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People Don't Buy Your Product for Features and Benefits

Ken Chen

Ken Chen

May 26, 2010

I recently watched a Ted Talk given by Simon Sinek called "How Great Leaders Inspire Action."

The gist of the talk was this: Know why you do what you do and live it.  Sinek called this the center of the Golden Circle.  I was shocked at the simplicity of his message, and inspired to help my clients get there.

I agree with Sinek's assertion that most companies tell you what they do and how they do it.  In fact, I would go further and say that 99% of product companies tell you what they do and why you should buy their products (it's called feature and benefits) but not why they do it.  And, 99% of service companies do the same thing and add how they do it (it's called "our secret sauce" process).  As a marketer, I know it's necessary, but I'm also aware that most consumers will find this information boring and will consume it cynically.  It's the reason that people hate commercials, avoid ads, and mistrust marketing.

This also explains why successful startups that get acquired by bigger companies often don't continue to succeed.  Great companies are driven by great leaders.  Great leaders do what they do because they believe in something bigger than making the best mouse trap.  They believe in a great idea, value, or principle.  They attract other great people who share their same values and beliefs.  Those great people willingly give their blood, sweat, and tears, NOT for the money.  And, great people make great companies.

Imagine if CEOs were hired not based on their experience, skills, or perceived leadership skills, but based on whether you believed what they believed.  Can you imagine a hiring process where 10 employees listen to what a prospective CEO believes and just simply answers 1 question: do you believe what he believes?  Sounds pretty simple to me.  In the words of one of my favorite singers, Gavin Degraw - "Belief makes things real, makes things feel, feel all right.  Belief makes things true..."

For marketers, I think it comes down to a simple premise.  Does your messaging express what your company believes?  Does your leadership and do your employees all believe in WHY you do what you do?  Lead with the WHY you do it, and if your audience has the same belief, you'll get permission to tell them about you features, benefits, and secret sauce.

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