The basic premise is that people don’t buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it. If you only focus on what you do or how you do it, you’ll have to resort to manipulations such as price or promotion to get people to buy your products. But companies that start with WHY – a belief, cause, or idea beyond what they make – build loyal fans for life.
I couldn’t help thinking about this concept as I walked around the National Stationery Show on Sunday morning.
Because so much of the show is focused around one product, cards, it can be incredibly challenging to get your booth to stand out.
One of our favorite books growing up was called Mr. Pine’s Purple House. In the story, Mr. Pine owns a house on a street where everyone’s house looks the same. To make his house stand out, he plants a tree. Then all his neighbors plant the same tree. All of Mr. Pine’s attempts to stand out are copied by his neighbors. When Mr. Pine paints his house purple, his neighbors want to copy him too. It’s only when Mr. Pine suggests they all paint their houses different colors that they finally decide that it’s better to have all their houses be different than the same.
This is what seems to be happening at the stationery show. People see someone having success with products beyond cards – posters, gift-wrap, etc – and they decide to do that to help them “stand out” as well. But it ultimately ends up making everyone look the same.
Of course, some of the larger companies rely on other gimmicks to help them stand out. One company had hired a mime to stand on a pedestal at the front corner of their booth and read a giant greeting card!
When I saw that, I couldn’t help but think if that company had a strong sense of WHY, they wouldn’t have to resort to such a ridiculous tactic. People who believed in and identified with their WHY would be drawn to them, no mime required.
I talk a lot about using visual concepts to help distinguish your booth at a trade show, but what if that was only half the battle? According to Sinek, having, communicating, and embodying a clear WHY is what really makes your company stand out.