Learn why the thing that inspired your business isn’t necessarily the ‘purpose’ you should be building your brand around… and the ONE question you SHOULD be asking in order to find your most powerful, sustainable, specific ‘Why’.
I will never forget watching Simon Sinek’s world-famous ‘How Great Leaders Inspire Action’ Tedx Talk and feeling my body go all wobbly electric.
You know that feeling when someone else expresses perfectly what you KNOW to be true but haven’t been able to put your finger on?
This simple 18 minutes absolutely transformed my life and gave us a simple, science-based concept and action to get more of what we want.
Start With Why.
‘Starting with Why’ as a business owner is such a simple concept, but like many simple things, it’s extremely complicated to understand let alone actually achieve.
What it all boils down to, as Sinek so eloquently explains, is that we humans are biologically built to make decisions based on feelings, not facts.
Yet, as business owners we keep insisting on hammering away on the facts, figures and information hoping to get through to people. Hoping to win their hearts, minds and of course, a purchase.
But there is a better way…
Already Know Your Why?
I have spent most of my nearly 20 year career helping businesses become brands by finding their ‘Why’ and developing it into powerful communications. For the first 10 years I did this work almost exclusively in the pet industry.
As one of the world leading advisors in the pet space, I have worked with some of the biggest global pet brands, as well as literally thousands of petpreneurs. Almost all of them have one simple thing in common: their origin story.
Nearly all pet businesses are launched because of a personal experience with an animal.
Sure, some of these businesses were created because someone savvy saw a gap in the market and jumped in, but I’d say about 85% of pet business aren’t just opportunists, they’re truly and deeply passionate about helping animals and/or the people who love them.
The Heart Dog
In this fast growing (yet still weirdly intimate) industry you’ll often hear this inspirational creature, who often becomes a brand’s mascot, referred to as a ‘heart dog’ – or the ‘one’.
This defining relationship is often the catalyst for massive personal transformation, growth, healing, inspiration as well as some sort of business.
The famous examples from every corner of the pet industry are endless…
Mosi the Rhodesian Ridgeback whose itchy skin inspired Honest Kitchen,
Scout the social butterfly Boxer who inspired CityDog Magazine
Momo the Pug whose bed pickiness inspired P.L.A.Y.
Remy & Simba the shaggy Yorkies in need of grooming who inspired pet tech company Book Your Pet
and my two favorite:
Gracie the deaf Great Dane who inspired Three Dog Bakery (who also has her own inspirational book) and Hugo the Great Dane who inspired Bark Box (one of the pet industry’s greatest success stories – ‘Bark’ went IPO in June of 2021) .
Yeah ok I am a bit partial to Dane’s due to the fact that my ‘heart dog’ – the creature who inspired me to step into this 100 Billion Dollar industry back in 2005 was in fact a giant cow-spotted beauty with a pink cupcake nose.
With all this parity in what inspired them, it’s no great surprise that when most pet co. founders approach me to to tell me they know their why – in 20 years there have really only been three answers that come up over and over again:
I know my Why, and it’s…
- My Family / pets
- My Goals / Desire to ‘make x’ or ‘prove y’
- To help x achieve y
Now, it’s also important to point out – that typically when these responses are presented to me – the person telling me about their why is EMPHATIC that they clearly KNOW it already.
They are capital S SURE that this is the reason they do what they do.
Because people who know they don’t know their why – don’t bother telling me that they do – they just jump into my Whyfinding™ program to get started finding it!
But, because I know this version of a why is incomplete – when opportunity and time allow, I always ask a clarifying question…
Why does what do you matter?
And then there is silence.
Because while most people know why they care about what they do – very very few people can answer why anyone else should care.
Harder still – most people cannot say how their work contributes to the world.
To be fair, the people who answered #3 are ahead of the game
If you have managed to get to the point in your business where you understand that what you’re selling isn’t a thing or your own ideas / desires and needs: it’s a transformation for your people then you are well ahead of the pack.
If you sell by expressing how you help x person/pet/business achieve x or avoid y — you SHOULD be proud of yourself.
It takes most of us YEARS to make the shift from selling a thing or a service to selling a transformation or ‘improved state of being’…
Do not mistake understanding the transformation you sell for understanding WHY that transformation matters.
Back to our examples in the pet space…
For those who can see past being inspired by their own pet – they’re clear about one important transformation:
They want to improve the relationship between pets + people.
A fantastic Why, right?
Well, sort of…
The transformation isn’t the ‘Why’ and more importantly in this example – you have to be careful not to position all your marketing and branding around a very common transformation.
When you’re operating in a market as welcoming as the pet space – with year-on-year growth that stretches for decades into history and has new buying markets emerging globally each year…
A why like ‘improving the relationship between pets + people’ isn’t going to get you very far– because EVERY SINGLE BRAND shares the same one.
