Marketing Monday: Why the Why

Today, I'm into this blog post over at KAI Partners, from a friend of mine, Sarah Walsh (this isn't in any way sponsored: I just like this post a whole lot). Sarah's talking about 'why', and why it "seems to be having a moment" in business. The article focuses mostly on making transitions and change go more smoothly, but 'why' is–and must be–a crucial touchpoint from the ground up, in everything from changes to the software your employees use to your marketing plans.

If you don't know the why in your marketing plan, then you don't know the who, which means you don't know the how or the what. And where does that leave you?

Photo from LinkedIn SlideShare, Simon Sinek, via Kai Partners.

Photo from LinkedIn SlideShare, Simon Sinek, via Kai Partners.

When I speak with prospective clients, I ask them some standard questions. I ask them about who their competition is, what sets them apart, who their ideal client is, how their clients find them, and how they'd like their clients to find them. I ask them questions that paints a picture of who they are and what they do. But all of these questions are designed to get at the root of who they are, of what they stand for: of why they do what they do, of what drives them. Sometimes this is really easy. Sometimes it's harder than you'd expect.

Have you heard of the Five Whys? It's a way of getting beyond superficial reasons to a real root cause of a problem, and it's essentially what my questions get at. Yes, in order to be successful we need to know where we're going, but as the old (butchered) saying goes, you need to know where you're coming from and why you're on the train in the first place and what's fueling your train and how to keep fueling it and who's on it in order to get the outcome you want. 

Screenshot from the example at isixsigma.com.

Screenshot from the example at isixsigma.com.

The pinned tweet on my Twitter profile is this one:

Which brings us full circle: all of this talk about 'why' goes to authenticity. Authenticity is easy to believe in, whereas selling (proverbially) something you don't believe in is not. In general, but in content marketing specifically, what you're really selling is the story about what you're selling. At the end of the day, that's what it comes down to. And people don't want to be sold to or talked at. They want to have a conversation, be told a story, and believe in what you do.