decade ago, Simon Sinek popularized the idea of marketing your products based on a powerful story. And that story starts with WHY.

  • Why your company does what it does.
  • Why you created this product in the first place.
  • Why your product will make the customer’s life so much better.

That last one sounds a lot like expounding on your product’s benefits, right? But traditionally, “benefits” stop soon after the purchase, quite short term. Instead, we’re talking about a much deeper transformation for customers, something they may even struggle to articulate.

And that’s only the last step in telling your story to customers.

This whole exercise is about being authentic and transparent. Not just to gain the customer’s trust, but because you won’t be happy with yourself unless you can be honest and consistent.

I’ve noticed that there are several kinds of purchases I tend to make:

  • I buy many commodities mostly based on price, because I view most suppliers as delivering identical products at competitive rates. Sure, I’ll go for 2-ply rather than 1-ply, but beyond that I don’t really care much about who I purchase from.
  • At the other end of the spectrum, I have some companies that I think of as “trust-first.” I often even think of these people more as partners than suppliers. This is how I think of my financial advisor, my car repair shop, and my favorite coffee shop. WHO they are to me is much more important than functions and features. Even cost is in the middle of my criteria. And that will remain stable until something happens to break my trust with them.
  • Between those extremes, many of my purchases are driven by a reasonable level of trust, which narrows the list of suppliers. Then I look at features, immediate benefits, and competitive price.

The interesting thing about this breakdown is that trusting suppliers is more important as the cost goes up. That’s why major investments such as a house, vehicle, retirement savings or insurance will be more based on how much I understand, believe, and become motivated by their story.

And each customer is motivated by different things, because we all have different lives.

Chasing those differences and adapting to them can be a draining, even futile, exercise. You can adapt yourself to the different needs of 10 customers, even 100, but at some you’re giving inconsistent messages. People start getting really confused about who your company is.

When they’re confused, they don’t buy. Likely they’ll end up with a competitor who has a clearer and more compelling story for them.

Your authentic story has great marketing power. When you’re able to consistently articulate who you are, and why you do what you do, the door is now open for talking about how your products and services benefit customers’ lives.

Respect your prospects and trust their right to make their best decision, and they may trust you in return.

Yes, there are risks involved. When you open up your soul to someone, not everyone — gasp! — will like what they see. A few might refuse to purchase BECAUSE of that story.

In my view, that’s quite OK. Because you’d much rather have customers who love your company AND what it delivers. Not people who will purchase only until they find out a different truth about the company behind the product.

The key word here is attraction. Attracting those who will love your story. Those customers who will seek you out first because of who you are. Those who will even cut you a little slack when everything isn’t absolutely perfect.

I assume that your company isn’t trying to serve 7 billion people on the planet, even 325 million in the U.S. or 5.6 million in Colorado.

Focus instead on attracting those people who will love you and be loyal because of who you are. Invest in building trust with those people, and they’ll help bring in more just like them.

This article was first published in BizWest.