Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Needs and Wants

What do Customers Need?

Most businesses rely on three key factors:
  1. Customer needs
  2. Product creation
  3. Distribution
So today I'm going to look the needs of a reader. And over the next few weeks/months, I'll review these other points. So stay tuned!

Why do people read fiction? 

Here's a few reasons - you may be able to think of others. 
  • Escapism
  • Entertainment
  • Relaxation
  • Learn new things
  • To become someone else
  • To indulge a hobby
  • To satisfy a teacher
You can see from this list that reading isn't about words on a page at all - words are just tools to satisfy a deeper requirement. 

Needs vs Wants

This highlights the difference between Needs and Wants. A customer's need is the fundamental reason they purchase a product, or use a service. The want is often the way this need is expressed. The classic example of this is the iPod, a device for data storage. Steve Jobs realised actually what people needed was portability. If he could offer a device (and a store) that satisfied this deeper need, he would have an instant customer base.

This means that even if a reader says they want entertainment, they may in fact not. Why? Because there are such easily available substitutes for entertainment. This is why kids tend to gravitate away from books and towards their screens - reading is different to playing a computer game; it's more demanding. It's also much more immersive. And reading doesn't require hand-eye co-ordination, internet connection or (often) a battery operated device.

From InkyGirl

Some needs can only be met through fiction. Novels are, I think, the only way one can truly see the world through another person's point of view. Novels offer intellectual stimulation at the same time as providing entertainment. A good novel, written well, stimulates thought and discussion. A novel may change society. And of course, fiction uses the most durable of technologies; words on paper. 

Through this combination of low-cost technology and limited substitutes, fiction becomes an incredibly powerful long-term business proposition. The ultimate test of good fiction is time.

This means (and I'm writing to myself here), I should not look at the sales over the first month as an indication of success or failure. Probably not even in the first year. 

What do customers of fiction need? 

I think the list above can be simplified much, much further. 
  • Innovation
  • Entertainment
  • Stimulation

If you don't want your books to be easily replaced by gadgets, write your stories well. If you write kids books, make them more fun than an iPad.
Have an interesting story-line, something that's different, that stands out.
And - I think this is the differentiator that leads to long term writing success - your books should make people think.

Calvin and Hobbs, downloaded from the Image Kid

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