To Be Competitive, Know Your Why

A few weeks ago we hosted a Google Partners Connect event that featured a live webcast of some of Google’s leading experts. One of the speakers pointed out that whether you’re a small business or a huge corporation, the key to being competitive in search and sales boils down to knowing the answers to three questions. The folks sitting behind me in the session must have noticed me nodding vigorously at this point, because these are three of the top questions we ask clients whenever we start a new project.

While they’re distinct questions (and I’ll get to them shortly), for memory’s sake you might roll them up into one principle. Some of us here call this principle “knowing your why,” in a nod to leadership expert Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” approach. Why goes to leadership and decision making and business strategy, but it also matters in the digital space because digital experiences are about storytelling. “We sell t-shirts” isn’t a story. But “we sell the best-fitting (or organic bamboo or celebrity-designed or American-made or 10% goes to cancer research) t-shirts” begs you to tell the why story – and digital platforms offer a direct connection to audiences who share those ideals.

So to be competitive, you need to know your why. And to know your why, you need to know the answers to (at least) these three questions.

What makes you different?

Is it the durability of your products? Your commitment to fast customer service? Your research leadership in the field? Your partnership with a charitable organization?

This is important because, while maybe you can’t beat a big competitor’s price, your brand might be perfectly suited to:

  • offer funny videos with expert advice
  • build customer loyalty by responding immediately to every tweet, or
  • give your customers the satisfaction of knowing their purchase supports a cause they believe in.

Who is your target audience?

Are they consumers or other businesses? Are they moms? Athletes? Young professionals? Do-it-yourself-ers?

This is important because, when you understand who you’re trying to reach, you can better:

  • speak their language
  • provide the kind of information they’re looking for, and
  • establish a presence in the spaces where they already operate.

This will guide the tone you take in your communications (ensuring you don’t use technical jargon if your audience is searching Google using layman’s terms), the content you create (so you don’t focus on press releases if what your audience really wants are how-to videos), and the places where you advertise (so you can get the most out of your social media, remarketing and display media budgets).

What do you want people to do?

This might seem obvious, but in the same way that “we sell t-shirts” isn’t a complete story, “buy stuff” isn’t a complete purchase path. Think deeper about what you really want your audience to do, and then make sure you’re giving them the tools and motivation to do that.

Do you want them to:

  • Walk into your physical store? Make sure your Google + for Business page has the correct street address and your mobile site includes a map.
  • Place an order online? Show product ratings and reviews on your site, and allow mobile customers to checkout without having to create an account.
  • Share a customer service experience on Facebook? Tell your customer service folks to come right out and ask satisfied customers to like your Facebook page and leave a comment.

If you don’t know your why (or the best way to tell that story in your digital spaces), contact us; we’d love to help you figure it out. And if you’re already working on it, keep it up – because the more you connect with your customers around your why, the more competitive (and more interesting) your brand will be.