Means-End Approach in Customer Needs Analysis

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  • 0:03 What Is a Means-End Approach?
  • 0:50 Features of a…
  • 2:00 A Means-End Approach Example
  • 3:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Allison Tanner

Allison has a Masters of Arts in Political Science

Buying a product typically means more to a customer than just 'buying a car' or 'purchasing a tablet.' When a company can tap into the needs and the interests of the customer, it can develop products that sell. This lesson covers how to use the means-end approach to cater your products to your customers' physical and psychological interests.

What Is a Means-End Approach?

Imagine you're the CEO of a high profile electronics company and you specialize in developing handheld devices, such as tablets. Recently you have noticed your sales declining and your competitors' sales increasing. The last thing you want is to see your company go bankrupt because you didn't stay ahead of the competition. You decide to invest in a type of research and development that taps into the decision-making process of your customers, known as the means-end approach.

The means-end approach is based on the idea that customers make a purchase after considering the features of the product and its benefits and consequences (or means), and if it will help them achieve their personal values (or end). Let's look at this approach in more detail.

Features of a Means-End Approach

As noted above, the means-end approach focuses on three elements that influence customer purchases:

  • Features
  • Benefits and Consequences
  • Values

Features are the basic characteristics of the product, such as physical or technological. Tim buys a tablet because it offers the same capabilities as his laptop but is more convenient.

Benefits and consequences consider how useful the products are. Tim travels a lot for his job. He buys a tablet because it is easier to carry around than his heavy laptop. The benefit is that he no longer has to carry the heavier laptop.

Values consider your customers' ego. Ego is the amount of self-worth they associate with using your product. Tim buys your company's tablet because it is new and exciting, and carrying it around makes him feel like he is a part of an exclusive club.

Your company is most successful when you are able to use all three elements of the means-end approach in your marketing. This means that you should consider features, benefits and consequences, and values when launching a new product or modifying an old one.

The Means-End Approach Example

You're redesigning your tablet so that you remain ahead of the competition. You know your customers appreciate tablets because they are convenient. You also know that the sleek design of your company's tablets makes your customers feel elite, especially since not everyone can afford to buy one.

Your tablets are available in three basic colors: black, blue, and white. This has served your company well, but you know you can still do more to tap into the values of your customers. For instance, your teenage daughter loves the color pink and her best friend really likes purple. They've bought special cases for their tablets that reflect their personalities.

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