(Many thanks to my Clericus for stirring some of my thoughts in this article)
Why is Apple so successful? Why did Martin Luther King rally so many followers? According to
Simon Sinek in a Ted Talk (known as the author of “Start With Why”), it is because the “why” of their direction and purpose is evident.
I took this to mean, that people will be more inspired to buy a product or entertain a cause, if the purpose or belief behind why that product or cause exists, is in line with something they desire or want.
One example that Sinek used was to explain that Apple sells so well because they don’t just sell people on the benefits of their computer (or any other of their many well sold products), but sell people on the fact that their computer exists as a by product of their cause to challenge the status quo.
Sinek argues that the goal in successful sales is more then doing business with people who need your product, “it is to do business with people who believe what you believe.”
For Apple this belief has to do with innovation and, as Steve Jobs stated, “dreaming bigger”. For Martin Luther King, who sold his cause to the world, it was about “a dream” of freedom and equality.
A ‘why’ answer is a vulnerable disclosure that speaks to the heart of what we want for ourselves and according to Sinek, encourages others to join us in our purpose driven commitments.
The marketing applications of Sinek’s hypothesis are self-evident. And, as a priest, it got me wondering of the implications for a reversal of the slow loss of members in many of our (post) postmodern mainline churches. I wonder if we can do a better job of marketing our presence within the community by more clearly defining, the ‘why’ of our ‘product’?
It also ought to be asked, “Has the church suffered by those almost-arrogant sales pitches that, packed with easily misinterpreted rhetoric, describe us as the dispenser of God’s salvation?”
Could we inspire more devoted followers by clearly promoting our deep desires to (as a few examples) be welcomed as we are, loved with great forgiveness, and held safe for eternity? And would many not be captivated by a church sign that might read…”We have a dream that all the world will be healed of that which prevents us to love and be loved!”
In my experience the ‘why’ of what we do is often only an unconscious drive. We falter when asked. We can, more easily, explain with great fervor, what we do and how we do it. But according to Sinek, sharing the ‘what’ and ‘how’ are not enough, because the ‘why’ of the matter “talks directly to the part of the brain that controls all our behaviour”, and can most effectively build the needed loyalty.
Steve Jobs and Martin Luther King were successful at this. Consequently, Apple products (any Apple product) continue to sell like hotcakes, and the American civil rights movement (of the 50’s and 60’s) enacted legislation that continues to impact the country.
As I see it, vulnerably voicing the ‘why’ of our intentions has application not just in the market place, or in our churches and other such institutions, causes, and clubs, but in personal matters such as our success (or lack of success) in creating social circles that are truly supportive.
Sinek’s hypothesis is well worth a look or 2 and reminds me of another marketing hypothesis I like… “it is important to have people feel your message and not just understand it” (Terry O’Reilly).