earn their respect.
Unfulfilled needs are great for your marketing, and you can use them to your advantage. In fact, you should use them to your advantage.
For example, instead of focusing on telling people they should build their confidence to get more clients and sales, you could focus your message on telling people how stressful new situations often feel, and how uncomfortable it is to have that constant knot in the pit of your stomach each time you think of trying to get more clients. Your info-produce helps reduce those anxieties, sweeps away the worries and makes stress a thing of the past. (And as an added bonus, it’ll likely help increase your clients and sales. Fancy that!)
You’ll have to be careful about this knowledge; it’s easy to prey on people’s fears just to make a buck. But when you have good solution to what people lack, addressing people’s fears, anxieties and worries can help both you and your prospect get exactly what they need.
You get a sale; they get peace of mind.
Add Some Maslow to Your Marketing
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs isn’t a perfect customer profiler by any means, but it does allow you to quickly determine which group of people might be good prospects and which message they need to hear.
Think about the level of your target marketing in the Hierarchy of Needs right now. What needs are they working on fulfilling? Think about the anxieties, fears and concerns those unfulfilled needs create for them. How could you present your product or service as the best solution, both in terms of meeting a need and reducing stress?
You’ll soon find yourself developing a marketing message that hits the target. You won’t be talking over anyone’s head or encouraging them towards something they don’t need or already have.
You’ll be right where they are, talking to them at their level.