What’s The Why?

I was recently asked to guest post for Forward Florida: Economic Development News. They wrote me: “We will be highlighting business horror stories from CEOs, leaders, entrepreneurs and influencers who will share how they overcame that challenge.”

First I wondered why they approached me; I’m not high on the “economic development news” radar. And then to ask about a horror story I’ve experienced. Besides recently writing about being being publicly confronted by a fellow blogger, I rarely discuss my challenges publicly.

Paying mortgage. Affording a kid in college. Bootstrapping a growing business. Launching an Apple TV channel. Having a swim meet broadcast crash with 400 people watching and then not being able to get the stream going again. Having to respond to some outrageously upset emails from parents who were watching that broadcast. Okay, so maybe I do have some horror stories.

With Florida Swim Network we’ve had some pretty tough growing pains. We’ve switched broadcast platforms, changed out the equipment systems we use. We’ve actually walked around a neighborhood, laptop and camera and mic in hand with table in tow, searching for a wifi signal so we could continue broadcasting a triathlon. Gah!

We’ve even had a sponsor bail at the last minute leaving us cash-strapped and my crew possibly stranded out of town. These were the many times my husband and I look at each other and ask, “Why are we doing this again?”

Answer The Why

The Why is key, not just to you but to your fan base, too. If they don’t know why you are doing something, then they won’t care that you are doing anything at all. The Why is what makes you relevant. The Why is where the power lies, so stop right now and ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?”

For Joe and me, Florida Swim Network started as a hobby. We started live streaming swim meets long before it was the norm. Periscope and Facebook Live were still years away and Justin TV and Ustream were in their infancy. Nobody had thought to live stream any age group sports yet. But there we were, treating these young athletes like Olympians.

However The Why didn’t immediately click in for us. It wasn’t until that first year after we finished broadcasting a Junior Olympics meet, and a parent named Eric Ordaz came up to us with tears streaming down his face. His 14-year-old son had a spectacular meet, and Eric told to us, “My parents who live in Panama just got to watch my son swim for the first time ever.”

Then it hit us. Like a tidal wave: The Why.

What are You Really Marketing?

We may say we’re in the live stream business. We may say we cover competitive swimming. But our real business? Connecting families.

Florida is a transient state with new families coming and going each year. Today’s children live far away from their grandparents, and extended families can be spread across the world. Our business is connecting them.

We’ve been able to allow parents who serve overseas to still watch their children swim in championship meets. This mom was up in the middle of the night to watch her boys swim and join us in the chat room:

We’ve allowed parents in Italy and South Africa to watch their sons swim college here in Florida, and had our swimmers go live on air to wish “Happy Mother’s Day” to a grandmother in Spain.

Remember when I said we were wandering around a neighborhood to find wifi so we could continue broadcasting a triathlon? A swim dad who had been working in India for 6 months was tuning in to watch his son. Afterwards (and after we found wifi again) we put the headphones and mic on the swimmer to talk to his dad live for several minutes.

Yep, we’re not really marketing swimming. We’re marketing love and family.

What Do You Mean to Your Fans?

Our swim families have come to rely on us. We’ve been asked by teams to spread word to the swim community about coaches’ deaths, swimmers’ suicides, and fundraisers for terminally ill swim parents. We’ve mourned with our swim families but celebrated good times, too.

We’re there to cover their first time swimming in a meet as an 8-year-old.

Then we’re there for their first time winning an event. We’re there for their high school state championships. We’re also there for the signing with a college team.

We’re there when they go to the Olympic Trials. And we’re there when they win their first Olympic gold medal.

Florida swimmer Caeleb Dressel talking with Joe about making the US Olympic Team. He goes on to win a gold medal.

We’re there for some of the most memorable events of their entire lives, and we get the honor of being the platform to share these special moments with their families.

That’s. Our. Why.

Use The Why

So once you are sure of The Why, all the rest can be weighed against it to keep you going. That headache you are experiencing right this very minute? Whatever that problem is you are having business-wise, push it up against The Why and see if it is that obstacle is worth overcoming.

That piece of content you just created. Does it align with The Why? Does it further The Why? If so, use it. If not, don’t. Period.

That new marketing slogan? Does it convey your why? Does it tell your fans exactly why you are doing what you do?

Everything, from business practices to marketing content, must evolve from The Why. If it does, decisions become easier, the path clearer, and your fans become more loyal.

Find your why and it really is that easy.