For Business…. its all about the WHY

Written by: Alan Rodway

To get the Why right, make it powerful, and consistently message it outwards and deliver on it, is to go a long way towards having a successful business and reducing competition.

Too many businesses concentrate on the What and the How rather than the Why, internally and in the ways they portray themselves outwardly.

The What is what a business provides. The How is how it provides it. The Why is the reason the customer should purchase and connect to the business.

Consider the following examples:

  • A home builder might say it builds houses (the What), with quality materials, well designed, constructed professionally, in a timely manner and at reasonable cost (the How).
  • A medical practice might say it provides medical care to patients, through skillful medical practitioners, with genuine care and good facilities.
  • An accounting firm might say it provides tax advice, does tax returns, produces financial reports, helps manage cash flow and sets up internal accounting systems.
  • A retailer might say it has a wide product range, cheap prices, wide aisles, easy access and friendly staff.
  • A plumbing business might say it gets to your job quickly, is reasonably priced, does the job well and cleans up the mess afterwards.

In each of these examples the Why is situated inside the What and the How, which leaves the potential customer to determine its power and that can make the proposition uncompelling (because the Why itself is just sensible, not compelling, and because most competitors are saying the same thing).

Businesses should make the Why clear and compelling first and therefore get potential purchasers to ask ‘How do you do it?’ and ‘What do you provide?” second. The customer should be drawn into a thought process where the reason to buy has already been established and the communication that follows is simply to understand the steps rather than to question why they should take them.

A few points are crucial to get all of this right:
  1. It’s important that the Why is about the potential customer and not about the business . Apple have been amazing at getting us to believe they ‘make our lives better’. They make it about us and not them. They give us the Why first so we then look at the How and the What second.
  2. The Why is what the customer senses and feels so keep that upper mind when going through the design stage.
  3. Don’t assume the Why has to become a slogan or even be made explicit in your marketing . It has to be the experience of the customer. Apple don’t say ‘We make your life better’ Nike doesn’t say ‘We improve your performance’. McDonald’s don’t say ‘Kids love it here’. All three businesses have established messaging and experiences for customers through everything they do that tells us their Why and we have taken it on. That’s what we are after. But if you wish to make your Why explicit in your marketing make sure that only happens once you have totally clarity on the Why.
  1. Start the Why with “Because … “. For example, “Because everyone should be protected”. This will force you more into the true essence of Why.
  2. Remember this most powerful of statements: “People buy what you believe, not what you do. What you do is proof of what you believe”. So, what do you believe?
  3. The Why for a business is not the same as strengths nor the same as points of difference . They are both part of the What and the How. High quality people, reasonable price, quick delivery, reliable service, money back guarantees, high quality product, etc. are all strengths and part of the How and the What. Unique product, cheapest price, fastest delivery, friendliest service, etc. … are all points of difference and are still part of the How and the What. Ensure the Why is actually that and not just a strong or different How and What.
  4. It can take quite some time to determine your business’s Why. Don’t necessarily go with the first one that comes up … dive deeper. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to determine your Why. It has to be powerful so give it the required thought.
  5. Everyone in the business has to buy into the Wh y so that their behaviours deliver
    on the experience required. Apple couldn’t message out that they make our lives easier if the experience we receive from their people doesn’t reflect that .. it’s not just their products. It’s most powerful, of course, if the Why is a significant reason people work in the business.
  6. Can a business’s Why change over time? Well, it could, but it shouldn’t be doing so often .. that would just confuse the market. That should only happen if the Why is not powerful enough. That’s another reason why proper time should be taken in determining the Why in the first place.
  7. Once the Why is clear the business must test whether it’s actually being delivered to customers and whether the messaging into the market is reflective of the Why.
Here’s how Apple does it:

“We make your life better … through incredible products, that look great, are easy to use, with high technology, backed by total guarantees, fantastic online and instore support, and innovated frequently”. The Why is first and the How and the What come afterwards. The potential customer is drawn in by long term messaging and experience to … “Do you want your life to be better?” Yes, thinks the customer … How will you do that? With what?

Imagine the builder’s Why being ‘We make building a pleasure’ (because many know it isn’t) … through quality construction, good communication, guaranteed time frames, etc. Or the medical practice’s Why being ‘Because everyone should feel good’. Or the Accounting firm’s Why being ‘Because every business owner should be able to sleep at night’. The Why is the motive for the customer to explore the How and the What, which is then much easier to convert to a transaction / relationship.

So, what’s your Why?

Is it clear? Is it compelling? Is it a significant reason people work in your business? Have you absolutely distinguished it from your What and How? Does the experience the customer receives deliver on your Why? Is your marketing making the Why clear? Spending time on these questions is a most important aspect of any business’s future success and the only way to find your way through these questions, properly, is to have strict discipline to stick to what the questions are actually asking and to be completely objective with the answers. Getting outside opinion is probably necessary to have ‘fresh eyes’ on what’s in place or is being determined and to stop discussion accidentally wading

into the What and the How unwittingly. The What and the How are much more easily determined once the Why is clear and compelling. Getting buying decisions is way more likely because you have given them the answer to “Why should I deal with you?” first.

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