“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”

If you’re hung up on the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of your business, then you’re missing a trick with your copywriting. Shift to the ‘why’ for more meaningful connections with your customers.

“The goal is to do business with people who believe in what you believe. If you talk about what you believe, you’ll attract people who believe what you believe.”

In this pacy video, Simon Sinek argues that people make decisions to trust others (in transactions) based on ‘why they do what they do’ (an emotional connection with values and beliefs), not the ‘what they do’ or the ‘how they do it’ (rational analysis of facts, proof and reason).

It makes sense.

For instance, I rewrote a lot of my freelance copywriting and photography service pages here on this website, and posted more about more rationale behind why doing what I do presses my buttons. Since then I’ve seen an increase in the number of people hiring me because they identify with that. They use words like ‘seem like a good fit’ or ‘got a lot in common’.

And in business, the decision to work together is often swung by a face-to-face meeting where client and supplier sound one another out, and talk enthusiastically about what we enjoy about our work. It exposes common ground and mutual aspirations – where good business happens.

That’s the ‘why you do it’ in action.

What this means for copywriting

In my experience, few people are lucky enough to have an in-depth, succinct understanding of what they stand for. And that’s further compounded by the pressure to articulate that in compelling, written form to readers.

In a nutshell, this is why people hire freelance copywriters.

First, you’d do well to first ascertain which questions (about what you stand for) your readers will be asking of you – the ones about your attitudes, values and beliefs. To quote Simon:

“… very, very few people or organizations know why they do what they do. And by “why” I don’t mean “to make a profit.” That’s a result. It’s always a result. By “why,” I mean: What’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care?”

To illustrate this, and continue my example above, I find that my freelance clients often wonder “will I get on with this bloke when we work together?”. So to answer that here on this website, I’ve described what it’s like when we work together countless times in my blog and published snippets of what clients say I bring to the experience.

You can do the same in your copy by enlightening readers enthusiastically about your cause, and the reasons behind why you exist.

Express that honestly and it’ll resonate with people who feel the same way. These are the people you should be doing business with anyway – a section of society who share a similar outlook, or face the same problems as you (that you can then solve…).

That’s the foundation for fruitful, long-lasting trust from your followers, customers or clients.

How to do it with copy

There’s no doubt that copywriting is already an intimate, emotive form of communication where you can engage with your reader one-to-one. But there are some useful techniques you can supplement your copy with, which apply what we’ve learned above.

They involve getting your values and beliefs across in contexts that the reader can identify with, framing them in clear terms that they understand, and delivering them with conviction and passion in your chosen tone of voice.

For example:

  • Honesty comes across in candid admissions or revelations that perhaps the reader suspects or has heard about, but other people aren’t brave enough to admit
  • Legitimacy can be given by supporting your arguments with proof (case studies, accreditations, quotes from satisfied customers)
  • Permanence is conveyed by stories of your company’s legacy, and the heritage that got you where you are today

Trust increases too when you live up to your promises, so only ever make ones that you know you can fulfil.

Personally, I prefer to help people make informed decisions when it comes to writing your copy. I do that by laying your cards bare on the table, and I only connect emotionally if, for example, you’ve lived and breathed the same feelings and experiences that you’re suggesting your reader shares. I steer well clear of pandering to base emotions like fear or manipulating false sentiment in a reader, because it shows. When you try to pull sneaky tricks like this, these underlying motives seem to influence how you write.

So the trick is to be honest, substantiate your claims, articulate your world-view and be clear about why you do what you do best.

I’ll end with an excerpt from the transcript of Simon Sinek’s TED talk:

Let me give you an example. I use Apple because they’re easy to understand and everybody gets it. If Apple were like everyone else, a marketing message from them might sound like this: “We make great computers. They’re beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. Want to buy one?” “Meh.” That’s how most of us communicate. That’s how most marketing and sales are done, that’s how we communicate interpersonally. We say what we do, we say how we’re different or better and we expect some sort of a behavior, a purchase, a vote, something like that.

Here’s how Apple actually communicates. “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. Want to buy one?” Totally different, right? You’re ready to buy a computer from me. I just reversed the order of the information. What it proves to us is that people don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it.

By Chris Kenworthy | Coach

I help people like you tap into your more playful, resourceful, less serious side(s).

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