I originally published this article in 2015. This update is a significant improvement. Enjoy!
Earlier this month I attended a presentation on content marketing from Jeff Echols, a guy who believes in the power of stories to create meaningful connections. He helps clients articulate why they do what they do.
One of Jeff’s sources of inspiration is leadership specialist Simon Sinek, author of the book Start with Why, who says, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”
IT WASN’T JUST A PHONE
In Sinek’s now classic TED Talk “How great leaders inspire action,” he spelled out how Apple understood this.
He asked, what if Apple had merely stated what they do, just like any other company?
“We make great computers. They’re user friendly, beautifully designed, and easy to use. Want to buy one?”
Instead, they communicated something that was far more impactful: their belief in individuality, creativity, boldness.
“With everything we do, we aim to challenge the status quo. We aim to think differently. Our products are user-friendly, beautifully designed, and easy to use. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?”
Buying an Apple product made a statement. It was about solidarity with this way of interacting with the world. By the time the iPhone came out in 2007, Apple was already set up for world dominance because we all believed the iPhone was developed from a set of strong core values with which we agreed.
WHY DO YOU BUY WHAT YOU BUY?
Put yourself into the shoes of the consumer for a moment. The last time you bought something, I’ll bet it had far more to do with the story presented about why that product is in the world than you realize.
- Consider that pair of running shoes you wear. How much more did you trust their quality because you believe that brand exists to support a healthy, fulfilling lifestyle?
- Consider the car you drive. What stories have you heard, or told, about auto workers or safety or the environment that give you a sense of pride when you take it out on the road?
- Consider the food you pick up at the grocery store. What are the values you believe are instilled in these brands? Cultural identity? Enjoyment of life? Thrift?
I for one bought a pair of Nikes last year because on some level I believe they care about runners, and therefore make quality shoes that won’t hurt my feet. I drive a Pontiac Vibe because it was developed jointly with Toyota, which I believe takes pride in long-lasting, fuel efficient automobiles. And I shop at Aldi because their primary value of thrift and DIY bagging matches my Midwestern sensibilities.
By and large, we choose products we believe in, because of why we perceive they exist.
This concept is even more relevant when we’re considering hiring a person.
WHY DO PEOPLE “BUY” … YOU?
We connect with people who communicate what they believe and why they’re in business.
So, why do you as service providers do what you do?
While you’re pondering how to answer, let me buy you some time. I’ll go first.
Every word I write is about improving the quality of life for someone, somehow. I am inspired by the ways my clients apply their knowledge, skills and passions to helping people. I love using the written word to capture those passions, inspire others and ultimately help readers accomplish their goals.
I could have just said, I’m a good marketing content writer. Wanna hire me? But, as Jeff and Simon say, anyone can tell you what they do and most people won’t care.
What resonates with people is the why. We want to know what drives you, because deep down, it’s what matters to us the most.
AREN’T RESULTS WHAT MATTER MOST?
Think about the last time someone told you how accomplished they are. Did it make you want to hire them?
- I’ve been helping people file their taxes for 25 years.
- I put 28 families into a new vehicle last month.
- We have been helping families through the estate planning process for over a hundred years.
Somehow, impressive as all that is, we’re just not sold. The numbers are meaningless to most of us. We can’t relate.
What does sell us is when we come to believe that someone cares about what we care about. The above examples of marketing copy are significantly improved when we shift the focus to the why.
- I used to hate doing my own taxes. That’s why I became a CPA. I want to spare you that headache so you can get on with your life.
- I’m a car guy. I love cars. I don’t care what you drive off my lot, only that you love your vehicle as much as I love mine.
- Our hearts break when we see families hurt and confused after a family member dies without leaving a will. We are determined to create a clear estate plan for you so your loved ones don’t have to go through that.
Frustration, satisfaction, prevention of pain. These are ideas we can relate to.
Everyone is driven by some desire, some purpose. Including you.
It’s no accident that you get up every morning and do the job. There is a reason you represent the organization you do, and that’s what people want to know.
It’s what helps them understand you and trust you. It makes them want to support you.
All right, your turn.
Why did you get up this morning?
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