Put Status at the Center of the Discussion for Custom Work
This article was written by guest blogger Patrick Kennedy of Superior Woodcraft, Inc.
In a blog from July, 2011, It’s all about value: explaining the cost of custom items, a comment was made by Mark Wilson who noted that makers should “put status at the center of the discussion of what makes our stuff special.” Mark communicated that status was extremely important to the success of an artisan. In Mark’s words, “It’s the plateau that ambitious makers struggle to reach. One way or another, it underlies the consumer experience. It’s the intangible that closes the deal. But it’s also a subject that makes a lot of us uncomfortable.” I couldn’t agree more; so let’s put status at the center of the discussion and move out of our comfort zone.
To start the discussion, we’ll first look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid describes human motivations from the most basic to the most advanced. Why is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs important to our discussion on status? According to Maslow, if you try to satisfy the needs of one level without having first met the needs of the prior level, your place in the hierarchy will be unstable. Lower levels in the hierarchy serve as the foundation for higher levels. If your foundation isn’t strong enough, then you get pulled back down to a lower level until you stabilize your foundation; then you’ll be able to move back up the hierarchy.
Application of Maslow’s Theory
The concepts from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can be applied to many areas of human behavior but may also be applied to design and marketing. Products are designed to provide people with some type of utility. Utility ranges from nourishment; shelter; protection; enhancing friendship, family and intimacy; empowering people to achieve more and nurture their esteem. At the top of the design pyramid the utility that is achieved is aesthetic beauty, innovative interactions and designs that are perceived to be of the highest quality.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is one of many models that you can use as a designer to help you understand your client’s behavior so you can better target your designs in a more effective manner.
By definition custom made products are designed to provide people with utility at the esteem level. You can argue that custom made products also focus on the top of the pyramid –self actualization. Custom made products can provide people with the required esteem to move onto the self-actualization level. From a pure design concept custom made products are designed to empower people to do more, possess aesthetic beauty and are of the highest quality – the top of the design pyramid.
The highest quality designs are more than nice colors, appealing lines and cool looks. Great designs are about making specific impressions on a specific group of people and leading them in the direction that you want them to go. Great designs move people.
Appealing to the needs of your customers can be a great way to grab the attention of your customers. But you need to know their needs. What is the hierarchy level of this need? Knowing which need you should appeal to makes it easier to market to your prospects.
The basics are simple, if you can understand the customer on a deeper level; you can be a more effective guide and lead them to purchasing your products. In order to accomplish a greater understanding, you need to know both the customer’s needs and desires. What underlying motives are driving their purchasing decision?
Your clients are coming to you for a service and a product. They are asking for your assistance. Clients want you to help them achieve a high level of esteem and to achieve greater levels of success.
The top two levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs are where high level status lives. Status is simply a relative rank in a hierarchy of prestige. Your status as a craftsman is your perceived rank amongst your peers.
A related term, status symbol, often refers to a possession which is regarded as proof of the owner’s social position, wealth and prestige. Since we are talking about social position, wealth and prestige we’re talking about the esteem section of the pyramid.
Your custom made work is a status symbol that lives at the esteem level of the pyramid. Your designs and products possess aesthetic beauty and are of the highest quality – the top of the design pyramid. This is the be-all-you-can-be territory – the zenith.
This is why Mark referred to status as being the plateau that ambitious makers struggle to reach. It isn’t easy to be at the top of pyramid for every project and every client. Very few of us constantly live at the top. Often times we don’t satisfy a requirement at the pinnacle, our foundation weakens; we move down a level, regain strength and then move to a higher level again. It’s normal human behavior.
By considering your custom made products, clients are asking you to provide them with prestige, recognition and a sign of achievement. They are asking you to provide them with a higher level of status. They are seeking the peak experience. By creating a total customer experience that satisfies the client’s needs, you will be providing an invaluable service. You are helping your client be-all-they-can-be! As Mark says, “It’s the intangible that closes the deal.”
Don’t be uncomfortable about talking about status and how your great designs move people and that your products are of the highest quality. This is exactly why your clients are talking to you in the first place.
Feel free to leave your comments.