Use Needs and Wants to Win with Buyer-Driven Experiences


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Given the degree of independence B2B buyers have assumed, compelling content is a critical component of buyer-driven experiences. Even if the solution they’re considering is complex, chances are buyers will engage with your content before engaging with your sellers.

The content that serves to fuel advancement with buyers must be thoughtful and relevant. This means it must be focused on what your buyers need and want first, before focusing on your products. If your content focuses on proving you know and understand your buyers, you’ll gain the engagement you need to get to the product features and benefits. If not, they’ll move on to a vendor who can tell them a better, more relevant, and more meaningful story.

What many marketers miss with this mandate from buyers is that need and want are not the same thing.

Need is like the mandate no one likes to follow. It’s like being pushed when you don’t want to go there. Need makes people feel desperate, removing the comfort of feeling in control. Acting on need has a higher propensity to make people doubt and/or regret their choice as the importance of need is rationally perceived as higher than want. Especially in circumstances where need cancels want.

This has become clear in interviews I’ve seen on the news lately asking people about the impact of inflation on their purchasing choices. Most of them talk about evaluation by need vs. want. And their disappointment is evident when they admit they must choose based on need.

Need lacks enthusiasm and emotional resonance. Yes, people must act on true needs, but will often resent that they didn’t have the time, latitude, or funding to align need with want. This is when you gain customers saddled with regret that are not likely to renew or grow their business with you.

Need is logical, often factual. Want is a story.

For example:

I need a roof over my head.

I want a cozy cabin in the mountains on a lake with a canoe at the dock.

Do you see the difference?

One is bare-bones reality. The other is emotionally satisfying and helps us visualize a desirable outcome.

  • Which one inspires you?
  • Which one would you work toward with passion?
  • Which one makes you feel good about your choice?
  • Which one leaves you flat?

It’s the same with products available to solve our problems. Your B2B buyer may “need” to solve the problem but satisfying wants will factor heavily in which product they choose to buy. Your product may be the best, but you can still lose the sale without a story that connects to the buyers’ wants.

Is it Need vs. Want or Both?

In a situation where there’s only one choice and the need must be met, that’s that (or no decision to change). But it’s rarely — if ever — true that there’s only one choice.

In a situation where the need must be met but there’s latitude to couple need with want, your B2B buyer’s confidence, and commitment will be higher.

I need to centralize the management of cross-functional workflows to get products to market faster.

I want our project teams to excel by working more closely together and help them take ownership and accountability for the impact of their deliverables on company objectives.

Need gets you to the “what” (problem) but want gets you the “why” (or outcomes). People buy based on expected results. And there’s an emotional tie to those results. Therefore, B2B buyers have an investment of “self” in their wants.

Answering a need is geared toward function. Acting on want leans toward emotions. Most humans allow emotion to take precedence over function. The trick is — more often than not — B2B buyers must have both need and want addressed to build the confidence to decide to buy.

Need and want are inextricably linked.

Create a Strategy to Address Both Need and Want for B2B Buyers

Two of the most critical components in the buying process are use cases and the identification of meaningful value.

By defining your buyer’s need and what’s behind it, you gain depth of insight into the use case.

By understanding your buyer’s wants, you gain insights into the value scenario they’re intent on achieving.

One of the best ways I know to do this is by understanding the questions B2B buyers need to answer to advance in solving their problem. Use case points to achievE the value scenario they envision. Therefore, your buyer must discover a use case that works. This comes from exploring the root cause of the problem and validating the worth of solving it.

Examples of generic questions may include:

  • Why should we change?
  • What will happen if we don’t change?
  • How much will we need to change to solve the problem?
  • How are others like us solving this problem?
  • Our situation is different, so why will your solution work for us?
  • How will I ever get Bill in finance to agree to this change?
  • What am I willing to give up to find the budget to pay for this?
  • What could go wrong?
  • How do I decide which vendor/solution is best for us?

The content you create to answer these questions can address need or want or weave both together. Whether you’ve determined that your buyer is more analytical or amiable doesn’t mean that they only care about need or want. Your B2B buyers are humans — they will respond to both — perhaps in varying degrees.

However, some questions beg for a focus on want over need, such as,

  • What will X look like with the problem solved?
  • What outcomes can we count on achieving with this solution?
  • Which goals might be less certain?
  • Why will users adopt or avoid the new solution?

When planning your content, you must think about which aspect (need or want) holds the most sway for your buyer given the objective they’re trying to accomplish.

Let’s take the first question: Why should we change?

From a need perspective – because the way we’ve always done it is no longer effective at meeting company objectives.

From a want perspective – because your organization has always been an industry leader and that’s slipping – also making it hard to retain the talent you need to stay competitive – and we’ll feel better, prouder when our org is kicking butt and taking names.

Meaningful Content Advances Buyer-Driven Experiences

When your content strategy employs both need and want, a magical thing happens. You move from simply publishing content to telling a story your buyers will actively participate in and move through to get what they want. This is the value of buyer-driven experiences.

While buyers demand facts to support whatever your content claims, what they’ll remember is the story you told that engaged their emotions. The facts help them believe and validate need. The emotional resonance of visualizing what they want gives them confidence and the determination to move forward.


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