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needs and wants

The difference between needs and wants is on my mind lately. This week I am running a messaging boot camp for some social enterprise startups competing for the annual $100,000 AcceliCity prize from Leading Cities. Here’s a high-level review of what we’ll be covering.

First, it’s important to think about who is important to you. Seems pretty obvious, but it’s not. It’s important to think about everyone who is critical to your success individually. This exercise goes beyond market segmentation by identifying the exact relationships you want to have with each.

If you’re a social enterprise, someone to champion your offering may be as critical as the person actually approving the purchase. If you’re a not-for-profit, maybe your lens has to expand to other organizations doing work complementary to yours. You have to first identify them before you can think carefully about the next step: Their wants vs. needs.

Need and wants are two separate beasts. For the most part, humans make all their decisions based on their wants. They use their needs to justify those decisions. If any new car will get you to and from where you need to go (remember actually going places?), why do luxury models even exist? It’s because the want of those added features, the cache that comes along with owning an expensive car, wins out over practical need for simple mobility.

The same goes for the decisions that people make to support your business or not-for-profit. People may need what you’re selling, but they want to feel good about it in the process. Corporate sponsors may need to allocate budgeted money to a worthy cause, but they want to feel like more than check writers in the process.

Whomever you depend upon to drive your mission—starting with employees!—think about their unique needs and wants and how you’re able to address both.

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