September 13, 2017

Build what people want, not what they need


  1. 11

    I am probably overdoing it but... how does this really apply to a SaaS? It works well for a sports car because once you made the sale, it's done, you got the $. But with a SaaS you want a huge LTV, and if you build something that people want, where wanting is temporary, an 'emotional decision', you won't get too far. My point being, if it's not what they need, if they don't benefit from it in the long term, they'll churn.

    It sounds dumb but it's like "Make people want what they need". Ahh, I think I just understood marketing ;D

    I'm particularly interested in the habits theory. I don't think it's so much that the short term is painful, but that motivation wanes, it is like a sine wave that comes and goes, and so it is important to minimize the lows. In my little app (https://everydaycheck.com) I really focus on the "Do a little bit every day, no matter how little", because it's those days that you only make 10 push-ups that really make a difference.

    To go on with my ramble I just want to say this made me remember how important it is to get the users to make an habit of using your SaaS app :-)

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      I have the same doubt. I had 3 SaaS companies. I must admit that I had huge issues with churn on 2 of them. Frankly, those where the churn was higher was because they bought it more like as an emotional decision since it solved a big problem. However, many customers, weren't a great fit and cancelled the subscription, even they "wanted" it really much, they didn't really "needed" it.

      I agree this drives the initial purchase, makes a lot of sense and I saw that with my own eyes, but to keep them subscribed they should "need" the product as well. That emotional "want" fades over time, at least for subscriptions.

      One thing that helped me though with churn, I sold only yearly subscriptions, even if most of them cancelled afterwards... I still got a lot more revenue than monthly subscriptions.

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        My last line in the post is:

        To succeed, build something that gives users a quick win, and then continues to provide value over time.

        This is exactly Elon Musk's strategy:

        To help the world reduce greenhouse gas emissions (long-term need), Elon created a product that gave people a short-term reward (in this case, status and speed).

        You need to continue to deliver an experience and outcomes that people want.

        I've worked in SaaS since 2008. There were countless times we built features we thought people needed. But they didn't actually want them.

        Build for what people want.

      2. 0

        As someone who's also sunk years of his life into working on products with high customer churn rates — if someone churns from your app, they don't want it.

        In fact, I'd go so far as to say that someone can "need" your product, but no longer want it, and thus choose to stop paying for it or using it. Ultimately it's their desire to continue that matters. Targeting their needs is just an indirect way to get them to want to use you.

        For example, if you buy kitty litter for your cat, it's because you want kitty litter more than you want your cat pooping on the floor.

    2. 2

      Hey @mezod, thanks for the question.

      People (and companies) only buy what they want to buy. Just because they should buy something doesn't mean they will.

      Sometimes, as product creators, we think people should buy/subscribe to our stuff just because "it'd be good for them."

      For example, most managers should subscribe Jason Evanish's SaaS: https://getlighthouse.com/. They need it! It will dramatically improve their team. But most managers won't even look at it. Yes, a small % of managers will buy Jason's software (because they want to take better care of their people).

      It's the emotional desire that ultimately drives the purchase (even with SaaS).

      1. 0

        Or perhaps all their employees start complaining about them, so they search for "how to improve team morale" and find a blog post by Jason that also promotes his software. They didn't want it, but a pain got so bad they they needed it.

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          The question is, how many managers want to improve team morale vs other desires in their life (like, getting a raise)?

          Jason's software might be saying: "You really need to improve your team morale."

          But the answer managers want might be:

          • "I just want to fire this person and move on."

          • "I just want to do the bare minimum that gets me promoted."

          https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?q=how to improve team morale,how to fire an employee,how to become a better manager

    3. 1

      Everyday check looks dope and I love the landing page design. Instantly realise how it works without having used something similar and the copy convinces me that it's a useful method.

      1. 0

        Thanks Jimmy! It's really really great to hear :-)

  2. 4

    I respectfully disagree. Jobs once said something like this: People don't know what they want until you show them. Of course this only works if you have a vision of the future.

    1. 1

      I agree with Jobs' statement completely.

      People only buy what they want.

      You find out what people want by observing their behavior. (Not by asking them: "Hey, what do you want?"

      Steve Jobs was an expert at observing people’s behavior and finding the gaps. Here's his quote in Time Magazine before the iPhone launched:

      "You know, everybody has a cell phone, but I don’t know one person who likes their cell phone. I want to make a phone that people love."

      Here, Steve is talking about emotional desires. He doesn't talk about feature specs, or technical requirements. He describes their emotions: "They hate their current phone. I want to make a phone they love."

      At the time, Nokia and Blackberry were giving people what they thought they needed: enterprise security, physical keyboards, etc...

      Jobs' brilliance was in observing consumer behavior, and realizing that they wanted something more.

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    The title of this thread reminds me of this post here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14682048

    (about how selling a t-shirt can make more than selling an app)

    The hardwired consumer psychology behind every purchase definitely plays a roll. People want to purchase what they already know they will use (which may mean a different brand of the same product) rather than a new brand with a new product.

  4. 2

    Stuff I don't necessarily want, but I happily pay for because I need it to run my business:

    • Exception reporting software for my app

    • Stripe

    • Time tracking

    • Bug tracking

    • Transactional email software

    1. 0

      What made you want Stripe over PayPal?

      What makes someone choose Postmark over MailGun?

      What makes someone use Basecamp over JIRA?

      My point is that people make their purchasing decisions based largely on emotional desire.

      This is especially true as SaaS features become more and more commoditized.

      Alex (at Groove) makes a similar point in this post: https://www.groovehq.com/blog/commoditization

      SaaS is a commodity. Building a great product only puts you in the middle of a crowded field of other great products. Here’s how to stand out: your brand. Basecamp isn’t the only great project management tool. But tens of thousands of paying customers choose it for the deep resonance of the founders’ beliefs in calm, bootstrapped companies.

      People might need project management software to run their business, but they want a specific product: Basecamp.

      1. 1

        Nah, I disagree!

        Plenty of useful products that people need succeed without having a strong brand or an emotional desire attached. Especially here in indie land!

        Just browse the success stories on here -- there's tons of utilitarian tools with kinda bad naming, not-so-great design, no super founder back story. Just useful stuff that killed a pain.

        Now, if you want to dominate a space like Basecamp or Stripe do, yes, a strong brand is essential. And it's probably table stakes for B2C.

  5. 1

    Hi Justin.

    Great article, I just want to add something to the discussion. Some times the benefits of a new software are short term but people are too wired with the old habits. Maybe it has to do with trust.

    1. 2

      Trust is definitely a factor.

      But it's the habit of the present that often holds people back.

      For example, I'm still using Adobe Fireworks CS5!

      I've thought about switching to Sketch, Photoshop, or even upgrading to the Creative Cloud version, but I'm so used to doing things with Fireworks CS5, it's hard to switch.

  6. 0

    This idea is quite known in the community... Check for the following top 3 rated TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action

  7. 0

    Asked another way (for example)

    Do people want the bodega startup to exist or do they need the bodega startup to exist?

    Hint: They don't need it. But two founders believe people want it so they made it.

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