Abraham Maslow contends that
man’s needs are arranged in a hierarchy. Those at the
lower level, if unsatisfied, take precedence over those at higher
levels. He states that man is a wanting animal. As soon as one
of his needs are met and satisfied, another appears in its place.
This process, according to Maslow, never ends. It continues
from birth to death. Man continually puts forth effort or work
to satisfy his needs.
If we were to look at Maslow’s Hierarchy today, with
the challenges we are all facing because of the September 11th
terrorist attack, we will find that our “hierarchy of
needs” has made a dramatic shift. This shift has brought
many of us back to our basic needs. If we are to survive and
thrive in this new world, we need to identify and modify our
thinking and our strategies for maintaining and growing our
Our Hierarchy of Needs
Basic Needs - At the lowest level are the
Basic Needs - the needs of the body. These cover the needs for
food, water, air, rest, exercise, shelter and etc. If these
needs are not met, then these needs will assume a priority in
the motivation of our behavior. A starving man can only think
of food - similarly a frightened citizen of this new world can
only think of the needs of his family and their safety. Here
in Canada, most of us eat regularly, and have our basic needs
met - the crisis in New York was a rude awakening for all of
us - and we stopped taking those basic needs for granted. All
of a sudden, we had a primary motivation for our basic needs
to be met.......food, water, air, rest, exercise and shelter
have become more important to us. As small business owners,
we need to refocus our products and services and rise to meet
the basic needs of our potential client base.
In our workshops we suggest you use lateral thinking as a creativity
tool - how can we take Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and
use it to increase our business potential? The following are
a couple of examples of approaching our basic needs with a little
When the Towers were hit - many of those in the Towers used
their cell phones to assure their family that they were okay.
Immediately following the tragedy, sales of cellular phones
went up - not as a luxury item, but as a basic need. Lateral
thinking – basic need – safety!
When the Towers were hit - and so many were lost, families
mourned their losses and wished they had spent more time together.
Family traditions suddenly become more important, there was
a return to worship and to family ties. Sales of family related
products have increased. Flags have been purchased to show solidarity
for the “global family”. People have come together
with common needs. Stress and panic attacks have run rampant
- therapists, coaches and guides are needed to help us cope
with our basic needs. The sale of candy and soup has risen dramatically
- comfort foods - meeting our basic needs. Lateral thinking
– basic needs – tradition – family!
Safety and Security - The next level of Maslow’s
Hierarchy of Needs is Safety and Security. This is the protection
against danger, and the threat of being deprived of things.
The need is for the “fairest possible break”. If
men are afraid - this is a basic motivator to look for products
and services that will help conquer that fear. Think laterally
- what will we need to look at differently in order to capitalize
on the second level of Maslow’s Hierarchy?
Sales have increased for security systems. We have seen an
increase in sales for home alarms. Insurance policies have been
investigated and realigned. Financial plans have been reconsidered
and repositioned. Travel plans have been adjusted, with more
conference calls. Video conferencing is on the rise. People
are using a variety of transportation modes, sales have increased
dramatically on passenger trains. Safety and Security have become
more important and more saleable. What is your product or service
- how can you position yourself and your business to move with
Social Needs - Once the first two levels of
Maslow’s Hierarchy have been met - we will once again
see a rise in sales for our Social Needs. For the next few years
we will see more cocooning, more time spent as a family. Our
spending will be within a comfort level which says - we want
to be with family, friends and people we know. People like people
who are like themselves - and they will buy from those people!
There will be more relationship building - more time spent getting
to know neighbours and colleagues. Social Needs will be home
based, local and family orientated. More traditional games will
be sold, more family dinners, with more holiday awareness, sales
or products and services will be targeted towards the family
Egotistic Needs - The fourth level of Maslow’s
Hierarchy is Egotistic Needs - This was the level that satisfied
the need to drive the big car, own the big house, take the big
vacation. With the tragedy of September 11th - our ego took
a big nosedive - and we determined that “big” is
not necessarily better. We began to rethink our needs - sales
of cars, houses and vacations changed - we returned to many
of our basic needs - where safety, dependability and family
values played an important role in our purchasing. Divorces
are down - marriages are up - meditation is a growing industry.
We’ve seen a rush to move to the country – to a
smaller, more friendly and safe community. We want to know who
we know, and who they know.
Self Fulfilment - The fifth level of Maslow’s
Hierarchy is Self-Fulfilment - the need to realize one’s
potential, for continued self development and for being creative
in the broadest sense of the term. Today, many of us are too
busy trying to satisfy the needs we have at the lower level
and will not be spending our time or money on this level of
development, unless it will provide us with the return we have
to basic needs. We see spirituality on the rise, more self improvement
courses, increased customer service training, with networking
and relationship building as a key component. We are getting
to know ourselves and our colleagues on a more intimate level
and it will be part of our Self-Fulfilment.
In today’s world, identifying the need which motivates
our customers and our clients is most important and by providing
the right incentive, which is consistent with their needs -
we will be successful.
With a little lateral thinking, we can look after their Hierarchy
of Needs, according to Messer!
Donna Messer is an international speaker,
trainer and coach, she is the founder of ConnectUs International,
a company that designs, develops and delivers educational training
programs. ConnectUs has developed “Maslow’s Vs Messer’s
Hierarchy of Needs” to facilitate lateral thinking in
retention and renewing business relationships. Donna is also
the Managing Editor of BusinessWoman Canada magazine. For further
information - www.ConnectUsCanada.com