Why do you do what you do?

by | Business Skills

Or just as importantly, why don’t you do what you know you should do?

We are constantly doing something.  Everyday we make hundreds or even thousands of little decisions.  So why do you decide to do the things that you decide to do?

You might not even know why a lot of the time.  The truth is, we make so many decisions that most of them just happen without us taking much thought.  It’s like our brains are programmed to make decisions a certain way when we’re not paying close attention.  But at the root of it all, there is always a reason.

I know this sounds all philosophical and unimportant for starting a successful business or getting traffic to your blog.  But hear me out for a minute.

Everything that we do has a reason.  There’s always a motive.  Every decision we make is because we have some incentive or motivation driving us to do that thing.  Think about it.  Even when we do something for completely altruistic reasons, we do it because it brings happiness to someone else.  And for many people, that’s great motivation.  So my point here isn’t that we’re all self-serving machines that only act out of self-interest.  I believe that people have more depth than that.  But my point is that behind every action, there is some underlying motivation or incentive.

So what does this have to do with your business?

Let me tell you.

No matter what your business is, in order to make money you have to get other people do to something.  If you’re selling a product then you have to convince customers to buy it.  If you’re selling a service then you have to convince them that it’s worth paying for.  If you’re making money through affiliate links, then you have to motivate people to click on those links.  Whatever it is you’re doing to make money, you only make that money when people have some motivation to act.

So when you’re trying to get people to do something that will earn you money, try thinking about it from their perspective.  Ask yourself, “why would my customers, subscribers, or listeners want to do this thing that I’m asking them to do?”  Then make sure you can come up with some good reasons.  If you can’t, then other people won’t be able to either.  But if you are certain that what you’re asking them to do has more value for them then what it will cost them, then you have a recipe for success.

Keep in mind, though, that people aren’t totally rational.  We often trade things that have higher long-term value for short-term satisfaction.  Let me illustrate that with an example.

I’m a serial dieter.  It seems like I’m dieting all the time.  But the reason for this is that I’m also a serial eater.  I really like food.  I don’t know if it’s the taste, the feeling of eating, or the chemicals that get released in my brain.  But something about eating just gets me.

I know, and have no doubt, that I am happier and feel so much better when I’m eating right, exercising, and when I’m not overweight.  This is just a fact.  In fact, when I’m thinking rationally I would say that I enjoy being healthy way more than I enjoy eating food.  But if this is true, then why do I ever overeat?  The answer is simple, when I overeat I get my value now.  When I don’t overeat, I get the value in the long run.

It comes back to incentives.

The pleasure that I get from eating delicious food is my incentive to eat stuff that’ll be bad for me in the long-run.  And since we’re emotional beings, we often give up our long-term value, or that incentive that’s way out there in the future, for some short-term carrot that’s being held out in front of us.

So if you feel like you have a product that people should just be jumping on, and it’s not having the success you’d expect, ask yourself “what incentive do people see when they look at my product?”  If people aren’t buying, then it’s probably for one of 3 reasons.

  1. It doesn’t have enough value to them to justify the cost
  2. It has value, but maybe not as much immediate value as the other things they’re spending their money on
  3. They can’t see the value that it has

If either of the first two are the case, then they are probably not the right customer and you might need to focus on a different audience.  If the third is true, then it’s a marketing problem.

If people aren’t seeing the value that your product has, then either they’re not seeing your product at all, or they’re not getting the message that you’re trying to send.  If they’re not seeing it, then you should focus on getting your product advertised to the right audiences.  If you’re advertising like crazy and still not having luck, then take a step back and look at your advertising.  Are you getting across the right message?  Or are you just trying to be clever with your ad?

You’re probably somewhat familiar with economics.  There’s supply and demand and somewhere they intersect.  Well, I’m not going to get into that in this post.  But I do want to make one last point.

There have been a lot of different models used by economists to try and figure out why people do what they do.  Each of these models is different from the others and if you sat in a room with 10 economists, you’d be hard pressed to get them to agree on much of anything.  But all economic models have one thing in common, from the simplest model to the most complex.  They base their predictions on incentives.  They make assumptions about what things motivate people, and then they assume that people will behave in the way that gives them the greatest benefit.

So what motivates you?  Or more importantly, what motivates your customers?

If you can figure that out then your business is bound for success!

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