Before Selling, Start With Why

Before writing code, before shipping anything, before testing the market, it's crucial to find your "why."

This "why" will guide you to building a great product, it'll inform your marketing strategy, and it'll isolate the core product value that should be sold to prospective customers. And eventually, the why will help you ship new products and features.

Far too often, we start with "what". This is natural because ideas are almost always "what"s, and very rarely "why"s. Many times we fail to even consider why we're building the thing we're building.

So what's a good "why"? A why is the purpose your thing exists. It's the mission you're striving to accomplish, and the problem your "what" solves.

A good "why" is specific. A good "why" justifies your product's existence. And when you start with your "why", it grabs those who believe the same thing as you. It pulls them in. And it makes them believe that your "what" is the product manifestation for that "why". What's the point of your product? Your "why" is the point.

"We built ABC so that you can do XYZ" is a bad start. So is "XYZ innovation makes your life easier." The problem is the phrasing: starting with "what", and you're expecting your audience to implicitly understand the "why." In an age with novelty everywhere, people have become trained to dismiss new "what"s instinctively. We first need to tell them why they should care.

(By the way, "makes [your job, your life, etc.] easier" is not compelling. Who cares? Go deeper.)

Instead, start with "We believe..." This way you're forced to start with "why", and it pulls people in, ears open. It's captivating.

"We believe XYZ is true, so we built ABC."

Now, if someone else also believes XYZ is true, your "what" becomes an easy sell. You create evangelists for your "what." And if they don't believe XYZ is true, then they shouldn't care about your "what" anyways. They're not your target audience.

If you choose a good "why", it can guide your product roadmap, your marketing strategy, sales process, branding, and so much more about your "what." And, perhaps most importantly, it makes you stick out from the crowd. Few people find a good "why."

Start with "why" so that you have an opportunity to share your "what."

(If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend watching Simon Sinek's Golden Circle TED talk)