"People Don't Buy What You Do; People Buy Why You Do It"

We often witness similar companies in similar industries produce similar products and one is a major hit and one is a major fail.  But why?  


"People don't buy what you do; People buy why you do it"
~Simon Sinek


What makes one company superior to the other when the most obvious factors are on a level playing field?  They have the same type of funding available to develop and market their products and have access to the same pool of talent.  Their products are nearly identical in price and function.  

Have you ever wondered how Apple is so extremely successful and others are not?  How is it TiVo had the best technology for its specific purpose of recording live TV and the company was a major fail?

Determining how to position your product or service can be one of the most difficult things to figure out.  How do you get your customers to buy your product when there are so many choices to fulfill their need?  You have the same challenges regardless if you are a multi-million per year company or if you sell $20 crafts on Etsy.  You still have competitors, you have to market your product the right way, you have to handle costs and taxes... the struggles are the same, just perhaps on different scales.

Simon Sinek hosted a TED talk where he explained the biology of why we buy what we buy and who we choose to buy it from.  It is a very interesting view on how your customers are likely to perceive your product.  I have listened to this episode a few times and still get inspired every time.  It always seems to make it to my inbox or on one of my social media feeds and I can't resist.

TEDxPuget Sound · Filmed September 2009 · 18:04
Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action

People who do what they love are overall happier and more successful than those who just work for money.  If you are considering opening your own business, don't do it just for the money.  Money is the result, not the reason.  You will eventually be miserable and fail.  Customers have a tendency to connect with people who create products or offer services because they genuinely enjoy it and get some personal reward out of it.

"The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe."
~Simon Sinek


If you're in it because you enjoy it and really want to make your customers' lives easier, they will notice.  Take a look at some of the blogs you follow.  Do you connect better with the ones where you get to learn about the personal life of the author and maybe why they are making that product or offering that service? 

Apple products are successful largely due to the way they market the idea of their product.  What does this mean?  The iPhone would not be as successful as it is today if Apple had only marketed their specific features: simple apps, easy to use interface, small and sleek case, long battery life, short white plug.  Boring.  All phones have these similar features.  Apple's iPhones continually leads the market because they market the idea of the iPhone.

Simon says it best (starting at about 3 minutes in to the video):

"Let me give you an example. I use Apple because they're easy to understand and everybody gets it. If Apple were like everyone else, a marketing message from them might sound like this: "We make great computers. They're beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. Want to buy one?" "Meh." That's how most of us communicate. That's how most marketing and sales are done, that's how we communicate interpersonally. We say what we do, we say how we're different or better and we expect some sort of a behavior, a purchase, a vote, something like that. Here's our new law firm: We have the best lawyers with the biggest clients, we always perform for our clients. Here's our new car: It gets great gas mileage, it has leather seats. Buy our car. But it's uninspiring.

Here's how Apple actually communicates. "Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?" Totally different, right? You're ready to buy a computer from me. I just reversed the order of the information. What it proves to us is that people don't buy what you do; people buy why you do it."

Think about your own creative business.  Why do you do what you do?  Do you love it?  Do you do it because it will make your customers' lives easier and you love helping people?  
How can you adapt your marketing campaigns to be more like Apple?  Can you inspire your customer to believe in you and connect with your product?  This goes back to the same old concepts we hear in business: differentiate yourself from your competitors.  Easier said than done, but if you emulate those who have huge success in doing just that, you may have a leg up on your competition.    

People stand in lines for hours to buy the next new iPhone.  When have you ever seen people camp out for a Samsung?  Both make great products that cost about the same, but Apple has successfully reached a large part of the market that is not only dedicated, but are buying their products to be different from the norm, to be part of something larger than themselves.  They want people to relate them with the iPhone because the iPhone is related to challenging the status quo.

Inspiring people to buy your product is not much different (biologically speaking) when inspiring people to support a cause.  Dr. Martin Luther King inspired millions in his time.  But how?

"In the summer of 1963,  250,000 people showed up on the mall in Washington to hear Dr. King speak. They sent out no invitations, and there was no website to check the date. How do you do that? Well, Dr. King wasn't the only man in America who was a great orator. He wasn't the only man in America who suffered in a pre-civil rights America. In fact, some of his ideas were bad. But he had a gift. He didn't go around telling people what needed to change in America. He went around and told people what he believed. "I believe, I believe, I believe," he told people. And people who believed what he believed took his cause, and they made it their own, and they told people. And some of those people created structures to get the word out to even more people. And lo and behold, 250,000 people showed up on the right day at the right time to hear him speak.

How many of them showed up for him? Zero. They showed up for themselves. It's what they believed about America that got them to travel in a bus for eight hours to stand in the sun in Washington in the middle of August. It's what they believed, and it wasn't about black versus white: 25% of the audience was white. Dr. King believed that there are two types of laws in this world: those that are made by a higher authority and those that are made by men. And not until all the laws that are made by men are consistent with the laws made by the higher authority will we live in a just world. It just so happened that the Civil Rights Movement was the perfect thing to help him bring his cause to life. We followed, not for him, but for ourselves. By the way, he gave the "I have a dream" speech, not the "I have a plan" speech."

I believe we all should find a purpose in our lives.  For some, that's running a business and making a product or offering a service to fulfill a greater need.  We do it because we believe the world will be just a little better with it than without.  

If you believe in your product or service, make it known.  Tell your customers why you are doing what you do.  I write these blogs to inspire small business owners to push forward and make their dreams come true.  I built this site to help others achieve their dreams.  There, I did it.  Your turn.


It's worth repeating:

"People don't buy what you do; People buy why you do it"
~Simon Sinek