”People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it."
Simon Sinek, British leadership and management author and speaker
The now famous expression has forced companies to rethink the way they conduct business. Instead of focusing on what you do, usually your product or service, you should start with the why you do it: the reason, cause or purpose behind your business activity.
You will gain people's' attention and slowly build your audience once you understand the why. This strategy is distinctly different from the traditional model, firmly set on communicating the features and benefits of your products or services.
Remember, customers do not care about your offerings; they care about their specific problems, interests, needs or desires. Your focus should be on answering these bigger issues.
Care about the Why?
Businesses with a higher purpose perform better and can build a loyal and passionate fan-base. Michael Dale of Firebrand lists five ways in which purpose-driven brands outperform purposeless ones:
The 100 Million Challenge
Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin did not think about how to make a profit. On the contrary, they noticed an open issue around bicycle safety while doing their university thesis. They then went ahead to develop a technological solution, to an already existing problem, and developed the first airbag helmet: Hövding.
The 100 Million Challenge, which is about achieving unprecedented reach in telling the Hövding story, is much more than just focusing on their life-saving solution, the airbag helmet. Our communications will be about the enjoyment of cycling, how certain characters experience and live for cycling, and how to increase traffic safety. We hope to fulfill the purpose of creating a more enjoyable and safer cycling environment in Europe’s major cities.
Passion and purpose over profit
Brands now need to have a purpose that is bigger than profits, something that resonates with customers. Corporate social responsibility campaigns is a good example of fulfilling this need: they have become an essential marketing tool and an important talking point for communicators and PR professionals.
Still don’t believe us?
Let us showcase a few examples of companies that found their higher purpose and how that has driven their business – and profit.
TOMS – Providing shoes to children in need
TOMS took the pay-it-forward approach to a whole new level in 2006. For every pair of shoes bought, it would donate a new pair to a child in need.
Embracing a purpose-driven strategy has given TOMS a unique selling point, and the message permeates all their communications. The company recently launched a full selection of eyewear under the same principle; for every pair sold, eye care will be provided for a person in need.
Patagonia – Making clothes in a sustainable way
Patagonia delivers on its brand promise. With a well-developed environmental program, the clothing company is leading the way on sustainable production. Most recently, Patagonia launched its latest initiative: Common Threads.
Customers can send in clothes to Patagonia for repairing or recycling. When customers are tired of their Patagonia clothes, they can reuse the clothing by donating it to charity or selling through eBay’s Common Threads site.
The Body Shop – Manufacturing ethical beauty products
“The business of business should not just be about money; it should be about responsibility. It should be about public good, not private greed.”
Anita Roddick, The Body Shop’s founder
The Body Shop has manufactured beauty products since 1976 -- always with an ethical approach. The company does not test its products on animals; it sells fair-trade certified products and is an active financial supporter of environmental initiatives.
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Customers do not necessarily care about this or that product or feature because products come and go. What people care about is how your organization fulfills a bigger role in their world. Companies that build their businesses around the larger purpose, like most of the Fortune 100 companies have done, are more likely to succeed and grow.
In the 100 Million Challenge, we are focusing on creating a safer, more cycling-friendly environment. Although the Hövding product is remarkable and innovative, our communications will not be centered on the benefits and features of the product. Our scope is bigger and more important: we hope to change the cycling experience positively for millions of people. Please help us to achieve that!