People Don’t Buy What You Do, But Why You Do It

Photo by Gertrud
Photo by Gertrud

Why do you do what you do? Have you thought about that recently? Whether you are an entrepreneur, an employee, or even a charity worker, it’s important to regularly asses what motivates you in business. It’s not only important for you and your company. It’s important for your customers. Because as Simon Sinek says: People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

When I need a bit of inspiration in business I often watch his TED Talk. In the talk, Simon Sinek establishes what sets pioneers and successful entrepreneurs apart. People have more choice than ever before. So why should they choose your business? Ultimately it will have a lot more to do with your belief and your cause than your particular offering.

Chances are there are plenty of businesses offering what you do. There is also a good chance that most of them are just in it for the reward – the profit. Psychologists call this extrinsic motivation. Webster’s defines the word extrinsic as: not forming part of or belonging to a thing.

When it comes to what motivates you to do business, it is important that your motivation is formed as part of your businesses purpose. If you believe in the fundamental purpose of your business you will attract prospects, clients and a team that shares your belief and will make it their own.

The most driven and successful motivation is when it is fueled by your primary vision. This is known as intrinsic motivation. It will not only make doing business easier and more enjoyable, it will help attract and engage the right people who will contribute to your success.

Your purpose, cause or mission needs to be at the heart of everything your business stands for. Here are three ways to champion your vision and influence behavior:

Live and breathe it

Consistency leads to success. There are no days off this vision. It’s always on. Not something you turn on when a lead comes in. It should be why the lead comes in. They’ll be expecting it to be on when they get there.

Make sure your vision is clear

Write it down, print it out, even etch it on your bathroom mirror. I’m pretty sure when pharaoh had his team working on the pyramids there were pictures of his vision everywhere.

Adjust your marketing

Rather than promoting the features and benefits up-front, make sure people know your mission. Express the ‘why,’ and the ‘what’ becomes additional value.


If you are just doing it for the money you can’t expect to make a difference. When people believe in your brand as much as you do, it’s easy for them to choose to do business with you. Let’s make it easy for them and remember that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. People want to be inspired. If you’d like some inspiration I recommend watching Simon’s TED Talk above. Please consider sharing this post to help inspire your friends and followers too. Thanks for reading, sharing and for your comments below.

Matt Crawford

Matt Crawford

Digital Media Advisor at Social Strategies
Matt Crawford is a marketing executive with an accomplished career in digital media sales. His background is in the B2B sector and he has extensive experience in retail management and hospitality. Matt has worked with national and international brands as well as small to medium enterprises to help develop effective digital marketing strategies. His down to earth approach makes it easy for businesses to communicate their objectives and consequently achieve their goals.
Matt Crawford
Matt Crawford
Matt Crawford

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6 Comments on "People Don’t Buy What You Do, But Why You Do It"

July 18, 2013

I could not agree more… I am a woodturner who loves to turn moribana style ikebana bowls. They are smooth and flowing forms. When people come up to the booth, frequently, they will look at the bowls and try to figure out what they are (despite my having live flowers in several of them). I always go over and talk to them about what they are, how it all began in Japan, etc. I let my passion about the turnings extend into our conversations. Just as frequently, I will take the time and show people how to set up very simple flower formations in the bowls that they can do at home with a small bouquet from a supermarket.__I have had a number of return customers who enjoyed me and the passion I show when talking about my art. One of my happiest moments occurred a couple of months ago when a woman had purchased one of my large ikebana bowl for a centerpiece on her dining room table, and she called me to ask me if I could turn a dozen ikebana bowls to be used as centerpieces at her son's wedding! Of course I did!__People can tell if you are sincere and passion can be infectious.

July 17, 2013

I love this video! People definitely need to know who the business is behind all the products. I definitely buy related to that. Who wants to buy from someone who's only interested in taking your money. Makes sense to build more substance into your marketing message.
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July 14, 2013

Excellent article, Matt!

As I always say: "The more relatable you are, the more likely people are to come to you."

Thank you!
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July 11, 2013

Love this video! I was recently introduced to it when a product manager told me it inspired him to create a committee to work on bringing back the small, tight knit feel to the business that drastically grew. And be cool again. Definitely a memorable one to pass on and great blog!

July 12, 2013

Thanks Anne. I love it too. The 'cool' committee is an awesome idea. Bring back the passion.

July 11, 2013

Absolutely true. Passion for what you do sells people on YOU. Once you have that buy in, they just need to show you are capable.
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