People Don’t Buy What You Do; They Buy Why You Do It

Yesterday, I watched a video on TED, featuring Simon Sinek, the author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. In the video, Sinek explained his theory on what makes successful innovators and leaders.

In his Talk, Sinek describes what he calls the Golden Circle, which is basically a visualization of the way organizations and people communicate to others. The visualization is made of up three concentric circles with “why” at the center, “how” at the middle ring, and “what” at the outer ring.

According to Sinek, most people communicate from the “what” to the “why,” but he suggests that successful innovators and inspiring leaders communicate from the inside out. He gives a great example, using Apple:

If Apple communicated like everyone else, they may say this: “We make great computers. They are beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. Wanna buy one?”

Instead, Apple communicates like this: “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Wanna buy one?”

What You Do vs. Why You Do It

Can you see the difference in these two examples?

With his examples, Sinek tries to show that people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. In other words, people don’t do business with someone because that product or service provider has what the consumer needs; they do business with organizations and people who believe what they believe.

With Twitter, Facebook, blogs, webinars, phone apps, television, direct mail marketing and countless other outlets for legal advertising and communications, attorneys are marketing their services in more ways and in more places than ever. However, like most people, these attorneys tend to focus on the “what” – what services they provide, what documents they can create, what they can get for their clients, etc.

Maybe it is time for lawyers to start thinking more about the “why.” Why did you become a lawyer? Why did you start your own law firm? Why do you provide legal services? If you want to be the type of lawyer that stands out as a leader among the thousands of people offering similar legal services, the answer to these questions should be an answer that speaks not to what your clients want but instead to what your clients believe.