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The golden circle: how do you express your why?

It is already a well-known concept and the YouTube video has been viewed millions of times; Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle. His story is occasionally criticized, but in general, the concept of the Golden Circle has been accepted by marketers. However, you are not always aware of this. That is why it is good to stop and think about it every now and then and see whether your communication is still fully in line with your “why”.

  • According to the Golden Circle, you don’t target people who want to buy what you offer, but people who believe the same as you do.
  • Build a loyal customer base with people who make repeat purchases.
  • Do you think ‘why’: What is the reason this company does what it does? Why do you make choices to work in a certain way? Why don’t you do it differently? In any case, it is never ‘to make a profit.
  • The Golden Circle is not a marketing trick that you ‘just’ apply in your communication. Your why is part of your company culture that you cannot find out through surveys.
  • After you’ve found your ‘why’, go ahead and fill in the ‘what’ and ‘how’ as well.

Freshen up: what is the Golden Circle again?

I can try to explain that, but I’d rather let Simon Sinek do it himself. What he has done is observe what sets great leaders, in the market or in other fields, apart from their competition in their communication. He then recorded that in the Golden Circle. Watch the following video that explains what he means by the Golden Circle:

As he says, don’t target people who want to buy what you offer. Target people who believe the same as you. So it is not a marketing trick with which you want people to make a purchase from you once. This is about building a loyal customer base; people who keep coming back to you to buy your products or services. People who believe in your brand and trust your organization.

How do you find your 'why'?

Many organizations have clearly drawn up a mission and vision, but not all companies are aware of their ‘why’. This is slightly different from the mission and vision, but it comes close to your vision. The ‘why’ indicates why the company exists. What is the reason this company does what it does? Why do you make choices to work one way and why not do it differently?

An example: The Dutch Railways. Why do they exist? Hopefully their answer is not: to transport people by train. Would be better: to quickly get people from A to B. The track is only a means. Suppose the track disappears in the distant future, then the NS does not have to disappear yet. They do find another way to get people from A to B quickly. A name change might be useful in that case.

For some companies it will be easier to find out the ‘why’ than for others. As Simon Sinek says, a ‘why’ is never “to make a profit”. That is a result that every company wants to see. No, it’s about why you make a profit the way you do now. So it goes much deeper than “money”. Why did you choose to become a baker, not a butcher? And why do you want to make money? What’s the motivation behind that? There is a reason for this and the purpose of the ‘why’ is to clarify that reason.

Since finding your ‘why’ has proved so vague, Simon Sinek has written a second book explaining how to find your ‘why’. In it he explains how you do this per individual, or per group or company. You will use stories and memories to see which themes stand out. You often have the feeling that a few themes stand out and describe you or your company perfectly. You will then pour it into the format of your ‘why’. This way you get one statement that perfectly describes why you or your organization does what it does.

What do you need to do to clearly communicate your 'why'?

A good example of a company that clearly communicates its ‘why’ within the Netherlands is Coolblue. Their ‘why’ has everything to do with their slogan “Anything for a smile”. They indicate that customer satisfaction is just as important to them as making a profit. With this they think they distinguish themselves, because they want to make the customer journey as smooth and pleasant as possible for all their products, so that customers are always happy with the organization.

As a result, you see that all their communication is also about their ‘why’ and their vision. For example, they have added a number of funny things with their boxes in which orders are delivered. They also hold a competition every month to see who can make the best creation from their box. On the website you will find jokes as subtitles that match the header at all subheadings and television commercials are also full of jokes. It is not only external communication that is set up in this way. Internal communication and the entire head office are also set up to constantly remind employees why they do what they do. For example, all meeting rooms are furnished differently than in an average office. There is a cat room, a monkey cage, a Tetris room and a bat cave. So they also do everything for a smile for the employees.

Now you may want to use this example as inspiration. Of course it doesn’t have to be as extensive as with Coolblue. It may be a bit more subtle, but you can make sure that all your communication is set up to serve in spreading your ‘why’. This way you build up the number of loyal customers and ensure that your brand appeals to people.

What should you absolutely not do with this Golden Circle?

You should not see it as a marketing trick that you can quickly apply in your communication. Your ‘why’ is part of the company culture. That’s why you shouldn’t conduct a survey to find out what your customers want to hear from you and how they want it to be communicated to them. That’s not authentic. You should also not ask yourself what sets you apart from your competitors and try to outdo them. As a company you have a reason to exist, that’s what the Golden Circle focuses on. In doing so, you look at your own identity and disregard what others do or think about it.

When you work from your ‘why’, you have to ask yourself why you do what you do. Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should others care about that? You communicate from what you believe. If it fits within the ‘why’ of your company to address customers informally, then you should just do it. You don’t need a questionnaire for that to ask people whether they will find you more fun/nice when you say ‘you’ or ‘you’ to them. As a person, you don’t ask your friends that either.

The last thing not to do when it comes to the Golden Circle has left it at the ‘why’. Once you’ve found your ‘why, it’s also important to keep going. Also, write your ‘how’ and your ‘what’ and enter you’re ‘why’ there. Sometimes you meet people with a fantastic vision, but who actually have no idea how they want to implement it. Or do it already, but find it difficult to put into words exactly what they are doing. If you can’t get that message across, it will still cause confusion. So make sure you complete the whole circle.

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