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Everything You Need to Know About Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Updated: 11 June 2021
Maslow's Hierarchy of needs

What is the end goal of marketing? 

To persuade a customer to spend their hard-earned money with your business, and not with a competitor.

How do you do that?

That question is a little trickier to answer. A lot of marketing companies will give you all sorts of answers around campaigns and strategies, but today we wanted to take marketing right back to its roots, and revisit one of the basic principles of successful marketing. It’s called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and while you’ve probably heard of it before, you may not have heard of it in relation to marketing your business.

What is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?

Now, we can confidently say you’ve probably heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs before (even if you’re not sure what it all means), because it’s taught in schools. It’s a simple psychological principle that breaks the basic needs of human beings into 5 sections,  laid out in a pyramid pattern. At the bottom, you have the absolute essentials to basic survival, and as you move up the pyramid you get to the psychological needs of humans that are vital to be mentally healthy, and then you end up at the top with the self-fulfilment needs required to create happy, healthy and satisfied people. 

It looks a little something like this:

maslow's hierarchy of needs

Basic Needs

  1. Physiological: Food, water, warmth, shelter, rest.
  2. Safety: Financial security, health and wellness, safety against accidents, injury and attack.

Psychological Needs

  1. Belongingness and love: Friendships, romantic relationships, family, social groups.
  2. Esteem: Prestige & feelings of accomplishment, feeling as though you are making a contribution to the world.

Self-Fulfilment Needs

  1. Self-actualisation: Achieving your full potential, including creative activities and personal growth.

The way it works is that the needs lower down the hierarchy have to be satisfied before a person can attend to the needs higher up. For example, if someone doesn’t have shelter for the night, they can’t worry about building intimate relationships, because they have the more pressing need of finding somewhere to sleep. This simple theory shows us the motivators behind human behaviour and has been widely referenced since its creation in 1943.

How Does Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Relate to Marketing?

At this point, you’re probably asking the obvious question—what does this have to do with marketing? And the answer is simple: psychology. Marketing is deeply rooted in psychology, in understanding what makes your target market tick, and how you can persuade them to buy from you over a competitor. When it comes to the hierarchy of needs, businesses need to understand how their product or service will serve the customer at each stage of the pyramid. 

The marketing favourite we see it being used in most is when we create client avatars, outlining what a business’s ideal target client looks like. And it’s easy to see why. In creating client avatars, brands need to really understand what’s important to each of their customer groups, and which of those basic needs is driving their desire to purchase. For example, say you’re a plumber. A person looking to get a faulty boiler replaced in their home will be looking for speed, cost-effectiveness, and lifespan of the new boiler (1—physiological and 2—safety). But someone building their dream home might be looking to have top of the range products installed, and the most efficiently designed system you can create (1— physiological and 4—esteem), so you would market your services to each customer very differently. Similarly, a woman looking to buy a car for her family is probably going to value reliability, safety features and cost-effectiveness (2—safety), rather than top of the line gadgets, flashy trim or 0-100 speeds (4—esteem). 

By using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you can create not only an incredibly detailed and accurate client avatar, but a marketing strategy tailored to them—one that doesn’t just focus on the benefits of what you offer, but the needs of your customer—which makes them more likely to buy from you.

Another, lesser-known use of Maslow’s hierarchy in marketing is to identify ‘triggering events’ for customers. It refers to an event that happens in a client’s life that makes them look for your goods or services. This is a key part of creating effective marketing strategies, but many companies fail to find out what those triggering events could be. However, if you look within Maslow’s hierarchy, you can see which level of the pyramid was responsible for triggering the need. So if you can understand both what motivates your customers to buy, and what triggers their search for your products, you can craft a marketing strategy that targets them much earlier in the buying cycle than your competitors, and cements your brand in their minds.

Ultimately, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is just another tool in the marketing toolkit, but one that’s often underused. By taking the time to really understand who your customers are and what motivates them to buy, you can create a marketing strategy that attracts more of those customers, and converts them much more effectively.

Now, we know that sounds like a lot to think about—and it is. It’s not easy to get into the head of a customer and really understand what makes them tick, and then use that to support them in their purchasing decisions. But by understanding the psychology behind what motivates people’s behaviour, you can start to craft a marketing strategy that responds to their needs, and will be much more successful in the process. 

Looking for Support in Bringing Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to Life in Your Business? 

At Lion Spirit Media, we don’t just create strategies that help you find your roar and get your voice heard—we make sure the right message gets heard by the right people, at the right time. Using psychological principles like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we tailor strategies around content marketing, SEO and media outreach to give you the best chance of success. If you would like to know more, please just get in touch to book your free consultation.

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