Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image
Joel Fortner


September 23, 2013

Market Who You Are By Saying Why You Matter

September 23, 2013 | By | 22 Comments">22 Comments

This is a guest post by team member, Joel Fortner. Be sure to follow Joel on his blog and Twitter.

Do you remember what you wanted “to be when you grew up”?

I bet it wasn’t someone who worked in a cubicle or a square office where motivation was solely found on a poster with a penguin.


Kids tend to think big, don’t they? When I was a kid, I knew kids who wanted to be doctors, lawyers, dancers and athletes. I never had a friend who strove to work from 9-5 on the third floor.

Somewhere along the line we stop being bold. Regardless of why, we get logical and find safety in blending in with the pack.

Then one day, we start a business or become a leader inside one and our finely-honed logic and fear dictate our decisions.

And when asked, “What do you do?” or “Who are you?” we say or write things like this.

We solve your needs by providing strategic solutions that leverage best practices to transform your business into a next-generation enterprise….blah blah blah. Gag me.

What does this even mean? Where’s the inspiration? Where are the people even found in this?

This happens when we lack courage. When we want to sound sophisticated.

The thing is this inspires no one. It does anything but build trust, let alone tell people what you offer.

So here’s an exercise I want you to do.

1. Get with your team and answer this question – Who are we?

Read what you’ve written down somewhere to describe your business. Talk about it for a little while. Write down what’s said.

2. Then ask, “Why do we matter?” And talk this through.

3. Compare your answers to both questions. In the second list, you will discover who you REALLY are.

Let this new perspective pour through your business. Let it shape your marketing and culture.

People want to buy from, work for and associate with people who inspire and grow them. When we don’t, we settle for less.

Who really wants to be less?

Question: Have you struggled with how you describe your business?

  • Anwell Steve

    I guess, it’s part of the process where we get confused of what’s really our purpose and how we can deliver it to our recipient in a way that they can understand our business better. But, as you go along through business each day, you will understand your purpose in the industry. Thanks for the post! Joel

  • Bob Winchester

    Nice work Joel! Such a simple exercise, but it’s totally on point! Bringing the team into that discussion is a step that often get’s missed. It’s key however, because the people that interact directly with the customers probably have the best insight into the “why” that makes them special.

  • Kenny

    I’ve found the difficulty of this exercise increases [and the willingness of leadership to try it decreases] in direct proportion to the length of time the organization has existed. Said another way, the longer we’ve been around, the harder it is to articulate why we SHOULD be around.

    • Joel Fortner

      Very interesting observation!

  • Mark Sieverkropp

    Very much so. Still do. I love this exercise. Excited to do it with my team…which is pretty much just me

    • Joel Fortner

      Okay what did you come up with??!!

      • Mark Sieverkropp

        I haven’t done it yet. I just like it. I’ll email you after I’ve done it Joel with my results :)

        • Joel Fortner


  • Lily Kreitinger

    Love this, Joel! Can you give an example on how you would give that statement on “strategic solutions … blah blah blah” a makeover?

    • Mark Sieverkropp

      I kinda like the “blah blah blah” part…

    • Joel Fortner

      It depends on the business but be simple. A super sophisticated description isn’t what sells people,

      • Mark Sieverkropp

        …free coasters or theme park tickets sell people..

        • Joel Fortner

          Only people like you and me

  • Matt Ham

    Very few businesses allow themselves to be vulnerable enough; trying to see how their customers view them. Even fewer define their purposes in such a manner as you described. Everything can be meaningful but if it isn’t defined there is rarely passion and purpose.

    • Joel Fortner


  • Zech Newman

    Practical and good advice. I will ask my team these questions this week to see if we have impacted the way we have intended to. Blessings to both of you Joel and Chris.

    • Joel Fortner

      Please share with me how it goes! I’d love to know!

      • Zech Newman

        Well mixed results. Glad I brought it up to them. Should make us stronger and more united.

  • Paul Jolicoeur

    This takes courage to do and time to invest into the process. Many times we don’t want to take time away from “producing” to do these exercises. We need to see these exercises as a gateway to increased production.

    • Joel Fortner

      Amen! These exercises can impact culture and leadership and marketing and do so much for productivity.

  • Dave Bratcher

    Yes, we have struggled. This is a great framework and one I will be mentioning this morning during our staff meeting! Thanks for sharing Joel and helping others not answer this question with the same old, tired, “blah, blah, blah”.

    • Joel Fortner

      We’re you able to bring it up today?