July 2020 (Updated December 2020) · 5 Min Read
Why, why, why, why, why! It’s all I go on about, I know. I just can’t help it, it’s so important! Yet, whenever anybody talks about WHY, it can feel a little intangible and pointless. There is so much posturing and pretence around the subject that it can almost lose all meaning. Businesses often virtue signal. They pretend to have a deep belief in something so that they can tell the world but they often get caught out when people realise they don’t practice what they preach. The current trend of greenwashing* is the perfect example of that.
It seems like a new concept but it is anything but. It can be aligned to your vision or your purpose in business. It is an answer to a simple question. “Why does your business exist?” What’s changed in recent years is the evolution of the answers to that question. “To make money” or “to be the biggest company in the world” have become widely seen as frivolous, unmarketable answers. They are all about the business and that have nothing to do with the customer need.
That’s a good question. Surely, the purpose of a business is irrelevant if it is providing something that is useful to a customer at that moment in time. I’m much more likely to be consciously swayed by the features and benefits of a product than the purpose of the business I’m buying it from. My first thoughts are “what can this product do for me and how much will it cost me?” That then poses the question, “what’s the point of a business WHY at all? Just concentrate on product benefits and you’ll earn money”
What happens when there are 2, 3 or more products that all offer pretty much the same thing at the same price? Their features, advantages and benefits are almost identical and they all seem like they’ll fix the problem you’re trying to solve. Depending on what the product / service is, what you are trying to solve and the price, you might just flip a coin and hope for the best. Yet, when the product is a little pricier or you’re just not sure that the product or service will do what it is says it will, your mind starts taking note of something else.
By this, I don’t mean you start to think about the colours, fonts and website design, although they can all have an influence, you start to think about the things you have heard, seen and felt. What have people said about this company in the past? What are their values? Do I trust them? Have they had a similar need to me? What else do they do? How do they make me feel? Do I like the way they are communicating with me? Does their tone match what they are saying? Do their actions?
A strong WHY is the driving force behind your brand. If a challenge overwhelmed you so much that you decided to start a business to solve it, the likelihood is that other people have faced something similar. When you bring people into your team who care as much about the WHY as you do, you will automatically have a more motivated workforce. If suppliers are trying to solve something similar, they will do their best to support you. Businesses with different skillsets but comparable challenges will want to collaborate with you and your vision will start to be clearer to the wider world.
Partly because all of the stakeholders above will do it for you and partly because it is always more important to show rather than tell. This is where virtue signalling often falls flat. Companies who have heard all about WHY and purpose decide to “heal the world” with their messaging but they forget to ask anyone within their business to do something to make it happen. In fact, they are often telling them to do the exact opposite. When you have a real WHY, your actions will make it clear. The products and services you create will align with it and your decision making will always be based around it.
If a potential buyer gets as far as comparing brands, they will have a feeling about who to choose. It will rarely be a conscious decision but unconsciously, the questions I mentioned in The Brand section will be swirling. If a customer feels like a brand’s purpose fits their own needs and that the brand is truly on their side when solving problems, they are more likely to choose them. Their understanding of this brand will come from the messaging they see but it will also come from the noises employees, suppliers, collaborators etc. are making. Those noises will be positive if a company’s WHY aligns.
I’ve spent this whole blog explaining why your WHY is so important but with everyone doing that, we get more and more virtue signallers and we also get businesses who forget to focus on the benefits of their individual products and services. A client is often asking “what can you do for me right now?” and if a product’s benefits aren’t clear, your brand will be irrelevant. Your products and services will evolve and they need to align with your WHY but in the short term, you also need to make sure you’re clear on how what you do can help your clients..
You can think of the products and services you sell (your WHAT) as the tactics that help form part of the strategy (your HOW), which eventually helps to achieve your WHY. Too much? [email protected] so we can help you understand. Ask about a Defining Your Brand Workshop.
*Greenwashing is a form of marketing spin in which organisations use marketing and PR to persuade the public that their purpose and values are environmentally friendly and therefore “better” but their actions indicate otherwise.
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