Sunday, January 28, 2007

Do wants matter in marketing?

I got a ranty sort of question from a student recently. She is taking a course in nonprofit marketing and her class is using one of my books, Mission-Based Marketing, as the text. So, she tracked me down and presented me with this dilemma:

"IF we know what's best for people, (going off drugs, or getting a mastectomy, or going to church, or staying in school), why do we need to worry about asking people what they want? We KNOW what they need. You focus on giving people what they want in your book and its driving me crazy. I don't see the point in asking people."

I was unsure of where to start. Do I address the marketing cycle for nonprofits, or the need to treat everyone like a customer, or why marketing improves mission output, or, or, or?

I finally decided to try to engage her personal experience. I asked her to think of a high school or junior high teacher that really had gotten her excited about the material in the class. A great teacher makes you want to learn and even learn in spite of your self sometimes. You have to go to the class--it's a need as defined by the school board. But the teacher makes you want to go...and then I asked her to imagine an alcohol and drug abuse program like that, or an immunization clinic. All children NEED to be immunized, but how can we make parents WANT to take them in?

Of course, I was pretty sure I was not only nailing the issue, but being persuasive.

I got back this..."OK, I guess. Thanks."

Not as engaging a teacher as I thought I was, it seems.

1 comment:

Nedra Weinreich said...

It's a good question, and yours wasn't a bad answer. I think the challenge is in finding out what people want and value and then making our offering fit into that framework. It helps us as social marketers know how to position and promote our products. Telling someone they need our product/behavior is not as effective as finding out what they need and showing how our product meets that need.

It's the difference between taking an educational approach -- laying out all the facts and hoping that people make a rational decision -- and a marketing approach -- persuading people to choose our product because it helps them to be the kind of person they want to be (e.g., a good mom, a smart consumer, a person who is in control of her health, etc.).