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The Power of The Golden Circle: Advice from Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why”

By Bob Ruffolo

The Power of The Golden Circle: Advice from Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why”

the-power-of-the-golden-circle-advice-from-simon-sineks-start-with-whyThe art and science of motivating people to do business with us is fundamental to everything we do, right? We want people to take action, for goodness’ sake.

But do we really understand why people choose one brand or company over another? Do we understand why we choose one brand over another?

The answer lies in how we position our brand—whywe do what we do rather than what we do.

Key brand differentiators, such as who we are and why we do what we do, will determine our success as marketers and business owners, and that’s why we should be familiar with the principles outlined in Start With Why by Simon Sinek.

Start With Why is a kind of window on the soul, describing the reasons why we buy things, including the reasons we prefer one brand over another. Good to know, yes?

The author offers breakthrough insights on brand differentiation and consumer buying behaviors at the intuitive level—things I’ve never been able to put into words, but which had the unmistakable ring of truth when the author points them out.

That was my experience, so, I thought I’d share a few excerpts and personal stories about the principles in this book and how they influence what we do at our agency every day. I do this in the hope that it will spur feedback on how these truths have or will influence your business and marketing efforts in the future.

Understanding The Golden Circle

As marketers and business owners, it seems natural to connect what we do—our goods and services—to the wants and needs of our customers. Our customers want a mousetrap and we’ve built a better one; therefore, they should love us, right?

Sinek, however, introduces a different paradigm in Start With Why; namely, that clients and customers choose us because of who we are, what we represent and why we do what we do. Our products and services—what we do —are merely an expression and extension of why we do it in the first place.

He calls this thinking from the inside out—starting with a clear understanding and articulation of why we do what we do, rather than thinking from the outside in, which involves trying to connect our consumers’ wants and needs to what we do.

So consumers purchase Apple computers not because there aren’t other great computers out there, but because Apple communicates the why of what they do.

What Apple would say, if they were like everyone else:

We make great computers. They are beautifully designed, simple-to-use, and user-friendly. Want to buy one?

What Apple actually communicates:

In everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making beautifully-designed products that are simple-to-use and user-friendly -- and we just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?

Apple simply doesn’t reverse the order of information; their message starts with WHY—a purpose, cause, or belief that has nothing to do with WHAT they do. What they do—the products that they make, from computers to small electronics—no longer serves as the reason to buy, but serves as the tangible proof of their cause. People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.

Organizations use the tangible features and benefits to build a rational argument for why their company, product, or idea is better than another. When communicating from the inside and out, the WHY is offered as the reason to buy and the WHAT serve as the tangible proof of that belief.

Apple’s competitors turned from companies with a cause to companies who sell products; where price, quality, service, and features become the primary currency to motivate purchasing decisions. At that point, a company and its products have become commodities. (1)



The author calls this the Golden Circle, where order and predictability are found in human behavior. Simply put, it helps us understand why we do what we do.

  • WHAT: Every single company on the planet knows what they do.

  • HOWs: Given to explain how something is different or better, like a unique selling proposition or a value proposition.

  • WHY: Very few people can clearly articulate why they do what they do—e.g., “What’s your purpose, cause, or belief?” When most companies and people think, act or communicate they do so from the outside in, from WHAT to WHY.

Conversely, marketers and business owners who Start With Why have learned to lead by inspiration, providing consumers with a sense of purpose or belonging that has little to do with any external incentive or benefit to be gained:

Those who truly lead are able to create a following of people who act not because they were swayed, but because they were inspired. For those who are inspired, the motivation to act is deeply personal. They are less likely to be swayed by incentives.

Those who are inspired are willing to pay a premium or endure inconvenience, even personal suffering. Those who are able to inspire will create a following of people – supporters, voters, customers, workers – who act for the good of the whole not because they have to, but because they want to. (2)

Asking Why at Your Organization

Don't have time to read the full book? Don't worry, we've got you covered. In our full summary of Start With Why, we'll take you through the Golden Circle in more detail as well as how it relates to building trust and inspiring consumers

To view the full summary, click "continue reading" below. 

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How does your inbound marketing measure up?
Take this free, 5-minute assessment and learn what you can start doing today to boost traffic, leads, and sales.


Marketing Strategy
Published on July 28, 2015

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