Finding the Why in Marketing
By resident motive seeker Jill Moore
Maybe it’s my maternity leave quickly approaching that’s setting my mind on thoughts about what’s important and the reasons why I do what I do. Or maybe it’s the months I’ve been spending in the trenches with some of our clients thinking through tough strategic decisions ranging anywhere from messaging, to audiences, to internal operations.
As I’ve been researching with clients on what can make marketing plans and messaging more effective, I’ve re-discovered Simon Sinek’s ‘Start With Why’. The synopsis of the book centers around how great leaders inspire others to take action. And when it really comes down to it, isn’t that what we marketers are trying to do – get people to take action?
The simple communication structure he lays out and refers to as ‘The Golden Circle’ contains three parts:
What - Everyone knows what they do - we sell [fill in the blank].
How - Some know how they do it - our differentiating value proposition or proprietary process is [fill in the blank].
Why - Very few know why they do what they do - what is our companies’ purpose, cause, belief or why do we exist (outside of making a profit)?
When approaching marketing, many companies are eager to start processes, creative ideas, or strategic initiatives that address their How and What, but rarely take the time to address their Why. To combat this, Sinek gives multiple examples of how inspiring others always puts the Why before the How and What. A few applications I’ve taken from his model:
"People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it."
You will have competitors that have access to, or replicate, the same products and resources you have. So what will inspire someone to believe in what you’re selling versus your competition? Our brains are wired to make decisions based on emotion, not reason. If you can first convince consumers what you do aligns with their beliefs or emotions – they’ve chosen you and selling them your product isn’t a decision at all. Apple is able to do this not by telling consumers that they make great computers. They tell them why they believe in thinking differently and challenging the status quo. They then tell them how they do this with easy-to-use and beautifully designed products. Lastly, they tell them what it is they are selling – computers, or MP3s, or phones.
"The goal isn't to do business with everybody who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe."
You can’t win them all, but you can try to capture more customers by starting with why. You can go to market talking about all of your core products and services that 1 million people could use. But people don’t make decisions based on you, they make decisions based on them. Each person assigns different values to different things and their behaviors follow accordingly.
The example used here was the introduction of TiVo. TiVo launched by explaining their product and its features. Many people decided they didn’t need what the product did - which was rewinding, fast forwarding and recording. TiVo could have reached a larger majority if they convinced people why they needed a product that aligned with their belief that they should be in control of every aspect of their life.
"If you talk about what you believe, you will attract those who believe what you believe."
Customer loyalty is one of the toughest aspects of marketing. Once you get someone hooked, how do you get them to stick? Position your products and employees to deliver on your why. Whether that’s convenience, safety, quality, challenging the status quo, solving a crisis, or developing a community. Customers will be loyal to companies that align with their beliefs and needs – not because they have to, but because they want to.