Saturday, December 5, 2015

Customer Need States

Sometimes we think of consumers too simplistically or monolithically. Even if we are very thorough in defining our target customers, we may miss all of the different needs states a given person may have in our product categories. For instance, consider dining out. You might understand me very well demographically and psychographically. However, have you considered all of my different need states when it comes to dining out? Each one of these implies a different approach to location, menu items, type of service, ambiance and a variety of other factors. Here are some possible different need states:

  • My wife is out of town and I am dining alone. I brought a book to read and have the rest of the evening for a leisurely meal. I am feeling financially flush and I typically enjoy a glass of wine before dinner. Did I mention that I like fine wine, not the typical selection on a restaurant's menu?
  • I am in a rush to get to a client meeting. I have ten minutes to eat (or should I say inhale) my meal. I don't like most fast food restaurants and I don't eat much meat at all. While I could eat in my car, I am in a suit and do not want to spill food on the suit so I would stay away from anything that has a sauce or dressing or might otherwise drip and stain.
  • I am entertaining clients from out of town and want a quiet corner of the restaurant where we can talk without being overheard by others. While I don't eat much meat, the people I am entertaining have been talking about going to a steak place all day.
  • We are throwing a birthday party for our nine year old daughter so we want to go to a restaurant that the children will like. I would be best if it included fun activities. I hope there is also food palatable to all of the parents.
  • It is a Saturday and I am running errands. I need to stop some time for lunch. There is a new Thai restaurant in the neighborhood. I have not tried it yet. I love Thai food.
  • My doctor just told me I need to stick to a strict low carb (or glycemic or salt, etc.) diet. I am going out with friends to a restaurant we jointly decided upon. 
  • I am on my way to a very popular and crowded restaurant whose reservation I booked months ago. While I don't want to miss the chance of eating there, one of my best friends just died of cancer this morning and I am not feeling very hungry or happy. 
  • I decide to go to a restaurant I haven't been to since I was a child. I don't think the restaurant has changed much over the years. I am going there mostly out of nostalgia. 
  • I am going to a restaurant with a friend because it has live jazz and a good wine list. I have no idea what their food is like. I hope there is something on the menu that I will like.
  • I am in Maine so I have to go to an ocean front lobster pound. While I really like lobster, I hate the thought of killing one to eat.

While this may sound schizophrenic, it is not that different from when anyone might say. The point I am trying to make is that people are complex and have a mix of needs at any point in time. Often that mix of needs varies quite a bit from one time to another. When considering how to configure your product features, service elements and total brand experience, you must realize that you will mostly appeal to one or perhaps two or three need states, not all of them. Some require frequent and attentive service. Others require unobtrusive service that encourages lingering. While some might not require much service at all. 

I hope this has helped you think about different needs states that your customers might have and what that means for your brand and the experience that it delivers. 

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