Instead Of "What?" Ask "Why?"

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Whether it’s in meetings for client work, business development opportunities, speaking to a group of people, or doing some kind of community work, I’m being asked very similar questions, like: "should we be Podcasting?", "what could we do with twitter?", "what do you think about Facebook?" and "how do you use YouTube as a Marketing channel?" You can take out the channel and replace it with whichever online social network is popular these days, or change the word "Podcasting" to Blogs… you get the idea.

But the biggest and most important questions never get asked. Everyone is so busy getting excited about the channels (and tactics) that they completely put aside the strategy and the brand.

Instead of "what" ask "why."

When you really understand the "why", you’ll know:

– Why people love you.

– Why people buy from you.

– Why they tell other people about how great you are.

– Why people are loyal to you.

– Why the world needs more of whatever it is you do.

– Why they would never leave you for a cheaper price.

"What" is just the tactics. It’s deciding between a Blog and a Podcast. It’s choosing YouTube and Facebook over MySpace and Second Life. It’s about the things you can do because you already know where your consumers are, what they’re saying about you, and how you can add value to the online environments that they’re currently occupying.

But, without a strategy and and deep respect for being a guardian of the brand, everything else is just a tactic. And, if you’re into sports, war games, or any other form of competition, you’ll know that tactics don’t win anything, the strategy does.


  1. Absolutely right, Mitch. It has to be a genuine interest to want to connect and form a relationship with the customer, not about which technologies to use. Getting the first part right will probably ensure the technological tactic will follow suit.

  2. Very true! I think there’s so much hype around all these new social networking channels that everyone’s jumping on the bandwagon to use them, without really sitting back and questioning, if it’s really necessary and what the purpose is. Will this bring you closer to your goals in reaching your consumers? My jury is still out, however, on Twitter….I’m not sure how micro blogging is supposed to replace Facebook and Blogs….

  3. So true! That conversation happens everytime there’s a discussion about extending the brand into digital media. Most people get caught in the digital gadgets/apps and not the analog “why” as you eloquently posted. We have to ask those fundamental questions. Why do you exist? And prepare ourselves to listen. The digital space offers that opportunity for understanding. A means to an end in which the end is the understanding of your brand by the consumer, and how you can change to fit their wants. Some will learn with digital media and grow, while others will resist and wonder…”hmm, that’s funny, where did all the consumers go?” Excellent real world post. Thanks Mitch

  4. Bad tactics lose fast, bad strategy loses slowly.
    Tactics can’t be neglected any more than strategy.
    I think the reason people fixate on tactics is the more immediate feedback, while strategy can seem like groping in the dark.

  5. What vs. Why
    Mitch Joel is one of those guys that I really admire. He gets it. I mean, really gets it. This post proves my point. If you’re too lazy to click, his post is about not asking what things can we

  6. awesome insight! I am creating a blog/aggregator of best practices for the professionals left in the mortgage industry – they need to hear stuff like this!

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