In my inbox last month, I was delighted to find an email with this subject line:
Your WHAT doesn’t matter if your WHY is lacking.
It was part of a regular newsletter I get from the Content Marketing Institute, who are the folks behind some of the best marketing content out there. And this particular article was fantastic.
See, it’s easy as marketers, designers, leaders—anybody really—to focus on how something is done. We need to learn techniques and approaches, for sure. And in our jobs, we need to be able to do these things well.
But the catch is that isn’t enough. We need to get under the surface of how we do marketing and look at the why—where are we going? Where is our company going? Our target audiences? In order to be the best marketers possible, we have to ask about the story we’re telling.
To quote Joe Pulizzi: “Most marketers are so terrible at content creation because the ‘why’ to them is about driving demand and selling more widgets.” And that certainly doesn’t get the heart of why someone wants to buy that widget or how their business-life would change based on it. “You can’t reach the business goal without first serving the needs of the audience. Once we deliver consistent value to our audience – and they begin to know, like, and trust us – then we can extract value from that relationship.”
This shift has been happening for a while though it’s easy to lose in the breakneck pace most marketers have to work at to both address the daily fires and work for long term strategy. “Why” isn’t about creating enough “stuff” so we seem credible or, using manipulative tactics and rhetoric, getting people to buy in. It’s about creating genuine value. Then, and only then, can there be the equal value exchange of a purchase.
But let’s think about this topic more in depth. What is “why”? That’s a pretty vague idea. As our client and Happy Valley LaunchBox Director Lee Erickson says, “It’s squishy language.” Joe talks about this in a concrete way: “Why you exist is not your product. Your why is the problem your product solves.”
Meaning: identifying the problem is the key to the Why. And the second most important thing is how our solutions are actually solutions. We can’t think of that term as a marketing vocabulary word that exists detached from its original meaning. Marketing can solve real problems. Content marketing can offer information that solves problems. And our products should be the ultimate problem solver. If it’s not, if we can’t get behind our products that way, then maybe we should step back and consider whether this is the story we’re interested in selling in the first place.
Whys are critical for everything we do in life, not just in marketing. When we can articulate that elusive, yet powerful and alive, inner story, everything is more compelling.
Take a look at the rest of the post. Joe offers great, current examples of content marketing at its best so you can see how Why-Driven content marketing is both better at its job—and better for your karma.