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Don’t Get Eaten By The Cheetah, Or What You Need To Know To Satisfy Customer Needs


SiriusDecisions debuted and described the SiriusDecisions Needs Aperture Model at its 11th Annual Summit in Nashville to help marketers address what it called the “art and science of identifying and prioritizing customer needs.”

I have to confess that the terminology — and the multiple Frameworks SiriusDecisions deploys for marketers — tend to be dizzying for this editor, but every time I sit in on a session or interview with one of the SiriusDecisions analysts for a story or seek advice, I come away with a greater understanding of the B2B marketing ecosystem. It helps me chronicle this industry more intelligently for you, dear reader. What follows is my high-level key takeaways from the keynote this morning on the Needs Aperture.

“The ability to find and address customer needs is crucial to commercial success,” said Rachel Young, Research Director at SiriusDecisions.

Young and her colleague, Jeff Lash, VP and Group Director, used photography as a metaphor to describe the framework.

“Photography is both an art and science, and using the right techniques to capture the best image,” Lash explained. “Sometimes when we focus our view on what’s in front of us, we miss the rest of what might be happening around us.”

“You need a view of the entire landscape of the potential needs you can address,” he said. A landscape photo projected behind the two executives of a photographer on safari taking a picture of a zebra drove the point home. He is so focused on capturing the zebra that he doesn’t realize there is a cheetah charging him from behind.

The Needs Aperture is described as a “best-in-class process for identifying, prioritizing and applying needs that have the best opportunity for B2B commercialization.” “The foundation for Intelligent growth — whether through markets, buyers or offerings — is the ability to address commercially viable customer needs,” Young said.

Continuing the photography metaphor, the Aperture includes five phases marketers need to consider and work through in order to be able to address custom needs: Frame, Focus, Find, Filter and Formulate. Inherent within each phase are the key questions to consider, described by SiriusDecisions as follows:

  • Frame: How do I define needs and what are their components?
  • Focus: What types of needs can I explore? 
  • Find: How do I identify and capture needs? 
  • Filter: How do I analyze and prioritize needs? 
  • Formulate: How do I use needs in innovation and go-to-market strategies?

“In Frame, we help classify what the need is,” Young said. She described three dimensions of needs: organizational needs, functional needs and operational needs. “Identifying the full need can start from any one of these dimensions, but all of them must be defined to truly understand the need.”

The second phase, Focus, helps organizations determine the market parameters, and the company introduced a new framework to clarify that: the SiriusDecisions Needs Landscape. Sirius said this framework will help marketers categorize the potential needs on the spectrums of customer awareness and time outlook, and identify which types the organization should investigate.

The third phase, Find, centers on techniques that can be used to understand, capture and summarize the needs.  Young said, “The desired outcome and business value must be captured for all relevant personas, along with prevalence of need and any applicable emerging elements. “You need a consistent, objective, data-driven focus.”

The next phase, Filter, is about prioritizing needs. SiriusDecisions, again, created a framework around this, dubbed the SiriusDecisions Needs Prioritization Framework. This helps marketers determine which needs are worth pursuing for innovation and go-to-market efforts.

The final step, or phase, Formulate, is when these prioritized needs are integrated into product and marketing processes to evaluate innovation and go-to-market opportunities, according to SiriusDecisions.

Lastly, Young and Lash provided a list of takeaways, or “Action Items,” in three key areas, to help organizations implement the Needs Aperture Model. These include:


  • Increase message resonance by incorporating insights that focus on customer needs.
  • Isolate the primary buyer needs for the development of need-based campaign themes.


  • Address the three dimensions of needs for all personas involved in the buying process.
  • Capture and relay explicit and emerging needs to help shape innovation.


  • Broaden the view across the needs landscape to find previously unidentified needs for innovation.
  • Understand the business value of addressing a need to avoid feature-myopic descriptions.

And just to bring things full circle, Lash boiled the hour-long session down to: “You don’t want to be caught off guard by the cheetah coming up behind you.”