This post was inspired by Simon Sinek's now famous TED talk in which he discusses how great leaders inspire action. The video has garnered more than 2.5 million views and is the second-most-viewed TED talk of all time.
Start With the Why
Simon Sinek, an ex-advertising executive and author, is perhaps best known for his concept of the Golden Circle. The concept revolves around the thought leadership and messaging approach utilized by some of the world's most exciting leaders and brands -- the Wright Brothers, Apple, and Martin Luther King Jr. -- who, as Sinek puts it, "start with the why."
According to Sinek, most people communicate by starting with the "what" they do aspect and eventually work their way back to talk about "how" and "why" they do what they do.
However, companies that are universally identified as unique and successful communicate with an "inside-out" type of thinking, observes Sinek. They start with the why and only then do they move on to talk about the how and what portions of what they do.
The Science of It All
So, why does the order in which we communicate matter? It has to do with the parts of our brain that are engaged when we communicate different types of information.
When we're talking about what we do, we're speaking to a rational and analytical part of the brain that's tied to language. But when we talk about the why and how, we're communicating with feelings and dealing with human behavior - gut decisions - that have no capacity for language.
Dell and Apple
Think about Apple under the leadership of Steve Jobs. Apple is really just a computer company, but people have never seen Apple as "just a computer company." In fact, Apple and Dell sell pretty similar products, but it's safe to say that the two companies are held in very different esteems in the public eye. We happily buy more TVs, music players, and all sorts of other devices from Apple because we're inspired by the story it tells.
Let's compare the way Dell and Apple communicate with customers:
Dell starts with the WHAT
When you land on the Dell website it says, "Welcome to Dell!" From there, you choose from the "For Home" or "At Work" sections that tout "products designed specifically for home use" or "business and public sector products, services, and solutions."
Apple starts with the WHY
Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. We challenge the status quo by making beautifully designed products that are simple to use.
Now which company do you want to buy from? With Dell, you're being sold a computer - end of story. But with Apple, simply by reversing the expected order of communication, the company is able to inspire us - to tap into a more emotional part of our brain where we make decisions based on feelings. And let's be honest, Apple just feels better than Dell.
It's All About How You Frame It
This Golden Circle approach to messaging can be applied to content marketing and marketing automation plans as well. Marketing automation tools rely on workflows - populated with emails, triggers, and various types of content - created for the purpose of moving consumers through a natural buying process.
These workflows are designed by marketers who, in theory, have taken the time to understand buyer personas and pair appropriate content to the different stages in the buying cycle.
The next time you're planning content - email copy, e-book titles, calls to action, blog posts, etc. - anything for a marketing automation flow, take time to think through the way you're choosing to tell your story.
Connect with your customers first by expressing the why of your story. Tap into the emotional side of things - your mission statement, or reason for being - and begin to educate or build awareness from there. Let them know why you do what you do. Then, and only then, let them know the how and the what you do.
Remember, people engage with inspiring and entertaining content and inspiring brands communicate from the inside out.
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