I have a question to ask you about your idea. Actually, we all do. Here it is: What question does your idea answer?
An idea is an answer — and it isn’t enough
See, an idea doesn’t exist on its own, even if it sometimes feels that way. Ideas come from questions. Always. It’s how your brain built your idea. It’s how an audience understands it. It’s how they establish context and relevance for your idea. It’s how they decide to agree with and act on it.
In other words, an idea is an answer. It’s an answer to a question that:
- Doesn’t have an answer already
- Needs a better answer
That’s why an audience needs to hear and understand the question your idea answers. Always.
If they don’t hear the question your idea answers, they’ll most likely ignore it as irrelevant or supply their own. Both are fatal to your message.
If they hear a question they don’t understand or care about, they’ll definitely ignore your idea as irrelevant. (Unless they’re feeling super polite that day and ask, “Oh, what does that mean?” But they won’t really care. They just don’t want to hurt your feelings.)
Either way, if you want people to understand your idea, you need to explain BOTH the question and answer of your idea. That’s the only way to make sure people have enough information to move forward.
Why the question isn’t “Why?”
Let’s say I have an idea that I like to call Bass Ackwards Branding™. (Which, um, I actually do.)
First, do you notice that even just reading that, it’s not enough? You may be curious about it, sure. But if you ask me what my Big Idea is and I just say, “Bass Ackwards Branding™,” you still don’t know what it is. And no one’s going to buy something (whether it be an idea, or the product or service it represents) without knowing that.
But what if I tell you my Sinek-ian “Why?”. After all, he says, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
Sure. Let’s try it:
“I believe in driving actions with your branding, not just affection. I believe brand messaging doesn’t matter unless it drives the actions that support the company or brand itself — namely, the purchases that create affection after a positive experience with that purchase. I drive those actions through brand messages framed through what people will buy, not the idea the brand wants to sell. I just happen to have a method for making those messages: Bass Ackwards Branding™. Want to try it?”
Now, on the surface, this sounds really good, right? It should. I pulled the framing right from Sinek’s talk and subbed in my own stuff. Here’s the original, where he’s imagining Apple’s “Why”-first messaging:
“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 our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?”
It sounds very powerful. And it is. To someone who already wants or needs to buy a computer. If I need to buy a computer, I’m going to take Apple’s “Why” into account. In fact, it will help me rationalize the ridiculous premium I’m about to pay for the machine.
But if I don’t need to buy a computer? Well, it’s a lovely brand statement, but it’s not going to make me buy something I don’t already want or need.
The same is true for my example. Again, the case sounds good, but what if you don’t need branding or messaging right now? That “Start with Why” framing may have temporarily interested you, but the hard truth is that if you don’t have a line item in your budget right now for BAB™, it’s going to lose out to something you (a) need more and (b) have the money set aside for.
And this, my friends, is the trap of thinking a “great brand” will save you. It won’t. If you’re not selling something people want to buy, your brand doesn’t matter.
And sorry, Simon Sinek. People DO buy what you do.
You need a question people are already asking
In fact, that’s the first question your idea has to answer: what does your idea give people that they already want or need? Every time you talk about your idea, you need to present your answer to THAT question along with it.
The kicker is, it can’t be something you think they want or need. They have to think so. You have to solve the problem they say they have before you can solve the problem you know they have.
Using my previous idea example, I’d want to say something like:
“I believe the best way to build a brand that builds your business is to use Bass Ackwards Branding™, where you frame your messaging through what people want to buy, not the brand you want to sell.”
See what we’ve got there?
- First, a reference to the QUESTION people are asking already, “How should I build my brand?” I snuck in a reference to a second, related question, “How can I [use my brand] to drive more business?”
- Then, my ANSWER, my idea: Bass Ackwards Branding™, where you frame your messaging through what people want to buy, not the brand you want sell
This is just my “opening shot.” From there I’d go into a longer explanation, if need be. In fact, giving both the question and answer is likely the ONLY way to get someone’s permission or attention to give that longer explanation.
So now it’s your turn. What’s your idea? What question does it answer?An idea doesn't exist on its own. Ideas come from questions. Click To Tweet
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