The other day, I was listening to John Wall interview Simon Sinek on the Marketing over Coffee Podcast. Simon Sinek is a marketing consultant and motivational speaker and has a book out entitled “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.” In addition to the podcast interview, I also came across the following presentation that Simon gave at a TedX conference a few months ago.
To make a long-story short, the key premise is that companies spend too much time marketing what they do and how they do it better than the other guy. This strategy may win you customers in the short-term, but only until the next guy comes along with a better offering.
Instead, Sinek contends that companies need to inspire customers by talking about why their company exists and how they intend to change the world. All people, and this includes customers, want to be inspired and to follow leaders with vision that matches theirs. Companies that can inspire effectively will gain loyal customers that will continue to buy even when a competitor offers a superior product at a lower cost.
Dell and HP and Gateway are busy telling us what they do, that they make computers that are higher speed, lower power, lower weight, better graphics, and lower in price than the competitor. And they can certainly sell computers in that manner … until a competitor beats them on one or more of these metrics. These companies are closing transactions, not gaining customers.
In contrast, Apple tells its story something like this: “we exist to challenge the status quo by making products that are elegant and easy to use”. To Apple’s customers, it doesn’t matter that PCs are less expensive or have longer battery life or support more software. Or that other smart phones can run multiple applications or have an open source OS or support a carrier with better 3G coverage. Or that other tablet computers have a camera or 3G or a phone built in. Apple’s customers are inspired by Apple’s story and will buy whatever Apple sells. Some call them blindly loyal, but who wouldn’t want to have customers like that.
There are lots of other examples. Nike inspires us to “just do it”. Harley Davidson inspires the Hell’s Angel in each of us. The Chicago Cubs prove that you can have an inferior product for a long time and still have the most loyal customers. (For the record, not a strategy I recommend). The Oakland Raiders, on the other hand, prove that loyalty doesn’t have to have a positive message, just one that inspires us.
And it’s not just about the customers. Employees can be inspired as well. An uninspired employee will leave if the pay is better or the commute is shorter or the work is more interesting elsewhere. An inspired employee will enthusiastically work longer hours for a lower salary just to be part of something special. And he won’t leave.
I admit that this idea is not really new. Seth Godin contends that people want to join Tribes and be led by leaders with vision. It’s really the same thing, put a little differently.
This seems to make sense in the business-to-consumer (B2C) market, but what about business-to-business (B2B). Can businesses really be inspired? Would they ever ignore their tradeoff charts, evaluation criteria, benchmarks, and ROI calculations and just go with their “gut feel”?
What about EDA? Clearly, this is an industry where marketing has been all about features and benefits. Has there ever been an EDA company that really inspired customers?
I may be a bit biased, but I think Synopsys was one of those companies when it first started out. As a Synopsys customer, I was inspired by the gospel of high-level design. So much so, that I got myself a job at Synopsys as an AE evangelizing the good news. (That’s really what we called it … evangelizing). To be part of a movement that changed the world (at least the EDA world) was exciting. It helped that we were small and close to the founders who had the original vision for the company. After all, we could carefully hire only those who shared our vision and would faithfully represent us to our customers.
But what about EDA today? Are there companies that inspire you, that you’d buy from even if their product is not the best? Does loyalty exist today anymore?
And if you run an EDA company, does your company inspire? Do you tell people why you exist, or just what you do? If it’s the latter, it might make sense to try the former.
harry the ASIC guy