Like EVERY single brand.
They’re literally all saying the same thing. To the same people.
There are only SO MANY WORDS to describe the pet / human bond… and they’re ALL overused at this point.
So what are you to do?
Should you just try to find a less crowded space?
Good luck with that.
Should you change your why?
No. Probably not – you’re passionate about this transformation for a reason – so just changing it would kill a good portion of your authenticity (which is just as bad).
What you need to do instead, is get MORE SPECIFIC.
Niche Within a Niche
I call this ‘go deeper’ concept ‘finding your niche within your niche’.
This process all about COMBINING things you care about, to carve out a unique, beautiful little pedestal for your brand to build foundations on while it rises above everyone else. Let them use the same boring words and the same boring stock photos, all trying to occupy the same damn place in the customers’ brain and heart… you’ve now know a better way.
When you have a niche within a niche – you’ll have an effortless level of clarity (for yourself) and magnetism (for your clients) that helps you achieve significant advantages immediately and over a looooong period of time.
Sounds great right? But how do we do this?
How do you find your ‘Niche within a Niche’?
Let me repeat: a ‘niche’ isn’t enough anymore.
In fast-growing, overcrowded marketplaces like the pet space, the online coaching world, wellness, portrait photography, mum + baby and hundreds of other ‘niches’ you absolutely HAVE to have a deeper specialism in one (or more) of these 4 ways:
What Makes Up Your Niche within your Niche?
- Why you do what you do (your brand / messaging /
- What you do (your product / service + pricing)
- Who you do it for (your people)
- How you do it (your method / formula / style )
These are all part of your ‘brand positioning’ and are intrinsically linked within the idea of your ‘Niche’: a cozy little corner you can own – no matter how big the space is that you’ve chosen to swim in.
As they say, ‘the riches are in the niches’.
Here are some real-live examples of brands that have differentiated by their Why, What, Who and How…
A shoe company that only sells one shoe: the ballet flat. They are ‘ballet flat, reinvented’. They’re super premium. They communicate their incredible craftmanship, convenient size/foldability and impossibly chic designs at every single opportunity (and have a HUGE investment in encouraging and supporting their audience to share as well).
Their Niche is primarily based on their commitment to one unique product/pricing with exceptional craftmanship / design.
They are a UK radio station for builders and tradesmen. Knowing their audience as they do (who are 99% dudes) they are unashamedly ‘lads lads lads’ in their content and ads and they don’t bother pretending their not sexist. It works.
Their Niche is primarily based on WHO they’re selling to.
Badass Pet Photography
Contrary to the popular ‘cute and cheery, colourful and wholesome’ branding most pet photographers stick to – this brand will attract people who see themselves and their pets as ‘badass’. People who seek individualism: being different and cool and who want their pets and art in their home to be part of their uniqueness will instantly know they’ve found the right artist for them when they land on this home page.
Their Niche is primarily based on WHY they do what they do, as well as a bit of WHO + HOW.
Cool but what does my ‘why’ have to do with my ‘niche’?
There is huge overlap between your ‘niche within your niche’ and your ‘why’ – because ultimately both are speaking to what differentiates you as a product, business and brand.
They both connect to what you believe, and why what you do matters in the world – which (as Simon Sinek and many others have repeatedly proven) are the reasons people buy from you.
I repeat: Your WHY and your BELIEFS and how well you COMMUNICATE them contribute MORE to your sales, profitability and growth than your PRODUCT, PRICING, TEAM, PLAN or anything else you’ve been obsessing over and distracting yourself with.
If you can get clear on 1-4 above and communicate them well, consistently, you’ll start to see alllll the many benefits associated with owning a brand, including:
- Increase in profit
- Increase in revenue
- Increase in repeat purchase
- Increase in positive word-of-mouth / referrals
- Increase in retention
- Sustainable competitive advantage
- A culture full of genuine passion, joy and excitrment
- Decrease in acquisition costs
- Increase in team productivity
- Increase in PR/ Press attention
- Increase in innovation
- Decrease in threat from competitors under-pricing
Just to name a few…
FAIR WARNING: Not everyone will love you (just look at the polarizing examples above – I can honestly say fix radio is NOT for me haha).
But remember while you’re turning some people on, you’ll have to get comfortable with repelling some others (because great brands are NOT for everybody – they’re for THEIR people).
If you can ditch this need to please and be liked by all – then you’ll be well on your way to bravely discovering and stepping into your Why like a badass BOSS.
Want some help with this?
There is no sugar-coating it… it’s actually really tricky to find and properly express your Why.
It’s like trying to get great photos of yourself – most people simply cannot do it alone.
This just happens to be my superpower though, so if you know it’s time for you to stop messing around and get clear on your Why and brand messaging: get in touch about one of my life-changing Whyfinding™ sessions or take a peek at my signature DIY Whyfinding™ course.