Apr 16, 2014

A model to map customer needs and goals

It all started with diving deep into the phenomenon (yes, it is!) of user retention. What makes a user come back to a product/service? Books, blogs, articles, research papers - my search continues and takes me to interesting directions. I haven't reached a conclusion yet but all roads seem to be leading to the basic premise that a user takes the help of a product/service to achieve his/her goal. After the first use, if he "believes" that the product will help him reach his goal, he is sure to come back.

This belief has to be reinforced with each visit, until the user accepts the product as his support / companion that helps him accomplish his goal.

For product creators, the key challenge is not just ensuring that user *gets* this connection (user's goal <=> my product) but also to understand what these goals are in the first place. Talk to any product manager about his job profile and the first thing he would say is that I need to "understand my customer needs".

These 4 words are of vital importance and each of them can be dissected further (which I shall do so in subsequent blog posts). For now, let's focus on the "needs" part for a little bit.

Every individual has needs which are further classified into
1) Innate or primary needs - physiological, need for food, water, clothing etc
2) Acquired or secondary needs - psychological, need for social acceptance, self-esteem, accomplishment etc

If there is an unmet need, the individual feels a state of "tension" that drives him to take action which he believes, will reduce the tension and satisfy the need.

This "drive" that pushes the user to take action is what we all know as "motivation".

Now that we have a basic idea of what needs are and what motivation means, let's talk about "goals" and where it fits into this model.

A "goal" is a concrete form of expression of a need. For any specific need, there could be multiple goals. The selection of a specific goal to address the need depends on multiple factors such as individual's past experiences, his beliefs and values, societal norms etc.

Presenting these different elements together** 
Taking fitness as an example,

I find this model of dissection to be extremely useful to get to the actual customer needs. While talking to customers (or prospects), you could use a technique like "5 whys" to elucidate responses which can give you a breakdown of motivation, goal, tension and finally the actual need.

**Adapted from "model of the motivation process" presented in Consumer Behavior by Schiffman and Kanuk

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