‘Wants Are More Important Than Needs’


wants-vs-needsThis statement was made by Adrian Miller, a consultant, author and sales trainer, during a webinar to the Marketing Executives Networking Group this week.

While there was a little pushback during Q&A and Adrian had no support beyond her personal observations, I completely agree with her conclusion.

Neither of us is dismissing the importance of needs. I think of them as the foundation that often has to be taken care of before moving on.

Regardless, when searching for how to make a sale, smart marketers recognize that companies and people have many more desires than needs. And perhaps surprisingly, we often spend more to satisfy a desire than fulfill a much more critical need.

Two things are obvious:

  • My wants often are extensions of my needs which justify spending a lot more than necessary to satisfy my needs; and
  • I have many more wants than needs.

I need a new car…I want a new BMW M3. Although I admit that I’ll “settle” for a 535Xi, which isn’t nearly as cool, the desire is far more important than the need, which could be satisfied by a car costing less than 25% as much.

I need a new computer…I want a MacBook Pro. I know that I’ll buy another MacBook Pro, even though a P.C. would provide everything I need for about a third the cost.

  • It looks like my wants are driving up my costs by at least 3X.

I need to eat healthy…I want to eat great tasting food. I won’t even try to justify this. And you know which category of food I typically eat.

I have a lot of other wants which have nothing to do with needs, many of which I’m likely to enjoy satisfying.

  • The paper version of the Weekend WSJ
  • Decent cabernets
  • 3-course Italian meals
  • Artisan cheeses
  • 90-minute restaurant lunches
    • I definitely love the experience of eating.

Marketing lesson:

When researching company and individual needs, be sure to spend equal effort finding what they want since:

  • There are a lot more wants than needs, and
  • People often are willing to spend more to satisfy their desires.

About Richard Sellers

Richard is Chairman Emeritus of the Marketing Executives Networking Group, founder of Demand Marketing consulting firm, and former Sr. VP of Marketing for three multi-billion dollar companies: CEC, WLP, and Service Merchandise. His early career was at GE, P&G, Playtex, and Marketing Corporation of America. He’s also a volunteer counselor for SCORE assisting small businesses in upstate New York. You can follow his communications about marketing, job search and careers here and at mengonlineENTREPRENEURS QUESTIONS, and on Twitter at @Sellers_Richard.



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