ben wright

B2B Startups: People don't buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it

When building and delivering your business’s go-to-market strategy, it’s important to remember that people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.

If you haven’t seen Simon Sinek’s great TEDTalk on How Great Leaders Inspire Action, I’d strongly advise you (and as many other people at your company as you can muster) to take a few minutes to watch:

Sinek gives the example of Apple. Apple makes computers, MP3 players, tablets, phones. But then so does Samsung. And a great many other companies make a number of these technologies. So why are people so happy, and in so great numbers, to buy these products from Apple, products they could buy at much lower prices from Apple’s competitors?

Apple do make great products and have pitched themselves at the top end of the market, but Sinek argues there’s something much more fundamental at work here.

He describes how companies talk and think about themselves in terms the ‘Golden Circle’:

Most companies go from the outside in – WHAT they do, HOW they do it and … well most companies don’t get to the WHY.

In the Apple example, the WHAT could be, ‘we make computers, tablets, phones and MP3 players’, the

HOW could be ‘we design beautiful products that are intuitive, friendly and easy to use’.

That’s sort-of interesting, but not as interesting as the way Apple actually markets itself. They do it this way round:

WHY: Everything we do, we do to challenge the status quo, we THINK DIFFERENTLY.

HOW: We design beautiful products that are intuitive, friendly and easy to use.

WHAT: We just happen to make computers, tablets, phones and MP3 players.

By the time you get to the WHAT, it doesn’t really matter what you sell. If people buy into the WHY, they’ll buy the WHAT.

So, how did we embody this at Hollaroo? It’s actually not that different to Apple’s approach. Here’s how we market ourselves:

WHY: Everything we do, we believe in TRANSFORMING RECRUITMENT

HOW: We design beautiful, easy to use solutions that allow you reach elite talent ahead of your


WHAT: We just happen to make great solutions for Talent Communities, Talent Pipelining, Employee Referrals, Alumni Communities, Student and Graduate Communities, Contractor Engagement etc, etc.

So my challenge to you. Write down in one sentence (the fewer words the better) the WHY for your business. If it takes you more than 30 seconds (or more than one sentence), then your business has already made the mistake of marketing itself from the outside in.

If so, get your CEO, your CMO – in fact as many of your management team as possible – to watch Sinek’s TEDTalk and start transforming your company’s future today.

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