Start with the WHY.

Start with the WHY.

That is the simple mantra that inspirational speaker and Ted Talk graduate Simon Sinek has built an entire career around.

Sinek’s Ted Talk was shared with me by my CEO and is a reminder that sometimes simple lessons are the most powerful.  And there is a simple lesson to be applied here to Product  Management and Product Marketing.

I won’t repeat all of the fine points of Mr. Sinek’s video here (you can see it for yourself).  But the simple idea is this:  when you look at how successful companies think, strategize, and act, the codified common approach is  knowing the answer to three simple questions, the first of which is the most important foundation:

  • Why are we doing something? (what is the purpose – and he says profit is not a purpose, it’s an outcome)
  • Only then does the How and What become important.

This simple idea relates to two challenges, one in Product Management and one in Product Marketing.

If you build it will they come?

In Product Management, we are sometimes faced with the challenge of what the market wants versus what engineering can build.

It’s not to say that R&D can be out of touch with users, but what the best engineers are good at is creating new things – new features, new GUIs, new  functionality. But just because something CAN be built doesn’t mean that it will be used.  What may be missing is an introspection into the question of WHY build something.

Research around the creative process has always shown that creativity is more productive when given some degree of constraint.  If you give an artist a studio full of materials, he may start a hundred projects before the muse inspires him.  But if you give him a sheet of paper and a charcoal pencil and ask him to draw his vision of what his first baby child might look like, you might be amazed by the result.  You’ve given him his WHY.

So when you plan your next product road map, with your feature list, remember to start with the why, because as Sinek states, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

What is the role of emotion and brand in the buying process?

There are also a “soft” or branding aspects of this approach.  As Sinek explains in his video, how a customer “feels” about a product or company – or  more precisely how a product or company makes the customer “feel” – plays  a much more subtle but powerful role than what we might suspect.

“When we communicate from the outside in…[the WHAT level] like features and facts and benefits, it just  doesn’t drive behavior.  When we communicate from the inside out, we’re talking directly to the part of the brain that drives behavior” (decisions).

This perhaps is a simple explanation for marketing best practices that tell you that your web site, your messaging and your “branding” has to first connect with a prospect on an emotional level (the WHY).  Only then does the presentation of features, facts and figures help rationalize a decision to buy your product or service.

Watch the video and see what you think.  Is this an oversimplification?  Or in effect does this video answer our WHY of how we market by trying first to connect at an emotional level with our buyer.

Good food for thought.

For more about Simon:

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One Response to Start with the WHY.

  1. Pingback: TedTalk by Simon Sinek | Russell Pearson's Blog

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