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Business Strategy

Sell Them What They Want, Give Them What They Need: How to Identify What Your Audience Wants So You Can Create Offers They’ll Happily Pay For

Maybe you’ve seen it happen to someone else. Maybe it’s happened to you…

You spend countless hours creating a product or program you know your audience needs. 

When it’s finally ready, you invest a massive amount of time, energy and money marketing and promoting it.

The big launch day arrives… and you wait for that first sale to come in. 

You’re excited because you know all of that hard work is about to pay off!

But then you wait and you wait and you wait and… zero, nada, zilch.

Nothing happens.

Or maybe 4 or 5 people buy your product when you were hoping for 50, 100 or more.

And you’re left thinking, “What the heck just happened?!”

I know what this feels like because it’s almost exactly what happened when I launched my first online program.

I literally spent hundreds of hours creating it. I put my blood, sweat and tears into it… and just a handful of people bought it. 

That was way back in 2013. 

I’ve learned a LOT since then — most of it the hard way — and these days I pretty much knock it out of the park when it comes to product creation (Experience Product Masterclass is our wildly popular, bestselling program at Live Your Message and it’s all about product creation).

So, the lesson that stands out — the key to creating bestselling products and programs — is this…

Sell them what they want and give them what they need.

You might have heard that before, but what does it really mean?

The Shotgun Principle 

When I teach my students about sell them what they want and give them what they need, I talk about the Shotgun Principle.

I’m from New Orleans where we have something called a shotgun house. It’s this long skinny house and if you shoot a gun through the front door, the bullet leaves through the back door. 

You want to do the same with your products, programs and service packages.

Your front door is the thing people know they want from you and it speaks to the “sell them what they want” part of the phrase. The back door is basically “give them what they need.”

The Shotgun Principle is about attracting your audience to your offers with a front door need — this is something they acknowledge and it’s something they know they want. Then, line up the front door with back door needs, so you both give them what they know they want and what they actually need — these are usually things they don’t acknowledge or consciously want.

So, what does this look like?  

Let’s say you’re selling a program that shows people how to scale their business to 7-figures.

That’s the front door of your offer and it’s the thing people already know they want.

But you know they need more than that… you know they need more than just rapid growth strategies.

If they want to scale and sustain their business, they’ll need to elevate their mindset, confidence and how they’re showing up in business.

So, you create a program that helps them do all that and more and you think they’ll be totally blown away.

But here’s the thing…

If you lead with the back door and focus on mindset and confidence in your marketing and sales material for the program, most people will think, “That’s nice, but I really need new growth strategies.”

And when the time comes, they’re NOT going to hit that buy button.

With the Shotgun Principle, you sell them what they actually want. You talk about the secret to 7-figure growth in your marketing materials and attract them through the front door. You may mention mindset and confidence but it’s not the primary promise of your program. 

Then you’ll give them what they need after they’ve signed up with teachings and lessons on mindset, confidence and how they’re showing up.

So, when you use the Shotgun Principle, whoever enters the “front door of your offer” will end up receiving the back door transformation too.

This way, you get to sell lots of products and programs, and your students get the results they’re looking for.

Everybody wins!

Maslow’s Pyramid & 20 Universal Human Needs

Something else I teach about sell them what they want and give them what they need has to do with 2 key concepts and how they work together:

Concept #1

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Concept #2

20 Universal Human Needs

 So, let’s start with Maslow’s Pyramid and it’s probably something you’ve heard of…

 This was created by psychologist Abraham Maslow back in 1943. (I’m obsessed with this guy… he was a total genius!)

Basically, it’s one of the fundamental theories in psychology and it categorizes human needs into 5 levels starting from the base of the Pyramid and moving up to the point:

  1.  Physiological Needs
  2.  Safety Needs
  3. Belongingness and Love Needs
  4. Esteem Needs
  5. Self-Actualization needs

If you look at the image above, you’ll see I’ve categorized these 5 levels into 3 subcategories:

  1. Basic Needs — Safety and Physiological Needs
  2. Psychological Needs — Esteem Needs and also Belongingness and Love
  3. Self-Actualization Needs — Self-Fulfillment Needs

You can see I’ve also combined Physiological and Basic Needs into Deficiency Needs and we’ll get to that in a minute.

Right now, I need you to take a pause on Maslow’s Pyramid and look at the 20 Universal Human Needs:

So, I’ve color-coded and mapped out my list of 20 Universal Human Needs to match up with Maslow’s Pyramid. 

Let’s begin at the base or the widest part of the Pyramid and move through the 5 levels:

  1. Physiological Needs — purple
  2. Safety Needs — green
  3. Belongingness and Love Needs — yellow
  4. Esteem Needs — blue
  5. Self-Actualization Needs — orange 

What They’re Actively Looking For…

Now that we have it all mapped out, I want you to think about one of your offers and if you don’t have one yet, think about a product or service you’ve paid for in the past. 

Then, reflect on this question…

Which of the 20 Universal Human Needs does your product, course or service fulfill?

Here’s what I’ve found…

Many people create offers that fulfill one or more of the Self-Fulfillment Needs on Maslow’s Pyramid (the ones in orange on the Universal Human Needs list) but none of the others…

And that’s a recipe for disaster!

