In all activity, in all endeavor, whether in business or in any other area of life, we are confronted with multiple possibilities. Possibility, and thus the freedom to choose, is what allow us to move, to act and react. It directs both the past and the future, but most people fail to take control of possibility, and so their choices and directions largely spring from chance. To move beyond chance, to take control of our circumstances, to achieve power, the first step is identify and recognize specific needs and wants.
Since you are reading this, I will assume that you are trying to move ahead with some part of your life, and to move towards a more powerful, more successful future. This three-part platform will allow you to gain better understanding of your own needs and wants.
The first part of the platform is called “Define.” To define is to set limits. The amount of energy at our disposal is not infinite. It is limited, or “defined,” within boundaries, and so to achieve success it is necessary to focus, to limit. Scattering efforts everywhere will achieve little. Instead, determine needs and wants, and focus on efforts to meet needs and wants. In this way you will eliminate chaos, confusion, and lack of direction, and to focus like a laser beam on success.
What I mean by “needs” and “wants” is something specific to this writing which may not be obvious on the face of it. A need is something you must do to satisfy your customers: it is essentially the same as customer demand. A want is something you desire, a direction you would choose to go, a goal or direction, a long-term aim.
The first of the concepts is need. This is the quintessential ingredient, without which no product or service can succeed. It’s exceedingly tough to make any money offering a product or service nobody wants or needs. Imagine being a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman, being greeted by people armed with smart-phones (telling their children to Google the word “encyclopedia”).
Need (or demand), unlike wants – which we’ll go into a bit later – is not under your control, but your response to it is. Just as wants require self-knowledge, need or demand requires knowledge of the market. You cannot profit from something nobody wants or is willing (or able) to pay for.
Our research and development teams tell us that if we track the past, we will have reference points to adjust our path toward success with greater accuracy. But beyond these tools of marketing science, there is sometimes an inner sense that can tell us even more.
Have you ever experienced a moment when you knew exactly what to do, you did it, and things worked? Of course! I have, and it feels great to know where we are going. It also feels great to progress beyond that initial feeling of victory.
Even if you are introducing a new product, it’s still important to identify a customer need that would make someone desire that product. Similar to panning for gold, when you discover the right environment (digging in the right places), with the necessary equipment, your odds for striking gold are greatly increased. Imagine climbing trees armed with bottle caps to scratch the bark in search of gold…not a likely success. But, some people have tried such foolish things in business!
It starts by identifying your customers’ desires. Not sure what those desires are? Ask them! Through questioning you will gain clarity. I have participated in numerous focus groups. They are easy to find, and usually free. They allow you to submit questions which will then be sent to multiple targeted people who have experience, expertise and/or interest in your field. You may wish to conduct your research more than once, to ensure that you have enough data to evaluate customer needs accurately; quantity is as important as quality in this sort of research.
Finding a common thread of desire among clients may be the best demonstration of demand. It is critically important to not only estimate the size of your market, but also the level of effort and investment at which you can satisfy their desires. History is littered with people and companies who have blundered at this key juncture. A grossly inaccurate estimation on market-size or market demand can crush solo-preneurs and Fortune 500 companies alike. After miscalculating the size of demand, and their own abilities to supply the solution, they felt they could simply up shift to a higher gear and speed toward success, not realizing their “vehicle” was not built to withstand such a ride.
A dangerous manner of thinking may include the phrase “If I double my contacts, I will double my sales!” Have you ever heard the mantra before? Many imagine this power, yet it simply does not exist. I have fallen victim to the pitfalls of overestimating demand.
Identifying the needs of your customer base can help you to screen ideas quickly, so that you can choose among various possible areas to focus effort. You should know which ideas are worthwhile, and why they are worthwhile. Beware of the “too many irons in the fire” syndrome!
This brings us to the second key part of our definition of power: wants. It’s important to set an overall direction of your efforts in terms of a long-term goal.
Needs are the desires and demands of your customers. Wants are your own: the direction you, in perfect self-knowledge and understanding, would choose to go. Determining this exactly will bring clarity to your goals, and let you focus your energy on achieving those goals without wasting effort. Even if something is perfectly in tune with the demands of the market, it may still lead to failure if it is not in tune with what is right for you.
Can you remember the days of highway travel prior to GPS technology? Did you ever see people driving below the speed limit (as cars whipped around them), eyes bobbing from map to exit sign, map to exit sign: “Is this the exit? I don’t think it’s the exit. Maybe it’s the next one. No, it was that last one”. It is awfully hard to generate speed when you are panicked, looking for the right turn, uncertain exactly where to go. Think about the people around you today: are they driving in circles, veering off the path, or are they progressing steadily and swiftly toward a successful “now arriving” announcement?
Feelings of chaos lead to lack of progress, until the pain is unbearable. It is like running in quicksand until the last breath of air is taken. Plenty of movement and energy are expended, but you do not get anywhere. When I have asked clients’ about the state of their companies, several have replied with a tired voice: chaos. I tell them the toughest (and easiest) job is to stop digging and start defining a plan with a target and a way to reach it. Such a map key can help you eliminate the chaos in your business.
Imagine the power (and forward progression) you’d possess if you and your team knew exactly what to do, and what the market desired. What kind of impact could that create? What are the problems that could be solved? If, instead of putting energy into a hundred different directions, confused about where you want to go, you had a clear vision and could concentrate all of that energy into one strong burst like a laser, could you make more progress?
You may know people (perhaps that well-dressed person in your mirror?) who have been advised to focus on one thing, to guide one aspect of their responsibilities through to completion, versus doing a laundry-list of items only half-way. In my experience, the jugglers become strugglers as they try to stay on course, ultimately allowing their overwhelming list of responsibilities to pull them in too many directions.
Some people believe that saying “Yes” to every opportunity is the key to success. Heck, there was even a movie made, based upon this principle!
It is my belief that “NO” may be the better answer in certain situations.
When you are considering a course of action, filter it through these two things, need (the demands of your customers or potential customers) and want (your own proper direction), and if it is not in accord with one or the other, say NO. To do this is to define – to set limits – to give shape and direction to your progress.
This process of define will allow you to raise your esteem for yourself and others. Success leads to more success, as your problem-solving muscles grow stronger with repeated use. Always remember, however, that with any great feats of accomplishment there are still many ups and downs. Do not be discouraged by temporary setbacks. As long as you know that what you are doing is in tune with those two measures, need and want, you know that it can succeed. What you gain by understanding over time is a more accurate judgment of our true value and worth. All too often, we appraise ourselves far below our capacity.
Power comes with your ability to connect. As you connect defined reference points you will discover a charted course to your expectations. As you define, you are making strides in a confident new direction, like raising your own sails.
Start with a segment to define, perhaps a product or service which you’d like to create or expand. You may even have an existing concept sitting on your shelf which could be improved-upon for maximum results. Next, you may begin to imagine, chart and detail the needs.
Then, follow up with want. This is the point at which good things become great, as people see the benefit of receiving things which they desire, and your own animation, focus, and energy as you pursue the goals set by these two parameters.