Channeling Your Inner Two-Year-Old: Why “Why” Is The Most Important Question Smart Business People Ask

Channeling Your Inner Two-Year-Old: Why “Why” Is The Most Important Question Smart Business People Can Ask
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If you have a kid, know a kid or have ever been a kid (hard to remember sometimes, isn’t it?) then you know that those precious and terrible twos require the most effort from an adult brain. Two year olds never tire of asking, “Why?” and they do it with sincerity and enthusiasm.

I often wonder when we stop asking why – or maybe the more pertinent question is why  we stop asking why – and simply accept and move on. As business people and marketers we’d do well to take a lesson from a two year old and start questioning again.

I guarantee that if you do, you’ll uncover ways to save time and money, to better market your business and to avoid being baffled and swindled by the less ethical among us.

Why Am I Writing About This?

There is a recurring theme in my business. Every so often a prospect will come to me who is already working with another company on some aspect of their marketing. My new prospect will begin telling me what Vague Marketing Company is doing and inevitably I will ask, “Why?”

Many times – too many times – my prospect sort of shrugs and says, “I don’t know.”

Now, there are a lot of bad answers to that question but not knowing is probably the worst.

Why did you choose Vague Marketing Company ?

Why are they doing Vague Marketing Thing?

Why are you still using them?

“I don’t know.”

It makes me want to pound the not-knowing out of them. In the end, I just feel sorry for them. Could things be going really well with Vague Marketing Company? Could my prospect be getting a fantastic return on his investment? Well, considering he called me, I doubt it, but how would he ever know? It makes me crazy every time someone says it.

By now I’m 51 cards short of a deck thanks to people who don’t know.

So I’m writing this because if I can help you escape the quagmire of not knowing, then it will have been worth it.

Why Don’t You Know?

A wrong answer is better than not knowing. A convoluted answer is better than not knowing. A stupid answer is better than not knowing. But not knowing means you haven’t even shown intellectual curiosity or an emotional investment in your own business. That simply doesn’t make sense.

I get it. We’re busy and we want to hand the reins to an “expert” who will just deal with it and leave us to our jobs. Or sometimes we just go on autopilot because we heard that we’re supposed to be doing something and so we follow the leader. But this is truly a recipe for disaster.

You don’t need to be a marketing expert to understand what someone else is doing in the name of your business. You don’t need to micromanage to be confident in your marketing plan.

I’m a believer in letting the professionals do their jobs. When I call the electrician to my house I don’t ask why he’s twisting the little wires together or why he’s capping the ends. But when he tells me I need to do a $3,000 overhaul, I ask why.

Don’t think it’s not the same as marketing and running a business. I’ve watched people do $3,000 overhauls on their websites without the faintest notion why they were doing it. Or run a $3,000 print ad with no way of measuring its return.

True story: a prospect once told me he was running ads in a certain publication to the tune of several thousand dollars a month. He told me how unsuccessful the campaign had been over the past several years – Years! – and how he didn’t know why he was doing it.

All joking aside, I asked him, “Why are you doing it?”

His answer: “I don’t know.”

This doesn’t have to be you. You don’t need to micromanage any more than you need to relinquish all common sense. You just need to ask why.

Don’t Wait For The Experts To Tell You. Ask “Why” Now.

I really want you to become a two year old for a minute and start asking questions about your business and your marketing. Ask why until you want to roll your own eyes and say, “Because I said so, that’s why.” And then I want you to ask why again.

Pick anything. Pick everything. Ask yourself why you’re doing it. Don’t assume that just because you’re doing something that you have a motivation for it.

True story, again: About a year ago my company was looking at redesigning its brochures. We had made a few business changes and wanted to update the copy on the brochure to reflect the changes.

Some time and money later, we had a real eye opening moment when someone stopped mid-tri-fold and asked, “Why are we doing brochures? We’re a web company. We still have 800 leftover brochures from the last batch we printed.” Blank looks all around. Why, indeed? Because.

