Lately, I’ve been exploring Needs – those essentials in life. I’ve been wondering what are the simplest building blocks of a good life and how can that be applied to business so that we aren’t continually producing waste (products, time, energy, etc). As I delved into the world of Needs, it became apparent that it wasn’t just about minimising waste. Creating essential products and services can mean your business survives (and perhaps thrives) in uncertain times. Here’s my recently published article from Flying Solo that explains it more…
When cashflow gets tight, a natural response is to start eliminating those expenses that aren’t ‘essential’. How do you meet your clients’ needs and ensure that you don’t get crossed off their essentials list?
Recently I wrote about how understanding your needs as a soloist can help improve not only your enjoyment of your work and wellbeing, but also your performance. To ensure you’re not crossed off your client’s list of essential services, you need to be sure you’re meeting your clients’ needs.
This begs the question: what do people really need?
In my last article, I looked at our needs as soloists and found that in addition to our basic physiological needs we have the ABC of psychological needs of autonomy, belongingness and competence.
Most businesses meet some need – sometimes indirectly and sometimes creating more needs in the process. You can trade on your client’s fears and get them to continue buying your product because it gives them a temporary feeling of security or feeling good. For me, making clients buy five products to meet a need or setting up client dependency is akin to selling junk or creating waste – it is not only unethical but not sustainable.
The idea of creating services or products that help your clients to the extent that they no longer need you may seem to conflict with the purpose of business. Aren’t we here to maximise profit? Well, no, not all of us.
Most soloists I know and work with have moved beyond this approach. They want their work efforts to be more than the passing of time or making a buck. They are interested in providing great services or products that truly improve their clients’ lives.
A sustainable business for uncertain times addresses clients’ needs as directly as possible and does not create more needs in the process.
How do we create businesses that meet clients’ needs?
Your business may already address a basic physiological need. For example, you may produce the snuggliest winter coats this side of Antarctica and thus be meeting people’s need for warmth. Or, you could be addressing the need for shelter by providing access to home loans or rental properties. As a bookkeeper you are addressing your clients’ need for security and sleep – knowing that their BAS will be in on time!
When I look at the businesses on my outgoings list that I consider ‘essentials’, it consists of businesses that not only meet some of my basic physiological needs but also my psychological needs. They give me choices, make me feel that I belong, and help me grow.
What can you do to better meet your clients’ needs?
1. See your clients as whole people
Your clients have a complex range of needs and are not just consumers who can be manipulated into buying an unending array of products.
2. Meet your clients’ need for Autonomy
How can your product or service increase your client’s autonomy? Do you give them choices? Do they have more choice in life after using your product? Does your product help them feel the “master of their domain”?
3. Meet your clients’ need for Belonging
Does your product help your clients connect with others and feel that they belong? Does it make them feel part of humanity or does it make them disengage with people and with life? Do you treat your clients with respect or speak about them disparagingly behind their backs?
4. Meet your clients’ need for Competence
Does your product allow your clients to learn new things and grow? Do you acknowledge your clients existing competence and give them ways to enhance it?
Finally, and most importantly:
5. Ask your clients what they need
Delve deeper should they answer “more money”: what does more money gives them? Choices? Security? Food on the table?
The opportunity awaits you to find creative, sustainable ways to meet your own and your clients’ needs – and not get crossed off that list.
This article was first published in the online community for solo business owners, Flying Solo.