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3 Reasons Why Your “Why” Matters

  • July 6, 2015
  • Written by Community Futures Saskatchewan

For entrepreneurs and business owners, establishing a clear and concise vision should be the foundational starting point for any company. Beginning with the end in mind, the vision is the guiding force of the overall business strategy, informing every crucial decision, while also serving to inspire, energize and provide focus to employees.

Across industries, service areas and niches, the majority of start-ups aim to answer a similar set of questions that commonly include some variation of the following in the creation and articulation of a company vision:

  • What does our future company look like?
  • How big do we want to get?
  • What are we known for?
  • How do we want people to feel about working here?

While these are all pertinent and significant considerations, a great many individuals and organizations miss the business boat by neglecting to address one critical vision component that consistently sets the extraordinary companies apart from the mediocre ones:

  • What is our "why"?

In his now legendary TED talk and best selling book, "Start With Why," author Simon Sinek explains that while every business can explain what it does and some can explain how they do it, only a select few can clearly communicate why.

In order to explain this concept, Sinek has developed what he calls the "Golden Circle," which has three layers:

  • Why: This is the core belief of the business. It's why the business exists.
  • How: This is how the business fulfills that core belief.
  • What: This is what the company does to fulfill that core belief.

why

It's a brilliantly simple idea, but the reality is that most companies get it backwards by starting with their "what" and then moving to "how" they do it. Moreover, not only do many companies fail to incorporate their "why" in their vision at all, a very large number of them don't even know why they do what they do!

In both his TED talk and the book, Sinek uses Apple as an example of a company that leads with "why." To help illustrate this point, he asks us to consider the marketing message that would emerge if Apple started with "what," such as the majority of businesses do:

"We make great computers. They're user friendly, beautifully designed, and easy to use. Want to buy one?"

However, in fact, Apple's marketing more closely resembles something along the lines of the following:

"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?"

This second message is obviously far more inspirational and inviting because it showcases the guiding belief, the "why," of the company. Apple's "why" is turning conventional thinking on its head to discover innovative ways to empower individuals and the products they make are simply an expression of this deeper vision.

Apple's unprecedented success is due to the fact that they infuse their "why" in everything they do; it's the fundamental core of their business operations and the crux of every marketing message. Their "why" serves as a key differentiator from their competitors and has enabled them to thrive in the marketplace while other companies with similar technology and capabilities have struggled to keep up.

Other notable "why's" include:

  • Sam Walton (Walmart) was driven to make quality goods affordable and available to Americans in rural parts of the country.
  • Herb Kellerman (SouthWest Airlines) wanted to make air travel affordable for the average person.
  • Bill Gates (Microsoft) had a vision to enhance the accessibility to information for the world.

Being crystal clear on your why is as critical for start-ups and small businesses as it is for big corporations. Below are a few more reasons why taking the time to distill and refine your company's vision in this way has the potential to dramatically improve your business results, along with simplifying and streamlining your marketing efforts.

1) What you stand for is as (if not more) important as what you sell

As Sinek tells us, "People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe."

When you focus on sharing your vision, rather than selling your product, your marketing organically becomes more impactful and engaging. The most effective marketing always aims to inspire people, rather than manipulate. When we communicate in a way that is genuine, rooted in a bigger purpose or attached to an ideal, we increase the likelihood that people will pay attention, connect and remember us.

2) Customers are good, but ambassadors are better

A strong and compelling "why" tends to attract your ideal customers like a bright burning light. The ultimate goal is to do business with those who believe what you believe. When you start with "why," your marketing is more centred on promoting values, rather than valuing promotions. This approach tends to breed trust, loyalty and affinity, which often can transform consumers into active advocates and enthusiastic endorsers of your business.

3) Every business needs a "north star"

More than ever, with the fast and fierce competition in the business arena, it is absolutely vital to understand exactly why you are doing what you do. This deeper understanding will radically improve how you do business and serve as the solid guidepost for your strategy, branding, and growth, along with the development of additional products and services. Furthermore, if you focus on capturing this clarity from the outset, your efforts to successfully pitch and impress prospective customers, employees, partners, press and investors will be significantly improved.

Building a great marketing strategy starts with asking 'why'? Learn more with our Tips & Tools resouce page!