Why had it occurred to no one to ask why sooner? Because we were all caught in groupthink, in “because that’s what you do” think. If you have a business, you just have a brochure. We were too busy thinking about how it would look, what it would say and what photos we wanted to use to wonder what the point was after all.

Fortunately, we canned the brochure project before we could waste any more time and money on it. Unfortunately, we’d already wasted time and money because we’d failed to ask the most basic question of all.

I hope you’re feeling a little better now that I’ve admitted to doing the very thing that drives me nuts when other people do it. Nobody is exempt from mistakes, but let’s learn and vow to ask why from now on.

Some Important “Why” Questions That You Should Be Asking

As they say in all good recovery programs, you must first recognize and acknowledge your weaknesses before you can address them.

So here is my plan for recovering “I-don’t-knowers”.

Next time you’re about to start something new, whether it’s jumping into email marketing, redesigning your website or something as small as adding a single additional post to your Facebook timeline, ask why.

Once you get to the root of why, you can start making some value judgments and really evaluating whether you’re doing things for good reasons, and whether those things are working.

Why am I redesigning my website? (Is it old? Broken? Failing to covert? Or did someone tell you it “needs” to be redesigned?)

Why do I even have a website? (Sounds like a strange question, but… why do you? Branding? Showcasing products? Generating sales? Building an email list? Is it actually doing any of those things or just floating around somewhere among the interwebs?)

Why am I using that font? (Does it make a statement? Reinforce your brand? Or did it just look cool in the list of the other 500 fonts that came preinstalled on your computer?)

Why did I choose that color? (Is it part of your brand? Creating an emotion? Or does it just match your shoes?)

Why is my newsletter signup box at the bottom of the page? (Did you find it was the best place for getting sign-ups or was it the only space left on the page after you were done sticking in the rest of the content?)

Once you know the reasons you can begin evaluating their validity. You’ll have a better understanding of whether your site is meeting its goals and what you can do to improve.

Why do you have a Facebook page? (To generate leads? Communicate with customers? Or because someone told you social media was the cool thing to do?)

Why do you post there as often as you do? (Do you get the best engagement that way? Do you have a lot to share? Are you bored?)

Why do post there at the times that you do? (Do people respond best at the times you’ve chosen? Does it fit into your daily schedule best? Or are you just sticking a few sentences in the status box because you happened to remember?)

Why do you post the types of content that you do? (Do people like what you post? Do they comment? Or do you hear the sound of chirping crickets?)

Be honest. Don’t pretend it’s a great marketing opportunity if you’ve got 63 fans, all of whom are your old high school friends and your mom, none of whom bother to comment or engage, except for that one crazy girl who borrowed your math book that one time…

These are just a few ideas, but don’t stop there. Ask… Why am I sending an email newsletter? Why am I running that print ad? Why am I printing business cards? Why am I blogging?

It doesn’t matter what the strategy or marketing piece, you must know why you’re doing it and what you want to achieve. Otherwise you could end up with 800 leftover brochures and halfway into a project to nowhere.

I’ll leave you with one final thought as long as we’re acting like (smart) two year olds. And it’s as easy as ABC: Always Be Challenging.

Never accept and move on. Not when your time, money, reputation, brand and business success are at stake.

Now you tell me… have you ever had a “why the heck am I doing this” moment? Misery loves company. Share your story in the comments below!

Carol Lynn Rivera

Carol Lynn Rivera

I'm a business owner, content creator, podcaster and marketer. In 1999 I founded Rahvalor Interactive, a web and creative services production studio, with my husband and business partner Ralph. In 2011 we created Web.Search.Social, a consulting and marketing service line for small businesses. We also cohost the Web.Search.Social Podcast where we challenge the status quo of marketing and the Carbon Based Business Units podcast where we talk about the human side of being an entrepreneur. On any given day I wear the hat of project manager, consultant, social media manager and content marketer. My true passion is writing and in my spare time I'm busy planning my early retirement to Barcelona as a famous and wealthy novelist.
Carol Lynn Rivera
Carol Lynn Rivera