What's your why?

I have a five year old. For the past two years, the question he has asked me non-stop, is ‘Why?’. It drives me nuts. But actually, when I stopped and thought about it a bit, my son’s incessant asking of ‘why?’ made me realise that we humans have an inherent need to understand the reasons behind things.

So, if you look at this basic human need from a branding perspective, it makes sense that we also need to understand the ‘why’ behind the products and services we use. And what I find interesting is that so many businesses come into existence without proper consideration given to their why.

Your why isn’t the same thing as what you do. It is your proposition, the reason why customers should choose you over the next guy. For example, here at Novo, what we do is similar to other creative agencies in terms of the services we provide, but our why is what makes our clients choose us over another agency. Novo’s why is the unparalleled client experience we offer that is underpinned by unwavering strategic nous.

So how do you find your why?

Well, ideally this thinking should have been your reason for existence in the first place. If you’ve identified a gap in your market, then that should be shaping up how you articulate your why. Let’s say you’re starting up an online store selling widgets. And let’s say there are already lots of online stores selling widgets out there, some of which already have a large, loyal customer base. One of your competitor’s loyal customers comes across an ad for your widget-selling website and the first thing they are going to think is “why should I shop with you when I am already happy with the store I currently buy from?”.

Unless you are competing on price alone, which is a whole other blog post in itself and not something we’d ever recommend, then you need to clearly outline your why to this potential customer to motivate them to shop with you. And your why needs to be something that a) resonates with them personally, and b) is something they can’t get anywhere else. Not always an easy one if your offering is product-based and not unique, which is why many businesses are looking to their service levels and customer experience as their key differentiator.

When a business starts to get too bogged down in the what (and this is easy to do), the why often goes out the window. Sure, what you do is important, but if you’re not able to tell a potential customer why they should engage with your brand, then they’ll go to someone else who can.

So, what do you do if you’re an established business and you haven’t nailed your why?

Go back to the very heart of your business. Look at your vision and mission – these should drive everything your business does. Consider the following questions:

What do we do?
Who do we do it for?
Why do we provide this service?
How do we achieve this?
Why are we in this industry?
Why did we start this business?
What image do we want to portray?

Your why is an internal anchor, your core purpose. Your why will provide focus and motivation and will attract the right customers for your business.

My advice would be to do some internal focus work looking at the sorts of questions I have posed above, but also to engage an agency like Novo to guide you on this journey. As with a lot of things, fresh eyes bring a different perspective and often sees things in another light. Strategic work of this nature does not need to be cumbersome or time consuming, but it is critical and will be money well invested.

Once you’ve nailed your why, your marketing and promotional efforts will be more effective and better targeted, and your business purpose better defined. And if a potential customer asks you ‘why?”, you’ll already know the answer.