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The age of the infomercial seems to be at a close. Current trends are showing consumers are looking for authenticity and vulnerability from the business with which they shop. This need or desire for authenticity or “realism” is evident with the vast amount of reality television shows such as The Bachelor, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills or Atlanta or New York, Duck Dynasty, and Pawn Stars that have overtaken primetime television. This cultural shift appears to have been starting or nurtured with the onslaught of social media giving consumers instant access to real time and in most cases live information on all topics. Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook have given people access and the ability to share real life events that are happening in real time. As a result, we as consumers expect the businesses with which we shop to have the same authenticity and “realism” with us. In addition, as the competitive landscape continues to grow, the need for your business to have a voice strengthens. So, as small business owners, how do we accomplish this feat of telling our story and having our voices heard? We do this through simply telling our story or the “why” of our business.

The concept of the “why” of your business was introduced by Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why and creator of the #2 ranked TedTalks video of all-time, How Great Leader’s Inspire Action. In the video Simon conveys the idea that “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” This ability to convey this concept might sound simple but it is not as intuitive as one might think. For example, when attending a networking event, trade show, or introducing ones company for the first time, most people lead in the conversation with “What do you do”? In addition, most companies, when advertising or marketing to its customers start with what products they offer. This question or thought process in advertising is instinctive for most but the answer or message simply conveys a list of skills, qualifications, expertise, or products that a company can offer. Consumers are looking for authenticity, something they connect with, and something they can believe in which is the “why” not the “what” message. Let’s define what the “why” isn’t. The “why” isn’t to make money, to provide a certain product or service better than a competitor, or to provide excellent customer service, it is much deeper. The “why” is the reason the business was started, the concept created, or the idea brought into reality. The “why” is the driving force behind everything that the business strives to accomplish.

For example, the “what” of our office is that we offer no cost one-on-one confidential consulting services to help small businesses grow. We can aide in developing business plans, financial projections, marketing strategies, strategic planning, and a host of other services as well. This “what” statement conveys our services and expertise but it doesn’t allow our customer to connect or understand what we truly are about. So, why do we do what we do? One might assume our “why” is to help small businesses grow or simply to help people, we do, but its’ deeper than that. We believe that the resiliency and heartbeat of our local communities is based on the strength and condition of the small business community. As a result, we daily to be the trusted resources and advisor that small businesses can turn to. The “what” is important but the “why” creates the connection with the consumer or individual. It’s the reason that people will buy products from one company versus another. Why? People can see the authenticity and it gives them the ability to connect with ones company on a deeper level.

Consumers are looking for something to believe in, connect with, and be a part of. Allow them the opportunity to be of what your company believes.


(Source: Todd Carlisle, Consultant, UGA SBDC in Columbus)