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“People don’t buy what you do, they buy what you believe.” April 26, 2012

Posted by Mike Gospe in Leadership, Positioning.
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I’ve been watching Simon Sinek giving a TED talk. This phrase comes from him. And I love it. This dovetails exactly with the positioning statement.

What he says in 20 minutes, speaks volumes about good, product positioning and meaningful customer-ready messaging. He paints a picture he calls “the golden circle” that includes the What, How, and Why of a company’s reason for being. Most companies, he says, are very familiar with “what” they do. They are even good at understanding “how” they do it. But, when it comes to “why” they do what they do, there is a pause. What’s their purpose? What are the beliefs that drives a company to do what it does? Are they in business just to make money, or are they driven by a belief shared by all employees?

He shares an example contrasting Gateway with Apple. Both companies have access to capital, access to brilliant minds and innovative staff, and can tap into the same market conditions. Yet, the way these two companies communicate are completely opposite. And their relevant success is obvious to everyone.

Gateway might produce marketing messages that look and feel like this:

1. We make great computers.  

2. They are simple to use and affordable . 

3. Want to buy one?

Sounds pretty bland, right? Now Apple. Their messaging might be summarized like this:

1. Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently.

2. The way we challenge the status quo is in hiring people who share the same belief and by making products that are beautifully designed and easy to use.

3. We make computers, phones, and a variety of personal productivity tools that challenge the status quo. Want to buy one?

The secret is that Apple focuses on the “why” question first.

Simon also shares the example of Samuel P. Langley vs the Wright brothers. Langley was driven to become rich and famous and saw the invention of the airplane as a goal to achieve his wealth. Orville and Wilbur believed that flight would change the world. They didn’t work for a paycheck. They worked for a belief. This is exactly why the world knows the Wright brothers and don’t know Langley.

The lesson is clear: when you draft your company’s positioning and messaging, start with the “why”. What do you believe? Because if you don’t know, then your customers won’t either.

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