HomeBlog Vanity, Stuff and Fluff in Customer Need Descriptions

Vanity, Stuff and Fluff in Customer Need Descriptions

June 01, 2016 | By Rachel Young

  • Many organizations lack a good definition of a customer need, which hinders the ability of product management and marketing to address the need
  • SiriusDecisions defines a need as a desired outcome that has a business value to a persona
  • Don’t miss the chance to attend the SiriusDecisions webcast and learn a breakthrough approach to identifying and prioritizing customer needs

What constitutes a customer need? Though the concept of a need may seem so fundamental that it doesn’t need to be described, SiriusDecisions research reveals that companies struggle to understand, synthesize and act on needs because they lack a common definition of exactly what a need is. A good needs description encapsulates the customer’s desires and is actionable for product and marketing teams. 

In our research, we found many variations in the ways that product managers and product marketers describe customer needs, but the three types that appear most frequently are, unfortunately, the ones that should be banished for the problems they cause in innovation and go-to-market efforts. Let’s take a closer look at the three ways to avoid defining needs.

  • The “vanity need” statement. Example: “Human resources managers need recruiting software.” This type of statement is vain; it’s a “selfie” of your product. The flaw is in the presumption that the customer has a need for your solution. The “selfie need” statement is incomplete in that it provides the answer before the problem or opportunity is articulated; there may be other ways to solve the customer problem than just with your offering.
  • The “stuff need” statement. Example: “As a recruiter, I want to post a job so people can apply for it.” Commonly used by product development, this type of statement focuses on tasks or activities. While this statement is useful for functional requirement and specification purposes, it’s limiting for product management and marketers who need to understand the business context. It’s so singularly focused on the task or process that it’s missing the business reason and the business impact related to the task. 
  • The “fluff need” statement. Example: “Companies need great employees to increase revenue.” Pick any b-to-b brochure and you’re likely to find the broad-stroke need statement. This type of statement is centered on generic business entity (companies) and not a persona that is a representation of people with whom marketing and product teams would interact . Its attempt at business value is too vague to be actionable.

Now that you’ve seen the types of need statements to avoid, let’s look at what your organization should adopt as the common standard.

  • The SiriusDecisions Sample Need Statement. Example: “HR leaders need to hire the best talent to give the company a competitive edge.” SiriusDecisions defines a need as a desired outcome that has business value to a persona. The components of persona, desired outcome and business value are clear. Documenting the persona (HR leaders) enables product, marketing and sales teams to devise strategies that are directed at people instead of business entities. The desired outcome (hire the best talent) is the achievement or result the persona is pursuing. Business value (give the company a competitive edge) is the higher business purpose or reason associated with the outcome.

Using this needs definition ensures that your need statement will capture and describe customer needs in a way that enables product management to evaluate the potential innovation efforts that could address the need. Marketers can achieve better messaging resonance and campaign results when they understand the business value and impact of the customer need. The SiriusDecisions Needs Aperture is a breakthrough new approach that b-to-b organizations can use to identify and prioritize customer needs– and then use those needs to drive innovation and increase go-to-market effectiveness.

If you’re a client and were not able to attend the webcast “The Art and Science of Identifying and Prioritizing Customer Needs,” where my colleague Jeff Lash and I introduced a new framework and process that b-to-b companies can use to define, anticipate and address customer needs, please contact your SiriusDecisions account team for more details about accessing the presentation on demand. If you’re not a client, contact us for more information.

Rachel Young

Rachel Young is a Senior Research Director of Portfolio Marketing at SiriusDecisions. She has more than 20 years of experience in product and solution marketing, demand generation and communications. Follow Rachel on Twitter at @rpyoung_.

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