Marketing with Maslow – a way to identify and speak to your ideal clients

Our topic for today: how a psychological theory from 1943 can help you improve your marketing. Video below, scroll for text version. Highlights:

  • A review of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
  • How it relates to marketing
  • An example

Want your marketing to work? Know your clients!

Broadcast to your potential clients on WII-FM – What’s in it for me?

Effective marketing starts by considering¬†EVERYTHING from your Ideal Clients’ perspective. Talk about their problems and desires, stress what’s in it for them, use their language to describe things, create services designed to help them overcome their problems and get what they want.

If this is the ONLY piece of advice you ever take from me, it will serve you well. It will make a night and day difference in your business.

To do this well, you need to understand WHO your ideal clients ARE.

(Hint: It’s not everybody and it’s not anybody.)

For those of us in YOU-Shaped businesses, Ideal Clients are not necessarily defined by demographic attributes like age, gender or occupation.

We define our Ideal Clients through their psychographic characteristics: their values, beliefs, personality, preferences, world view.

The most powerful marketing comes from this. This is why Simon Sinek says to Start with Why – it appeals to your right people at a deeper level.

Today I’m going to introduce you to a tool that can help you tap into your Ideal Clients’ internal motivations.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

In 1943, Abraham Maslow put forth a psychological theory of human motivational needs.

There are 6 levels, each level building upon the previous one.

From the bottom up:

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

  • Physiological: things we need to stay alive! Air, water, food, sleep, clothing, shelter
  • Safety: physical and financial security, health and well-being
  • Love & Belonging: friends, family, romantic partners, community
  • Esteem: this one is divided into higher and lower esteem needs
    • Lower comes from outside: recognition, status, material possessions, accolades, fame, prestige, attention
    • Higher comes from within: self-respect, integrity, competency, mastery
  • Self-Actualization: to reach one’s potential, to do the thing we are born to do, to live our purposes, to be the best we can be
  • Self-Transcendence: our drive to make a difference, to help others, spirituality and the feeling of being part of a larger whole

Maslow’s theory is that we cannot “move up a level” until the lower level is satisfied.

This means that we tend to move up and down between levels.

In danger? Esteem drops in importance as you seek safety. No food or shelter? That needs to get looked at first.

So, Patty, what does this have to do with marketing?

What level does your service map to?

What need does your service meet?

Identifying the level your service primarily maps to can help you communicate in terms of what your client is seeking.

If your service maps to love & belonging, you wouldn’t talk a lot about self-actualization or safety.

Let’s look at personal training as an example. A personal training business could target any of the following needs:

  • Safety: rehabilitation services, helping people recover after an accident or injury
  • Belonging: group programs and community – Crossfit is a great example
  • Lower Esteem: weight loss, having a body that looks good to others, getting approval or accolades
  • Higher Esteem: feeling good about healthy habits, becoming competent with exercise, having integrity to go to the gym
  • Self-Actualization: excelling at a sport, competing, reaching athletic potential

While your service may address multiple needs – there is usually ONE need that makes all the difference to your ideal clients – and sets you apart from others who do what you do.

Ideal clients vs any client

I reject your entry-level program. I want the advanced training.

Frustrations with marketing that doesn’t work or marketing that attracts “not-so-good” clients often arises from a mismatch between levels.

If you want clients who are striving towards self-actualization, you need to communicate at that level. If you speak to safety needs like money or status needs like recognition, you’ll attract clients who want to focus on those lower levels.

If someone wants to excel at something, wants advanced training – they won’t be attracted to marketing that focuses on the lower level.

Want higher-level clients? Focus on the higher level benefits.

I often show my life coach clients Maslow’s pyramid and draw an arrow to self-actualization. People on a path towards reaching their potential, being the very best they can be are the types of people who hire life coaches.

My ideal clients

YOU-Shaped business owners are on a path of self-actualization and self-transcendence. Their businesses are a result of their creative self-expression and desire to live their purpose.

Business coaches, on the other hand, often market to the lower level esteem needs: being famous, getting approval, making enough money to show off. Some work at the safety level: financial security, profit, budgeting, reducing risk.

MY ideal clients are on the self-actualization, self-transcendence path. They feel compelled to do The Thing They Do – it’s their purpose, their calling, the work they were born to do. They want to reach their potential while making a difference in the world.

A YOU-Shaped business is the creative self-expression of the owner.

While the advice I offer works at the lower levels (it can absolutely make you more money) – my personal interest lies in working with clients who are on that self-actualization path themselves AND in the business of helping their clients self-actualize.

I believe that self-actualization and self-transcendence are the keys to changing the world.