Imagine you’re hiring a writer for your business. You have to decide whether to interview this writer based on a brief written introduction. So, consider for a moment which of these two intros does it for you. Which makes you curious about the writer?
Hi. My name is Page and I’m a freelance writer and ghostblogger. Pleased to meet you.
Hi. My name’s Page. I teach people how to design the life they want to live by writing about intentional lifestyle.
The first intro is fine, but it probably doesn’t make you feel confident about what this writer can do for you. The second introduction tells you why this writer does what she does. That writer is me by the way, and the latter is how I actually introduce myself.
I’m passionate about helping people create the life they want to live. I started as a freelance writer just out of college when I took a “once-in-a-lifetime” (everyone else’s words, not mine) backpacking trip across Europe for three months and decided I wanted to live differently. I wanted to be an entrepreneur and be my own boss. And I wanted to take a “once-in-a-lifetime” trip every year. I’m two for three so far.
I started as a freelance writer just out of college when I took a "once-in-a-lifetime" (everyone else's words, not mine) backpacking trip across Europe for three months and decided I wanted to live differently.
My ability to design and live the life I want is what inspired me to start writing about it. Intentional lifestyle can include fitness, health, entrepreneurship, finance, travel, and so much more. I use my Millennial voice to share with others how they can design their lives, too, and what I’ve learned over the years is that the reason why I do what I do matters. My clients hire me because I can sell the “why” and not the “what.” I’m more than just a generic freelance writer.
Why the “why” wins
Simon Sinek summarizes the importance of why as, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Sinek’s TED Talk on inspirational leadership changed how I market myself, my business, and how I write for clients.
It’s as simple as that. And it’s because when you tell people why you do what you do, they feel something. That’s the reason they buy.
In his TED talk, Sinek perfectly illustrates this principle. "Have you ever considered why we feel compelled to buy products from Apple?" It’s not because they design superior products. For years, competitors have been making phones and computers that are equal to, if not better than, Apple’s Macbooks and iPhones. So why is the iPhone such a popular smartphone? It’s all in the marketing. Apple sells you why they do it—because they believe in designing beautiful products that are easy to use. By framing what they do, which is building computers and phones, in this way, they challenge the status quo. And as consumers, we want to buy beautiful products that are easy to use.
When you market your “why” you don’t just sell more products. You also create a community of customers who believe what you believe. This leads to stronger brand relationships and creates brand loyalty. Maybe even brand ambassadors.
Put your “why” into words
The challenge can be putting your “why” into words. We’re all a work in progress, and it took me a long while to get over my imposter syndrome and say, loud and proud, that I’m an intentional lifestyle writer. And it’s something I’m still working on, but I know I’ll get there.
Whether you’re marketing yourself or your business, it’s important to know the difference between features and benefits. Features are about what you can offer—the technicalities or how your product works—but benefits address the ways that will affect your client. Benefits are emotional and aspirational.
When I’m interviewing a potential client, they’re also interviewing me. This exchange is so important that it’s easy to conflate as being difficult. So I try to remind myself just how simple it is: The client has a problem, and they want to know if I can solve it. That’s it.
My first job is to show the client, with confidence, that I can solve their problem; how I’ll solve it comes later. Most people aren’t interested in the nitty-gritty details up front.
Going back to the Apple example, would you choose a phone that offers 1GB of storage, or would you rather be able to carry around 1,000 songs in your pocket so that you are always ready for an impromptu dance party?
Would you choose a phone that offers 1GB of storage, or would you rather be able to carry around 1,000 songs in your pocket so that you are always ready for an impromptu dance party?
The storage space is a feature. The benefit is always having music nearby and accessible, and it’s pretty clear that this is what incites feeling. Today, most of us understand the benefits of 1GB of storage, but when Apple released the first iPod, that wasn’t the case. Tell people it had 1GB of storage and their eyes would glass over. What did that even mean? It was only once they understood how many things they could keep on their phones that they were ready to swipe their credit card. Over half a billion customers have.
What’s going to make your customer feel good?
Aspirational selling works. It’s why so many of us are compelled to buy those “as seen on TV” products. To take advantage of aspirational selling, you have to begin by identifying the customer’s problem. What are the pain points? What are the benefits of your solution?
This works for any type of business, and it’s something I use with my clients, too. My clients typically need content that addresses a customer need, or that helps a customer understand how to do something better. There are a lot of writers out there, at all different price points, but I can bring my intentional living experience to the table. That, and empathy. When I empathize with a new client or their customers and feel the problem they’re experiencing, I’m much better at helping them solve it.
Purchase decisions are often driven by emotion, and people want to spend their money on something that feels good. It’s fun to buy a new phone, but even something that’s a necessity, like new tires for your car, can tap into features and benefits. Take Michelin, which ran ad campaigns with babies. They didn’t advertise the details of their tire tread. They instead marketed the product’s ability to keep your family safe. That’s a benefit, and it explains the “why” of what Michelin does.
No matter if you’re in charge of a company as large as Apple, or are a lonely freelancer pecking out article after article at home, it’s your ability to state your why and to say what you believe in that will convince others to buy, and buy-in. So tell your tale and sell your story.