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… 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 […] 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. […]

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. […]

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. […]

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.