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16-see-through-toilet-why-funnyOf the many things I have learned from parenting, one thing is certain. A parent hears the word “why” more than any other word in their lifetime. Guaranteed. I’ve probably explained the nature of just about everything to my kid (admittedly, I made up most of it). Something I find fascinating is that, while children are so relentlessly inquisitive, they seem to lose it as they get older.

The word “why” is quite possibly the most powerful word in business. It solicits understanding, challenges old habits, and helps us evolve from what used to be good ideas. It provides a counterbalance  – “why are we hiring this person?”, “why did we block off an entire hour for this meeting?”, “why are we rebuilding our website?” – and gives justification and value to each business decision. In fact, it may be the most important question a marketer has to answer from their customer. If you can’t answer that, no marketing plan in the world can save you.

Some ways to ask “why” without sounding like a three-year-old:

  1. When setting up meetings, send an agenda. It’ll show other attendees that you take their time seriously.
  2. When invited to meetings, request an agenda. It’ll also give you some added preparation time.
  3. When hiring, first look into other options (contractors, automation) before diving into a huge expense.
  4. In marketing, focus on the customer. It’ll help maintain message clarity and dictate the tools you use.
  5. In research, break it all down to answering one or two simple questions. Any more than that will only confuse things.
  6. In sales, ask yourself why someone would want to work with you – not just with your company. It will force you to focus on adding real value to the relationship.

At Imagine, constantly asking ourselves “why” in both the way we run our business, and in the way we build strategy and creative for our clients, doesn’t just instill accountability, it helps us learn from one another. How can you be confident of a plan or a design if you can’t explain the reason you came up with it?

Try it out for a week and let me know if asking “why” more often helped in your business!

Patrick King

Patrick is the Founder of Imagine and advisor to places on brand strategy and creative. His insights have been published in Inc. Magazine, SmartCEO, Washington Business Journal, The Washington Post, and Chief Marketer, among other publications, and shared at conferences throughout the US. He also has an amazing sock collection.


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