06 Oct 2017

Does your business lack a sense of purpose?

Most entrepreneurs start a business with an inkling of the brand they wish to build, even if it only exists in their head and extends no further than a name and set of personal beliefs. These early stage businesses mean most to those that feel a sense of ownership over it.

However, as they begin to grow it becomes less straightforward to articulate what you do and what you stand for to an increasing number of customers and employees. And from a marketing point of view – in a noisy, competitive world – it is easy for target audience to misinterpret or forget what you do and how you might help them.

A compelling and consistent message is a good start. Experts suggest people need to hear a message seven times before it becomes truly convincing, and few scale-ups can afford to communicate several different versions of their truth.

That isn’t to say you can’t pitch different products, with slightly different benefits to different people. You can, but those conversations around products, like all of your communication efforts, should be rooted in a much deeper truth if they are to be compelling and consistent: your purpose.

Your purpose is a major part of your brand and the glue that holds your business together. Some people call it the ‘True North’. It is the direction that gives employees the vital sense of meaning they want from work today, and the core truth of your business that is required to build trust with customers, prospects, partners and investors.

In 2014, Salim Ismail, Mike Malone and Yuri van Geest published Exponential Organizations, a book analysing the traits of the world’s 100 fastest growing organisations. They found that all of those studied had a massive transformative purpose: a shared, aspirational mission to drive major change within industries, communities or for the planet.

They found that organisations with a clear sense of purpose and bold aspirations to change the world for the better are much more able to attract people, to motivate their teams and to build momentum behind their ideas.

Simon Sinek, the author and marketing consultant, got things spot on in his famous ‘How great leaders inspire action’ TED talk, advising that people should start conversations about their business by articulating its purpose, precisely why they exist.

With emotion playing such an important role in business purchasing decisions, it is important that sales and marketing conversations are rooted in this much deeper and more powerful discussion:

  • What is the purpose of your business?
  • What big problem are you trying to solve?
  • Why should people care about your success?

Determining why a company exists is the most important question we ask leaders when we get involved in messaging work. Being able to answer this question honestly, simply and powerfully is a crucial first step in winning hearts and minds, and opens the door to deeper conversations about how you can help and what you do.

In your next leadership or company meeting  ask each of the attendees to answer the following questions:

  • Why does your business exist?
  • How does this help your audience?
  • What are you doing to deliver on this?

Compare the results, observe the common threads and areas of difference, consider which versions of your story elicit the strongest feelings and how you can build on them to create a stronger and more compelling company message.