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Start with why, part one: The core secret of all wildly successful brands

This week’s sales academy article is entirely based on one of the most amazing, inspiring and truly path-changing pieces of strategic thinking of the 21st century.

It’s a must-watch for every entrepreneur, every manager, every marketer –indeed, everyone in the company. And until we grasp this, we’ll never reach through to the true brand culture, where everyone in the company is rooting tooth and nail to advance the company purpose.

It’s Simon Sinek’s TEDx talk, Start with Why. You can watch it here if you’ve never seen it.

Sinek’s theory is incredibly simple. But it’s incredibly powerful.

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

He discusses a model which he calls the Golden Circle. It looks like a bullseye target board, three concentric rings. And they’re labelled, from the inside out, ‘Why’, ‘How’, and ‘What’.

The What is what you do. It’s the products your company makes, the features they have, the certifications and recommendations and reliability statistics they have. It’s the rational bit of what your company does, the bits that make it easy for your customers to make a decision that looks good on paper and justify it.

The How is how you do it, the bits you talk about that make you different. Your USP, if you like. It’s the nice stuff that makes your product feel good to your customer, that make it easy to use and reliable and that make it look good. You know when you buy something because you like the looks of it or the nice feeling that it gives you? That’s the How bit.

The Why is the fuzziest bit, but it’s also the most important for us as salespeople and marketers.

It’s why we do what we do.

It’s the brand’s higher purpose, their philosophy that drives why you go to work in the morning, your deep inner drive. It’s a deep-down desire in the gut that’s unstoppable and that’s irresistibly attractive to people that have the same inner purpose.

Why do we buy a smoothie from Innocent as opposed to the rest of the feel-good, look-good, cheaper smoothies on the shelf? Because we like their brand purpose. We like the way they have fun at work, they’re ethical and give to charity and they sound like likeable, funny, real people.

Why do we buy a phone from Apple as opposed to the rest of the beautiful, functional, iconic phones out there? Because we like their brand purpose. We like the way they’re so devoted to thinking differently, their incredible attention to detail and their passion for making such beautiful products.

And incidentally, once you have a higher purpose that people start to link on with, you can diversify much, much more easily. I see a new Veg Pot vegetable microwave meal from Innocent, and would happily shell out on that for my lunch, because I love their brand and I trust their values, their why.  And I’ll buy an Apple Watch, not because I need the actual product, but because I love the philosophy and vision of Apple.

Innocent are a smoothie company. How do I know they can make me a decent lunch? How do I know that Apple, a computer company, can make decent phones and TVs and watches and payment solutions?

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

That’s when you get true customer loyalty. When you work out your why, that inner thing that makes you excited and passionate, and get to work on it, you get like-minded people buying into your brand and yes, they’re willing to spend money with you!

But it has to come from the Why. You can’t decide to do something and fudge a fuzzy ‘higher purpose’ and plaster it on your marketing. Because people will notice when you’re not consistent with your why.

That’s when you get banks claiming to be ‘passionate about ethics’ with executives claiming huge bonuses when ordinary savers suffer.

That’s when you get reputable, trustable car companies entrenched in scandal about having systematically covered up an illegal procedure of lying about CO2 testing.

Think about it. What’s your purpose? Stay true to that, and you’ll pick up loyal customers who believe in your philosophy. And no competitor can copy that.


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