A “Felt Need” Is What Makes Us Buy

A “felt need” is what differentiates a vitamin from an aspirin: when we crave something (relief from pain), a product that satisfies that desire becomes a must-have rather than a nice-to-have. Realising this and re-framing a product in terms of this craving is an important step in ensuring a product’s success, say Dan and Chip Heath, authors of the excellent¬†Switch¬†and¬†Made to Stick.

Becoming aware of this idea is what led to the success of Netflix and NetApp‚Ķ¬†as well as the demise of countless other companies. In a brief article describing how re-framing a nice-to-have product as a must-have is all about discovering and exploiting a specific “felt need”, the Heaths look at Ray Bards failed attempt at getting his “vitamin” book¬†published¬†and how realizing this idea of a felt need led him to become a successful publisher.

If entrepreneurs want to succeed [‚Ķ] they’d better be selling aspirin rather than vitamins. Vitamins are nice; they’re healthy. But aspirin cures your pain; it’s not a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have. [‚Ķ]

That aspirin quality is what Bard now looks for in a book. He says that successful books address a deep “felt need” — that is, readers hunger for the answers the book provides. Classic examples would be diet books, personal-finance books, and books that promise you mega success if you’ll just radiate positive energy to the universe, indicating your receptivity to mega success. Bard has become a talented diviner of felt need. Fully half of the books that he publishes become best sellers. [‚Ķ]

You’ve heard the old saying “If you invent a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.” Don’t bet on it. The world’s felt need isn’t for a better mousetrap. It’s for a dead mouse.¬†[‚Ķ]

When engineers or marketers or entrepreneurs get too close to their products, it’s easy to mistake a vitamin for an aspirin. If your team is flirting with delusion, a little love might point you in the right direction.

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