People don't buy WHAT you do,
they buy WHY you do it.
- Simon Sinek
When you list “features and benefits” in your ads, you are speaking to the customer who is currently, consciously in the market for your product. What percentage of the public do you suppose that might be? One percent? I doubt it. In most categories, it is only a tiny fraction of one percent.
But what about the remaining 99.9 percent? When they aren’t in the market for your product, they have no interest in your features and benefits.
Do you remember the story of the Tortoise and the Hare? This is my letter to the rabbit:
“Dear Rabbit, quit waiting until the last minute to advertise, hoping to impress the unwitting customer who has not already chosen a preferred provider. Be like the Tortoise. Impress future customers with stories that tug at their attention and make them smile and you will become their preferred provider. It takes courage and patience, but it’s how you win the race.”
Looking back at your career, can you describe the moment when your foot first fell onto the path that brought you to where you are today?
“I was a 10-year-old boy holding a flashlight for my Dad…”
“I won the race by only 20 seconds, so he beat the shit out of me…”
“I was in the drive-through line at McDonald’s…”
“I was looking at my brand-new baby boy and thinking about the kinds of things that happen to people when they’re least expecting it…”
Those are the opening lines of the origin stories of Ken Goodrich of Goettl Air Conditioning, Mark Jennison of IAMACOMEBACK.com, Brian Scudamore of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, and Tim Schmidt of the United States Concealed Carry Association.
People listen to the TED Talk of Simon Sinek and realize the importance of “Start with Why,” but they never really know how to do it. Most of them describe the outcome they are hoping to create, or they just approach their Unique Selling Proposition from a new and different angle.
If you want to “Start with Why,” write your Origin Story.
If your origin story could be told by anyone else in your category, you have not created an origin story; you are telling us about your passion. Or you are telling us what you hope to accomplish.
Have you ever read the bio of an artist?
“I have loved painting since I was 4 years old.”
“I knew I wanted to be a painter when I was 3.”
“My mother tells me that I was painting before I could talk.”
Those are not the opening lines of origin stories. Those are just people describing the longevity of their passion.
If a jeweler says his “Why” is that he wants to “help people celebrate the important moments in their lives,” this is not an Origin Story. He is just telling us what he hopes to accomplish.
To prove my point, these are the excellent opening lines of 8 different origin stories from 8 different jewelers:
“Tom Heflin was a railroad conductor. His wife had a sister…”
“Standing at the engagement ring counter, I felt like Oliver Twist asking for another bowl of porridge…”
“Five years before Teddy Roosevelt led the Rough Riders, Simon Schiffman stepped off the train to stretch his legs…”
“My Dad was a house painter. He taught me to sand and scrape paint old paint until my fingers were aching and raw…”
“During Hurricane Betsy in ‘65, my Dad moved us into his jewelry design studio…”
“When I opened the store I had no money. We didn’t have the money for inventory, so I…”
“Morris Jacobs immigrated to America as a boy. He came through Galveston…”
“My Dad died in a car crash when I was 3 years old. So my Uncle Joe taught me…”
As those 8 jewelers just demonstrated, origin stories are not interchangeable.
There is no template, no pattern to follow. There is only a snapshot of a fleeting moment, a remembered glimpse of an unfocused future, a haunting voice that has whispered all your life, “Keep trying.”
When was the moment that your foot first fell onto the path that brought you to where you are?
Now go write your Origin Story.
PS – I’ve posted in the rabbit hole the 8 Origin Stories that follow those 8 opening lines from jewelers you read in today’s memo.