Skip to main content

How to Use Maslow’s Pyramid in Your Business Model

It's likely that you've already been introduced to Maslow's pyramid or Maslow's hierarchy of needs before you started your business or career.

Since it's one of the pre-eminent philosophies of psychology, many people hear about it in high school or college when taking core courses to fulfill a requirement. However, unless you're majoring in psychology or sociology, that may have been your only exposure.

Maslow's pyramid has a lot in common with the food pyramid that designates what our diets should consist of. With the food pyramid, the bottom layer is filled with foods we should eat every day to maintain a healthy lifestyle. As you move up the pyramid, each layer represents a category of food and how much we should consume to maintain our health. Although the food groups have changed over the years, the pyramid setup is the same.

The bottom layer is the mainstay. As you travel up the pyramid, each category represents a smaller group of foods that we need less of in our diet. The top layer, the point of the pyramid, contains foods we only ingest sparingly.

Maslow's pyramid works the same way. The hierarchy of needs is represented by the layers of the pyramid. However, instead of depicting the food groups we need, Maslow's hierarchy of needs breaks down the categories of needs that people have and their priority level for good health and fulfillment.

Before discussing using the hierarchy in your business, let's start with a quick overview of the Maslow pyramid.

What is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?

Maslow's hierarchy of needs describes the needs that all human beings have and prioritizes them into categories. Essentially, it says that people work to fulfill their needs, starting with the most basic needs.

Graphic describing Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in this order: Self-actualization, Esteem, Love and belonging, Safety needs, and physiological needs

Once they can provide themselves with basic needs, people begin to travel up the pyramid to fulfill each category of needs until they get to the top layer, self-actualization.

Not everyone can reach self-actualization. Some people may only fulfill some of their needs. Here's the breakdown:

  • Basic or physiological needs: Food, water, shelter, warmth
  • Safety needs: Security, stability, freedom from fear
  • Belonging, love: Friends, family, spouse, lover
  • Self-esteem needs: Achievement, mastery, recognition, respect
  • Self-actualization: Pursue inner talent, creativity, fulfillment

This philosophy is easy to apply to a person's life, even your own, to describe their accomplishments and fulfillment. And the same person can go back and forth in pursuit of self-actualization. You can use this model and apply it to your business as well.

How does Maslow’s pyramid relate to the business world?

Similar to a person's journey through their life, your business also takes a journey as it grows, becomes established, and continues to develop. You can compare it to the person's hierarchy of needs like this:

  • Start a new business: Survival mode, making money just to run the business and keep it open.
  • Securing the business: Making enough money to save for future stability or unforeseen problems.
  • Belonging: Connecting with staff and customers to become part of their lifestyles.
  • Business success: Profitability, recognition, achievement.
  • Thinking beyond success: Working to make the world better in some way, fulfilling potential.

So, how can you apply Maslow's pyramid to your own business framework, a business hierarchy of needs per se?

Applying Maslow’s pyramid to your business model

To get a better idea of how to apply Maslow's hierarchy to your business framework, we can break down each level of needs further.

Applying Maslow's hierarchy to your business

Physiological needs

It's easy to think of a person's physiological needs. People need food. We need shelter. These needs support our basic functions for living. So, what about the basic needs for your business?

Your business has physiological needs to stay in business.

  • Safe environment for work
  • Light to see your work
  • Clean and comfortable workspace
  • Air to breathe
  • Appropriate temperature during each season
  • Equipment and tools needed for work
  • This list of needs creates a workspace that sustains and supports your workforce. Some companies take it further by providing on-site cafeterias, workout facilities, and outdoor space for relaxation.

A typical example of this is the company car. When hiring an individual for outside sales or service, many companies provide a vehicle to use for travel and to carry needed tools and equipment to customers.

Need for safety

How does the need for safety and security translate to your business? This need can relate to your business and to the people in your business, like:

  • Treating customers and employees with respect
  • Supporting employees growth and learning
  • Training staff in a positive manner
  • Applying security protocols to protect staff and customers
  • Maintaining security on personal and business records

Training and supporting employees should be ongoing with a clear reward system. But businesses can learn from their employees' and customers' experiences.

Performing audits and safety checks on a routine basis and meeting with customer and employee focus groups can help a business see things from an outside perspective.

Social connection needs

Social connections at work are just as important as personal connections, especially for high-quality production. Encouraging these connections will help employee success and retention. Give employees opportunities to be heard at all levels Create a community spirit within your company Make staff feel a part of what makes the business successful Provide a clearcut list of values the business strives for

Many companies create events and activities for employees to meet each other outside of the work environment. This can start with continuing education that pairs people from different departments. Your company may choose to sponsor a charity and create events related to that cause.

Encourage staff to look for ways to innovate to improve your business or industry. Employees can meet with people in other departments or even related businesses to brainstorm new ideas.

The best way to promote connections is by providing a good example. Leadership can help drive actions and activities and help employees discover where the company fits into the local and regional community you're part of.


Promoting esteem within your organization is important. When employees don't feel appreciated, they may decide to leave your company. You can build esteem in your business through:

  • Empowering staff
  • Offering praise in private and public
  • Design employee recognition programs
  • Appreciating each person's contribution to the success of your brand, including the newest worker
  • Show your staff how much you value them and how important they are to your business

One solution for showing appreciation is creating a system in which employees can appreciate each other. This idea works best if the appreciation can translate to physical awards at various levels.

Training managers and employees to take the initiative with projects and customers to fulfill needs and recognizing them when they do will help build staff esteem levels.


Self-actualization at work is similar to personal self-actualization. By supporting your workers in their path to self-actualization, you help them learn and grow, leading to moving up and helping them achieve fulfillment at work. This leads to employee retention and filling roles with experienced workers.

  • Empower employees to think big for your company
  • Embrace creativity in thought and action
  • Help employees have a vision for their own contribution to your company as well as for the company itself
  • Encourage input to current leadership and training to become future leaders
  • Encourage staff to invent and reinvent at work to improve their success

Large corporations may have more financial resources for innovation, but you can encourage your staff to innovate.

94% say confidence is "important" or "very important" for completing daily work.

Foster partnerships between staff and leadership that result in comfortable relationships. Let staff know what you are trying to achieve, and encourage them to participate.

The case for applying psychological concepts to your business

Maslow's hierarchy of needs applies to marketing to your customers. You can work to meet customers where they are in need of your products. You can apply marketing to your customer's needs. These applications can include:

By getting to know your customers better, you can build a relationship that meets customer needs. You can determine where they are on Maslow's pyramid and if your company can provide a good solution for them.

Meeting the needs of your employees and customers

The business applications of Maslow's hierarchy of needs mesh well with human motivation. By meeting the needs of your employees and clients, you improve their lives in a meaningful way, giving them a reason to be motivated. Mailchimp can be a great partner to help you discover their needs and sort out priorities.

Mailchimp helps you connect with real people, getting them to interact through emails, surveys, reminders, and other relevant ways to maintain and grow your relationships with them.

Use Maslow's pyramid to drive engagement and sales, and help your company grow exponentially. Learn more about how Mailchimp can help you starting with developing amazing must-click landing pages. Find out what potential you have in your business when you apply Maslow's pyramid.

Share This Article