In my last blog post, Sales and Marketing – Explaining the Disconnect, I introduced you to the Why Chain, a concept that I originally developed as a way for organizations to understand the difference between real outcomes and red herrings in a decision process. If you haven’t read that post yet, go read it now to get the background (plus it’s a fun one). Now let’s use the Why Chain to get a laser focus on our perfect potential customers – specifically to understanding customers and what really drives them.

In the last post, you saw how to keep asking WHY until you get to a real outcome – the REAL goal of the specific work to be done. In this post, I’ll show you how to do a WHY chain to get deeper into the heads of your perfect potential customers – a step that is critical to developing great content that will really engage those people you want to buy your products or services.

Let’s jump right into an example and you’ll see what I mean. I’m going to expand on an example I used in a webinar the other day to start us off, with a company that sells expert document translation services.

  1. Why do people buy document translation services?
  2. Because they need to present their documents in other languages.
  3. Why do they need to present their documents in other languages?
  4. They want to appeal to potential customers who speak other languages.
  5. Why is that important?
  6. They work with customers all over the world.
  7. Why don’t they leave their documents in English and let global customers do their own translations?
  8. It’s important that the translations are precise. We don’t want to leave anything to chance.
  9. Why not? What is that important?
  10. The translations are critical to the operation of high-tech instruments and need to be exactly right.
  11. What would happen if they were wrong?
  12. People could get hurt by the high-tech instruments they’re buying if they don’t use them correctly.
  13. What would happen if that occurred?
  14. Possible lawsuits, bad PR, overall ugliness. We need to mitigate those risks.

I’m going to stop there, but you’re getting the idea, right?

Remember from the last post that the final step in a Why Chain is to tie the first statement to the last statement, so in this case we learn that people buy document translation services to mitigate risk. (And yes, you can do multiple Why Chains with the same starting point and get to different end points. One place this one could end up is at “global expansion,” which is a worthy outcome as well – people buy document translation services to enable global expansion.)

That last step is really the magical one when it comes to identifying what is really driving your perfect potential customers. When you follow a Why Chain to find a real outcome, you find a way to tie whatever you do or sell to the REAL outcomes your customers are after – and THAT is where you start to stand out from your competitors. You now have a deeper understanding of your customers’ motivations, and you can capitalize on that with your content, your engagement strategy, and your lead nurturing plan. Your materials will illustrate to your perfect potential customers that you understand their world.

As a marketer, that’s an amazing place to be. Now, how ELSE can you impact the outcomes of your customers? Now that you understand their real outcomes, how ELSE can you talk about what YOU do in a way that will make them regard YOU as an authority in the things that are important to them?

The Why Chain is a powerful tool, and, used well, can seriously impact your marketing efforts, your sales efforts, and possibly your entire go-to-market approach.