I like to say that you can’t build a pyramid from the top down, you have to build it from the base up 🙂

What your audience really wants — what they’re actively looking for — is an offer or solution that fulfills one or more of their Deficiency Needs. Because when one of your deficiency needs is unmet, you’re going to feel uncomfortable and want to do what it takes to address that need.

Take a look at Maslow’s Pyramid again.

As I said before, I’ve defined Deficiency Needs as both Basic and Psychological Needs (they’re the purple, green, yellow and blue needs on the Universal Human Needs list).

Deficiency Needs are essentially front door needs — the things people already know they want.

A lot of the time the REAL reason people don’t buy is because you’re giving them solutions for their back door or Self-Fulfillment Needs when they’re really looking to fulfill their Deficiency Needs.

So how do you get past this pitfall? How do you offer them a product or service that fulfills one or more of their Deficiency Needs? 

This is Where the Stacking Solution Comes In

Here’s how the Stacking Solution works…

First, you want to run through the 20 Universal Human Needs. Next, think about your offer and what you want to teach.

Then pick or stack 2 or 3 needs on the Universal Human Needs list and make sure your offer fulfils each one.

Follow 2 rules when you’re picking or stacking needs:

Rule #1

No more than TWO needs in your stack can be a Self-Fulfillment or Self-Actualization Need (any of the orange needs on the 20 Universal Human Needs list).

Rule #2

Each stack MUST include at least 1 or 2 Deficiency Needs which are either Basic or Psychological Needs (any of the purple, green, yellow and blue needs on the 20 Universal Human Needs list).

Stick to these rules in the Stacking Solution and you’ll never make the mistake of creating a product or service package people don’t want because you’re hitting both Self-Fulfillment AND Deficiency Needs.

When you use the Shotgun Principle, Maslow’s Pyramid, the 20 Universal Human Needs plus the Stacking Solution you can start creating offers that attract lots of people by addressing real, acknowledged needs and you’ll transform a significant percentage of those people into happy customers 🙂 

And that’s what I love about sell them what they want and give them what they need

When people get what they paid for — and then some — they’ll be more than happy to buy from you today, tomorrow and again and again!


>> Get Your What to Sell When Starter Training Now <<

Over to you…

What’s your current bestselling offer or if you don’t have one yet, what’s a favorite program or product you’ve purchased in the past?

Now think about the 20 Universal Human Needs and Maslow’s Pyramid…

What are the needs your product or service fulfills? Are they just Self-Fulfillment Needs (the orange ones on the Universal Human Needs list)? What can you do to add a couple of Deficiency Needs to the mix?

Share your insights, comments and questions below. I’d love to help any way I can 🙂

Love it? Hate it? Let me know...

  1. Bernd Salewski

    If you are obsessed with Maslows pyramid, you should actually know that he never intended this scale to be pictured as a pyramid. Because the importance of a need is actually based on the specific situation of a particular character… 😉 Here a link to the demystification: https://www.td.org/insights/maslows-hierarchy-separating-fact-from-fiction

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      Wow! Thanks for that info! I will definitely take a look. 🙂

      Reply ·
  2. Roberto Gerosa

    Thank you for this insightful article, I’ve been following you since a couple of months and I’ve been always pleased to read your posts.

    I though have a question.

    My products are not lessons or programs or services, I actually run a small design and manufacturing company in Kenya producing lighting and housewares from natural materials, seeds and reclaimed wood.

    How can I apply your suggestions to the marketing for design objects? One of the principal reason why I’ve decided to start the company is to address the issue of production pollution by designing object for everyone homes starting from raw materials picked directly from the trees (the pods of the Baobab trees at the moment), thus replacing something that usually is made out of plastic and require a polluting manufacturing line with a thing that nature is producing by its own.

    For me the above is fascinating but it doesn’t address any of the 20 human needs principles.

    What do you think?

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      Roberto this absolutely still applies! I can see you using “feel safe and secure” and “make a contribution in here.” I have trainings on value levers as well, that may be even more relevant to what you do but I think those are in our Mentorship programs. I don’t turn everything into a blog post. 🙂

      Reply ·
  3. Virginia Reeves

    Adding in the extra 20 points fleshes out Maslow’s original pyramid quite well.
    I really like your front door to back door analogy and process. It’s so true that what we really need is not at the upper level of our thoughts – it’s the I want this which pushes. Knowing how to provide both is the successful end result.
    I already envisioned using this in personal relationships as well.
    Thanks Marisa.

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      So great! I am glad the information translated personally for you as well. Appreciate you stopping by the blog, and for your comment Virginia! 🙂

      Reply ·
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About the Author Marisa Murgatroyd

Marisa is the founder of Live Your Message, where she turns entrepreneurs into Online Superheroes, and the creator of Start With You where she helps people just like you to discover the business they're meant to build, not just the business they can build. At 4’11 and a quarter, she’s called the shortest woman in marketing — and that doesn’t stop her from having huge ideas. She’s the “go to” brand builder for industry luminaries and heavyweights such as Justin Livingston, Callan Rush, Danny Iny, Alexis Neely and Susan Peirce Thompson. Marisa helps entrepreneurs create a business that is authentic and aligned with who they are, to empower them to turn up the dial on their “inner superhero”, so they can be the superhero to their tribe, as well as in their own lives.

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