Lesson # 4: Start With Why

Welcome to the fourth lesson of my exclusive mini course 5 Strategies for Better Marketing in a Digital World!

In this lesson, we're diving into the strategy: Start With Why

But first, let me ask you something: Why does Apple sell so many iPhones? After all, if you’re simply looking for a phone to browse the Internet, use a few apps, check your email, send text messages and make calls (which most people are), why spend $400 on an iPhone when you could find the same set of functions for half the price?

Because people don’t just buy an iPhone because it’s a phone. They buy into Apple’s culture of challenging the status quo. They buy “think different” (which isn't just a catchy slogan; it truly makes up Apple’s DNA as a company).

On the flip side, do you remember cell phone manufacturers like Nokia, Motorola and Ericsson? Why haven’t we heard much about them of late? In fact, Nokia used to be known for making some of the best phones on the market, so where did they go wrong?

The problem with the Nokia’s, Motorola’s and Ericsson’s of the world wasn’t their products in and of themselves. The problem was that these companies were simply in the business of selling products.They weren’t in the business of cultivating a cause, movement or some other type of identity- and/or culturally based trigger to which people can deeply relate. They simply sold commoditized hardware.

And when companies are simply in the business of selling products and services, as Sinek points out in his bestselling book Start With Why, “price, quality, service and features become the primary currency to motivate a purchase decision … As any company forced to compete on price, quality, service and features alone can attest, it is very hard to differentiate for any period of time or build loyalty on those factors alone.”

“Knowing WHY is essential for lasting success and the ability to avoid being lumped in with others.”

Five or 10 years ago, determining and promoting your company’s WHY wasn’t an easy or inexpensive feat. For one thing, it would’ve meant a complete rebrand, including a major investment in both online and offline collateral that portrayed the WHY.

Now that the overwhelming majority of customers are finding and engaging with companies online, however, it’s never been easier and more cost-effective to determine and promote your company’s WHY. In fact, your company has probably already made the necessary investment in required online collateral — a website, blog, social media, email marketing — which means determining and promoting your company’s WHY doesn’t require so much of an investment.

Instead, it requires a mindset shift in how you perceive your company and, more importantly, how you want current and potential customers to perceive it.

For example, do you want to be perceived as a commoditized tile and stone retailer in Los Angeles, or do you want to be known for celebrating the people, places and trends that make up Los Angeles home design?

Do you want to be a just another hotel with nice-looking photos and rooms, or do you want to be the company that helps people make the most of their trips and vacations?

Do you want to be one of the hundreds of national shipping companies at a logistics manager’s fingertips, or do you want to be a trusted logistics brand that goes beyond moving freight?

In each of these examples of my clients, which contrast do you think is better perceived by current and potential customers? Which do you think is worth more in the minds of customers? Which do you think builds loyalty at scale and keeps customers coming back for more?

Again, it’s not so much a matter of investing loads of money to rework your brand (or create one from scratch). Instead, it’s a matter of shifting your paradigms from what you sell to WHY you sell it — and then portraying this WHY across your already-existing marketing collateral.