Applying “The Golden Circle” in Your Marketing

In a 2012 TEDx talk titled “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek illustrated a marketing principle that has drawn widespread attention all over the marketing world. He calls it “the golden circle,” or “start with why.”

Sinek’s theory boils down to this: while many companies tend to market themselves starting with communicating what they do, the most successful companies market by communicating first why they do what they do. In other words, the most successful companies communicate their identity from the inside out rather than from the outside in. Communicating why, Sinek asserts, is a more successful way to market your company because it coincides with how people function naturally. People think, act, and communicate from the inside out. Their values and beliefs ultimately dictate what they do—and what decisions they make.

To put it in Sinek’s words, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” He adds that “the goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have; the goal is to do business with those who believe what you believe.”

It’s a powerful principle to consider, to be sure. But how exactly can you apply it in your marketing?

Here are three suggested ways that you can become a company that communicates “why” rather than simply “what.”

Determine your company’s “why.”

First, it’s important to determine what your company’s “why” is. If you don’t know it, after all, how are you going to communicate it to anyone else? Ask the questions Sinek poses: What’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why should anyone care? An example of Apple’s “why”: “In everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently.”

Include your “why” in your marketing.

If in your marketing you’ve simply been getting the word out about what your company does, it’s time to change things up. Consider starting your marketing copy with a statement about your company’s mission—and from there detailing how your company works and what it does. Take Uber’s site, for example. At the very top in large text, it reads, “Get there—your day belongs to you.” That’s a belief about transportation that surely the majority of people share. Scroll down, and you’ll quickly get information about an easy-to-use app that they’ve developed. Scroll down to the very bottom, and there’s a box where you can type in your city and get started using Uber. Imagine how differently Uber’s message would come across if that box were positioned at the very top of the site.

Redefine your buyer personas.

Have you been defining your buyer personas using demographics and assumed characteristics? While this can be helpful, it’s important to consider the bigger picture. The most loyal of your customers are going to be those who are on board with what your company stands for. So in addition to considering characteristics such as gender, age, and socioeconomic level when marketing to your target market, be sure to include in your target market those who share the beliefs that your company does. To repeat what Simon Sinek repeated multiple times, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”


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