What a strange title! Why am I telling you to stop with your Why?
You might have heard the name Simon Sinek. (Failed marketing guy, found a vast consulting company to bankroll his efforts. Wrote several books with intelligent people. Became the face of the new way of leading.)
He is often quoted and lauded. But unfortunately, much of his work is entirely taken out of context. This is the story of one right thing he wrote that went very wrong.
His most famous book (written with two other gents) is ‘Find Your Why.’ If you speak to any marketing, business or life coach, the first thing out of their mouths is generally, “ So what is your Why? Why do you do what you do?” I suppose this is a decent conversation starter. However, I don’t believe what generally follows is good advice.
Because what generally follows (after you pay your money, of course) is an exercise delving into the finer things about your Why and then fashioning your corporate, marketing and selling messages with some part of your Why included. All of which is challenging work, and when you come up for air, you feel you have accomplished tons AND are now well-positioned to claim that piece of market share that rightly belongs to you.
Then something strange happens. Despite everything you are armed with, all the new stuff in your brain, and all the effort you give to the task, you DON’T claim that market share. And you can’t figure out what went wrong.
Here’s what happened.
The prospects you are trying to convert into customers, the community leaders you are trying to sway, and even the lobbyists and politicians you are working with don’t give a tinker’s damn about your why. They could care less! ZIP, ZERO, NADA. Worse, all that touchy-feely stuff is repelling the people you want to bring into your life.
What went wrong?
The book’s subtitle is “A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team!” Huh! Look at that. It is all about YOU and your TEAM. It’s directed towards the internal workings of your empire! It has NOTHING to do with fishing for business.
We, humans, buy the “what.” That “what” may include fantastic customer service, beautiful products, and even sustainably made things. It may mean better things, cheaper things, or more efficient things. But, we always buy based on our “whats.” The “whats” are the product, software, service, experience and/or the brand.
I am not saying you don’t need a purpose. Nor am I advocating you shouldn’t preach why you exist. On the contrary, I fervently believe all businesses need a purpose now more than ever. And that includes a vision, a strategic roadmap, and more than anything else, knowing what they don’t and won’t. And these vital things are part of the engine behind the scenes.
Getting back on track
Consider the “why” as making outstanding cleaning products people rely on. Or consider the “why” as fantastic-tasting food that doesn’t hurt the planet. Or maybe even the “why” is helping people get around. All those are fantastic ways to rally your emotions and feelings and the emotions and feelings of your team around your customers.
What you really want to be doing is finding out what problems your customers have and solving them—or looking for the gaps in the marketplace and plugging them. Because humans don’t buy your why with cash. They buy what you make. Always.
So here’s my best advice.
Let’s stop talking about our why. And let’s all get making better things, doing better customer service, designing things better, climbing down from our ivory towers, and understanding our fellow humans.
THAT is how we all can make a massive impact in our world.