Here are a few basic tips on how to scale your business by aligning the customer’s “why” with your own. Plus, examples of companies who do it well.

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Entrepreneurs are having to rely on their “why” now more than ever. 

Simon Sinek popularized this use of the term “why” in his 2009 best seller Start with Why. This “why” is what motivates an entrepreneur to work the long hours and make the sacrifices that no one else will. It’s often internal, sometimes deeply personal, and no one but you can decide what that “why” is. 

But if your business is going to survive you need to also know the “why” for your customer. Why are they buying your product? What makes it appealing to them? 

It matters because having the wrong motivation in your marketing can kill sales and stagnate growth. If you’re investing money and energy into selling your product wrong then you’re doubling your losses, spending money to chase decreasing sales. 

The real magic happens when you find the intersection of where your company’s “why” meets the “why” of your customers‘ buying. At that point your story and your customers’ story combine, and you not only grow your company but also build a loyal customer base.

So where do you start? 

Get info

First you need to gather data. Making assumptions and going with your gut alone is rarely a recipe for success. While it’s not wrong to trust your intuition, it should be intuition guided by information — let’s say 80 percent data and 20 percent gut. It’s important to note that asking friends, family and colleagues doesn’t count as gathering data as this groups’ only source of knowledge of your business or product is what you’ve told them, and they are more likely to tell you what you want to hear.

Related: Is There Room for Intuition in Business?

The good news though is that you probably have more data of actual customers at your fingertips than you realize. If you’re tight on resources right now, you may not even need to conduct expensive market research — you may have sufficient data already. Everything from reviews, Web page analytics and customer surveys to comments on your company’s Facebook page — all these data sources can be gold mines if you’re willing to put in the work. 

While doing the research for your marketing can be tough and sometimes expensive, what’s even tougher (and ultimately more expensive) is shotgunning your marketing into the dark and hoping you’re successful.

Identify your “love group”

The bottom line of all this research is identifying your “love group,” the customers who are your faithful followers, frequent purchasers and most vocal about your product. When you identify this group, find out what they love about your product. One of the details to focus on is what keywords are used consistently when customers talk about your product or service. While your customer demographics may vary widely, you’ll begin to see a handful of common phrases and themes that will cross demographics. Now you’re starting to see your customers’ “why” take shape. 

Keep an open mind and let the data be the driver. You’re not telling your love group what to care about, you want their words to tell you why they care. This can oftentimes be quite eye-opening for the business owner — and may sometimes sting a bit. Embrace the sting. 

Related: 2021: The Year of the Customer

Stay flexible

While today Slack is synonymous with office productivity, few know that the company started out as an online gaming company called Tiny Speck. It was only when the team at Slack realized their real product was the messaging app they had created and not the game they were developing, that they were able to take off and grow. 

Similarly, when Purple Mattress was developing their now-famous beds, the original prototypes hid the Purple grid, the very thing that made them unique, under a layer of foam. But thanks to some savvy marketing feedback, they tested a prototype with the Purple grid as the top layer, educating the test market on how the grid provided them their best sleeping experience ever. In other words, they connected the grid to their customers’ “why.” Once that connection was made, the mattress was a success.

It’s important to note though that these companies didn’t change who they were when they adjusted their business model/product. Slack kept their same lighthearted, whimsical approach to doing business, and Purple still revolutionized the mattress industry. The companies simply realized their customers’ “why” and made adjustments, building multi billion-dollar enterprises in the process.

So if the data tells you something about your customers that you didn’t expect, have the courage to make the change. This doesn’t mean changing your “why” or the identity of your company, but it does mean that, regardless of how much you like it, rip the Band-Aid off and dump the messaging and advertising that your customers don’t care about.

Once you have the knowledge of why your customers are buying and the data to back it up, the fun can begin. Now you have the ability to be creative with confidence. Investing your marketing and branding into stories that resonate with your customers. 

Finding where your company’s “why” and your customers’ “why” intersect can be hard work, and sometimes a blow to the entrepreneur’s ego, but the payoff will open up a whole new world to you. And that will help you not only survive but thrive when other companies are failing. 

Related: 5 Ways to Be More Strategic and Successful in 2021