The 7 Basic Human Needs That Successful Businesses Focus On
As an entrepreneur, you need to ask yourself: Where do I want to invest my money and energy? Which market am I going to target? And, most importantly, why does that market need my help?
The answer to these questions will have a huge impact on everyone involved, and make or break your success. Despite having a burning desire to build something incredible, the fact is many entrepreneurs struggle to make the correct decision. That’s because they are rushing to build and launch their idea. There is little consideration given to what they are solving, why they are doing it, and whether the consumer actually wants this solution.
The key to answering “the why” question is understanding the concept of personal needs: your own needs and those of your customers.
Human organic needs
Let’s start with the concept of basic human needs. The famous economist Manfred Max Neef said, “That the aim of development must be neither producerism not consumerism, but the satisfaction of fundamental human needs, which are not only needs of humanity, but needs of being as well.”
Neef created the ‘Human Scale Development,’ which states, among other things, the following two assumptions: First, fundamental human needs are finite, being limited in number and classifiable. This is contrary to the traditional concept that states there are many insatiable human needs. Second, Neef stated that fundamental human needs are the same in all cultures and in all historical periods. This also contradicts the traditional concept that believed human needs are subject to trends and vary to a great extent.
The idea that all of us, as human beings, have basic needs can be quite revolutionary, especially when you grow up in a society that imposes needs, represented by “shoulds” and “should-nots” passed down by previous generations. In contrast, this concept of organic needs is the belief that humans come programmed with a set of organic needs. An organic need is part of the human core, connecting everybody’s day-to-day will and decision-making criteria. The idea is that when an organic need is not met, the body feels a sense of discomfort. Yet, when an organic need is fulfilled, the body responds with ease and feels good.
Keys to success: vitality and passion
Now, let’s apply the concept of organic needs to an entrepreneur’s startup process. Without understanding the needs of yourself, you, as the entrepreneur, can find yourself leading a business without the necessary passion and vitality to achieve your dream. And, without understanding the needs of your target market, you can choose the wrong product or target market.
From the venture capitalist perspective, a few factors will determine which entrepreneur to support: his target market, track record and business plan. Yet, one consideration above all the others is his vitality and determination. In other words, does the entrepreneur have the energy and will power to see the startup through and deliver a solution and a return? To improve the likelihood of meeting a venture capitalist’s criteria and achieving company success, an entrepreneur must align themselves and their company values with their own needs. Once the entrepreneur has the answer for why they want to build a specific company and can articulate this in their funding pitch, then they will increase their chances for funding.
Identifying key human needs
There are seven key human needs that most resonate with audiences and entrepreneurs:
Consistency/safety – Without it, you feel anxious.
Variability/fun – Without it, you are bored.
Status/significance – Without it, you feel undervalued.
Love/connection – Without it, you are lonely.
Self-expression - Without it, you can’t express the meaning to life.
Growth/knowledge – Without it, you feel stuck.
Contribution – Without it, you don’t have the satisfaction of helping someone.
Some of these needs may be stronger and more dominant than others. Each person will have a different configuration and “setup” for these needs, depending on their past experience, education, and set of values.
For example, health enthusiasts have a more dominant need for growth/safety while luxury consumers have a greater need for status/significance. Entrepreneurs may have a stronger drive for success, significance, self-expression, and contribution. In contrast, an artist might be more inclined towards self-expression and love/connection.
Related: Discipline Is What Leads to Success
Company values that reflect human needs
Here are a few examples of company values. Notice how they reflect basic human needs whether the customer’s needs or their own core needs:
We are leaders in innovation and design who seek to help athletes of all skill levels achieve peak performance with every product we bring to market.
(Creation and growth)
We are dedicated to consistently deliver outstanding financial results.
Ben & Jerry's
Our economic mission requires us to manage our company for sustainable financial growth.
Our social mission compels us to use our company in innovative ways to make the world a better place.
There is always more information out there.
(Learning and growth)
The need for information crosses all borders.
(Market need for knowledge)
Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome.
Being present, connecting with transparency, dignity and respect.
These highly successful companies learned early on the importance of connecting their business directly to human needs. Doing so can build engagement, trust, and loyalty even among various target audience segments.
Considering market needs
After identifying your own prominent set of needs, the next step is to make a list of market choices and align these needs and markets. If your main needs are connection and expression, then you want to market to groups that also prioritize those needs. If you crave consistency in your life, then you may be in a better position to market to people who are in stable jobs. If variability works for you, then it may be better to target party organizers whose needs change from one event to another. There are many different combinations that could work. That’s why it’s critical to figure out this balance between human and market needs.
Company values as a reflection of needs
Once you have identified your own needs and your chosen market and its needs, then it’s time to define your company’s values and needs. These will eventually attract like-minded people who share the same goals and needs. Together, you can create a culture that will benefit everyone. Having these clear company values will also greatly enhance decision-making speed as well as company-wide performance for your startup. Additionally, customers will reap the benefits from this alignment between your needs, market needs, and company values in the form of an incredible service experience.