You don’t have to start with the why

February 11, 2016

Start with the Why is a marketing cargo cult, and you don’t have to worship it if you don’t want to. In fact, focusing on it too early might be a really bad thing to do.

If you sell the why, and people don’t like it, or weren’t expecting it, and don’t know who you are and leave before reading the how and what you are screwed. You only have a few chances to win someone over, and unless you go Black Swan and become of the top 50 products in the world, you might miss your opportunity to reach that person again.

Starting with the why is a useful tool to have at your disposal but it is not the be all and end all, and you really need to decide if your company is ready to use it.

When you should start with the why

  1. When most people know what the heck you do
  2. Your product’s word of mouth, or organic growth is so high that you can afford to start experimenting with your messaging.

Apple didn’t start with the why.

Harley didn’t either.

Patagonia didn’t either.

They are three examples of companies that reach escape velocity and created a sustainable business that gained name recognition.

“Harley Davidson… they make headphones right?” — Said no one ever!

Once there was a substantial amount of word of mouth, then leading with the why becomes a non-obvious and powerful choice. That’s the secret and power of Starting with the Why but the sequencing presented is all wrong.

If you are a startup and no one knows who you are or what you do and you aim for a lofty why headline or home page, then there is a good chance you will confuse the hell out of most people and miss good growth opportunities.

Starting with the why is fantastic branding strategy once you have established strong word of mouth and organic growth. Until then, you better make sure people know what the hell your product does and why it’s better than Sally’s.

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