The purpose of this application project is to help us as students understand how a product concept is introduced into a target market and brought into fruition. As a student marketer, I can gain a better idea of what a marketer goes through on a day by day basis in the real world. The end goal of this application project is to identify the unmet needs of target customers in our field and produce a product concept for a new offering that will meet the unmet needs that we discover. For this project, I have chosen the Accounting field, since that is my current major. As a student, my role in the accounting field would mainly be bookkeeping. Bookkeeping is fairly entry-level and once you get a grasp for it, it's very simple. Accounting is a very useful business tool and if you learn it, it will give you a competitive edge over those who need to hire their own accountant for their business and personal expenses.
Choosing My Target Customers
One of the very first steps in creating a new product offering is to discover what customer groups you will target, who you want purchasing and using your offering. The second key building block of marketing is understanding the market. The market is defined as the set of customers, potential or current, of a brand in a product category. For my product, a smartphone application that lets you virtually interact and exchange with a CPA, my target customer is a white-collar, middle class worker. I have chosen this as my target customer because many of these people work hard, and may not have the time to keep track of their finances on their own. If they were to use my application, they would benefit greatly from it because it's easy to use and won't take up too much time out of their already busy lifestyle. Now that I have identified my target customers, I will be using Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs to discover the unmet needs that exist for my potential customers.
Unmet Needs of Target Customers
The first key building block of marketing is understanding unmet needs and wants. To classify the unmet needs of my customers, I will refer to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is divided into five sections. The first section is Physiological needs. These are biological needs that are essential to survival (air, water, food, shelter, warmth, etc.). These needs are the most important because without them, it is very difficult for the human body function properly. Maslow considered all other needs to be secondary until the physiological needs were met. The second section is Security needs. Humans naturally have a lot of fears, so we need some form of protection from them to keep our minds at ease. The third section is social needs. This level mainly revolves around human emotions & friendship, humans want to feel like they're wanted and we have a natural drive to associate with other humans to achieve this. The fourth section is Esteem needs. This section primarily states that humans want to be respected by others and have some sort of self dignity and pride for their achievements. The final section is self-actualization needs. This is the human desire “to become everything one is capable of becoming” (Maslow, 1987). For my product, a smartphone application, there are no physiological needs that my offering can fulfill. Smartphone apps are not a necessity to human survival, so I will not be able fulfill those needs to my target customers. However, my application can provide the target customers with a sense of security. Many people fear about their personal information being stolen and having their bank accounts depleted, but my application will be heavily secured to insure that this does not happen to the customers who use this app. This will be the first unmet need of my target customers that I will fulfill. Although the application does not involve direct human-to-human interactions like an office setting would provide, there is still a social aspect to it albeit subtle. Customers who use the app will have access to connect and exchange information with their CPAs through various channels. In-App messaging, calling, and video calling will be included in the app. All of these channels of interaction can still achieve a certain amount of social needs to fulfill the target customers. Customers of the application will be treated with respect and will be recognized by their CPA for achieving financial milestones. This small exchange between the customer and the CPA is great for the esteem of the customers and will keep them motivated about their personal finances. This application can help the customers achieve peak financial status with potential to grow even further through investment strategies. To summarize, there are a few unmet needs of my target customer that I believe this application can fulfill. A sense of data security, an alternate channel to interact with a CPA, a sense of inclusion and friendship, esteem, and maximizing financial growth.
Product Concept of New Market Offering
The third key building block of marketing is the Market Offering. The goal of this is to satisfy your customers needs. To accomplish this, companies need to deliver a product that has value that your competition cannot achieve. My product concept is a smartphone application and website called Virtual Personal Accountant that connects clients to CPA's available for hire. All interactions will be done through the app or website, so there is no need to drive down to an office to discuss finances with your accountant. The app will offer messaging, calling, and video chat so the customer can choose whichever communication channel they prefer. All of the data and documents exchanged through the app will be securely encrypted to avoid it being accessed by another user. The foundation of this app will be its ease-of-use and security. Our system will make it easy for clients to connect with an accountant who they can trust with their financial information. The goal of this application is to allow the clients to have access to an accountant whenever they need to speak with one. If enough accountants were on board with the application, we would be able to provide 24/7 service. This application will save our customers lots of time since the appointment can be made anywhere, anytime. The benefits of utilizing this application is the data security, social aspect, ease of use, and low cost. As I said, data security would be a huge priority of this application so the customers can feel safe about sharing their financial information. This is one unmet need that is very prevalent in our technology driven world. Another goal of this application is to allow our clients to build a friendship with their accountant. Many client interactions in today's world are strictly business, but I believe a friendship aspect would leave the clients happier than if they chose the traditional path for financial advice. I want the application to be easy to use so the customers will feel inclined to use all of the apps features. If the software is difficult to use, it can phase out some of my target customers who are not used to using technology yet. I could see many older customers wanting to use this application also, so I want it to be fairly simple so that everyone can enjoy it. In terms of costs to the customer, I believe a monthly membership plan makes the most sense for the users. A low, monthly fee would encourage potential customers to at least give the application a chance, and that's all I really want. The plan could be cancelled anytime, with no hidden cancellation fees.
I know how intimidating it may be to find an accountant who you can always count on and trust with your financial information. Here at Virtual Personal Accountant we pride ourselves on quality, quick service and confidentiality. Once you sign-up, you will be able to find a CPA who will fit your needs and they will be readily available to talk to you through instant messenger and video chat. Using our app, there is no need for you to drive down to an office, everything is taken care of through our data encrypted smartphone app and website.
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