Enticing B2B Buyers – Starting with Simon Sinek’s “Why”

LIsa Vitale marketing GuruSimon Sinek’s hugely popular TED Talk, How great leaders inspire action (over 21 million views to date), has considerable implications for marketers who want to craft content that entices loyal buyers. Central to Sinek’s approach, is the knowing and communicating of purpose – the ‘why’ of what you do and why your company exists. Sinek asserts that people are inspired to action by shared purpose, causes, and beliefs, and that an organization which can articulate a compelling Why will attract loyal brand evangelists. Consequently, Sinek states, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”

In contrast, Sinek argues, most organizations lead their marketing with the ‘what’ – what they do and how, while rarely discussing their Why (assuming they even know it). To illustrate the difference between leading with a ubiquitous ‘what’ message, versus the power of leading with a clearly articulated Why, Sinek expresses each style using the mission-driven Apple as an example. Were Apple’s marketing like everyone else, Sinek imagines, their message might look like this:

“We make great computers. They’re user friendly, beautifully designed, and easy to use. Want to buy one?”

Instead, Apple holds their Why at the core of their powerfully differentiated brand message:

“With everything we do, we aim to challenge the status quo. We aim to think differently. Our products are user friendly, beautifully designed, and easy to use. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?”

Unfortunately, not all marketers have the privilege of working for impassioned organizations driven by wildly distinctive cultures, where leading with the Why is almost an organizational imperative. Rather, most B2B businesses are more stolid, existing not to promote any particular beliefs or causes, but to address needs in the market and create value for shareholders. In the absence of a mission-driven approach to business, what can the average marketer learn from Sinek’s noble Why approach? Here are 3 critical takeaways from Sinek’s philosophy:

Engage on an emotional level

Central to the success of Sinek’s Why approach, is the engaging of emotions. As the award-winning screenwriter and director Robert McKee says, people aren’t inspired to act on reason alone – to really move and persuade them, your story has to “unite an idea with an emotion.”[i] Aspirations, fears, attitudes, and values are all key aspects both motivating and mitigating prospects’ buying decisions.  Engage buyers by connecting into a key value or motivator and its associated emotion to drive the effect you want to achieve in them.

Read deeper: How to create the content buyers say they want to read


Articulate the ‘Why nexus’

Child Questioning WhyTo achieve the greatest impact, your marketing message needs to hit the sweet spot where your organizational Why meets your buyer’s Why. This isn’t about what features of your solution meet particular buyer needs, but rather addressing the overarching reason(s) why your buyer cares about your offering. And it’s not just about what business challenges you are solving, it’s personal as well. Contrary to conventional thinking, the B2B buying process is highly emotional and personal due to the amount of personal risk involved with making significant buying decisions. Consequently, you need to consider which social, emotional, and professional needs are at play for buyers. Your marketing message will be most effective when it articulates the ‘Why nexus,’ expressing the intersection of why your product or solution exists, and how this serves the Why of your buyer.


Read deeper: Step into your buyer’s shoes: Creating actionable personas


Know your ‘Who’

In order to discover your ‘Why nexus,’ you have to intimately familiarize yourself with who your organization serves – who your target audience is. Moreover, as noted above, you need to learn who your buyer is as a person and not just as a functional role within a prospective business. To do this effectively, you need to ‘be the buyer’ – learn what motivates them. What are their needs, challenges, perspectives, influences, concerns? What do they most value? And what affects them emotionally (a key aspect in motivation)?

Read deeper: How Psychographics and Insight Selling Drive B2B Behavior


By incorporating these key elements from Sinek’s ‘Start with Why’ philosophy, B2B marketers at all organizations – from stolid and staid, to wildly impassioned – can begin reshaping their marketing content to entice and engage buyers more powerfully.


To gain deeper insight into your target audience, and understand how to engage they at an emotional level both as a segment and as individuals, read about our lead generation surveys.


[i] http://hbr.org/2003/06/storytelling-that-moves-people/ar