Remember when flying was fun… and then it really wasn’t? Let’s take a look at the airline that changed all that – that broke the mold – that marketed itself from the inside out as a different kind of airline and restored joy to air travel. Herb Kelleher, Southwest’s CEO focused way beyond merely transporting people on airplanes. A leader clearly hardwired to buck the trend and think differently, Kelleher transformed a small, relatively insignificant airline into an industry behemoth. Southwest Airline’s resounding success provides imperatives for all business leaders.Kelleher shared his belief that Southwest was a different kind of airline and built his company around that notion, around their WHY. He communicated his laser-focused vision of what he believed airline travel should be, especially for the average traveler. This Kelleher quote: “it is incidental that we fly airplanes” is illustrative of Southwest’s out-of-the-box approach. This renegade leader centered Southwest’s vision, operations and messaging around “happy employees, happy customers and keeping LUV in the air.” Infusing clear, simple WHY-based language and WHY-based practices led to this airline’s extraordinary success. Herb Kelleher’s crystal clear beliefs inspired a revolutionary airline culture–comprised of engaged (and highly engaging) employees. Flight crews were—and are—lit up, funny, and helpful… Southwest made flying fun again—even their flight safety recitations are entertaining! Upbeat, “happy” staff and crew consistently cultivate happy, loyal customers. This, plus fully aligned business practices, produced a thriving business with booming profitability levels. (By the way, for another great example of WHY-based communications see how Jen Sterling rocks her WHY of thinking differently: www.redthinkingllc.com).
So… what are the key takeaways from this—and similar—success models? How do we light up both our teams and our customers? Simon Sinek’s (top-20 Ted Talk speaker) quote: “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first” demonstrates this. Just how do we do this? Market your company from the inside out.
Start with your WHY and connect with your people, and connect them to your business, on a deeper level. Share what you and your company are about. Express why you matter–beyond the product or services you offer. Indoctrinate your teams in your beliefs and allow them to live out theirs within your business.Pull your people together toward a common, compelling, repeatable vision. Build your business around that vision. Communicate with your teams using simple, authentic language that resonates with your people—words all can use, consistently, to rave about you and advocate for your success.
Externally, attract and connect deeply with the right customers with repeatable, compelling language that expresses WHY you do what you do. Communicate authentically what you believe, about WHY your products and services matter to your ideal customers. Draw people into your vision, into what you are about. Provide compelling answers to the “why you” question.
Avoid being commoditized in an alarmingly fickle marketplace. With alternatives literally at customers’ employees’ and others’ fingertips, connecting is your key differentiator. Authentic, compelling communications is that path to that connection. Start with your WHY. Compel your ideal employees, customers, and A-list talent to: Buy In & Buy / Sign On and Stay™.
Do you know your WHY? It’s time to up your game.