By Martin Zwilling
Starting a new venture and thriving in today’s economy is hard, but the best have figured out that customers and employees need to feel that you have a sense of purpose, to complement the company’s pursuit of profit. A higher purpose motivates people in a way that financial wins alone never will. For a company to thrive, it needs to find and broadcast its purpose in all that it does.
A great product or service as a solution is necessary, but not sufficient. If you want your company and team members to be seen as going above and beyond the competition, you need to include an element that adds social value or sustainability for the greater community. For example, Whole Foods is involved in efforts to safeguard the environment and ensure humane animal treatment.
Nearly 80 percent of customers say they are more loyal to purpose-driven brands than traditional brands and nearly three-quarters are more willing to defend them, or even pay a premium, according to the 2018 Cone/Porter Novelli Purpose Study. Here are eight specific steps for how you can add purpose to your company’s image and execution:
Let your passion and skills define a mission you can love. Make sure you select a mission that adds shared value and provides a competitive edge, as well as playing to your strengths and interests. Assess likely industry changes and disruption over the next five years, and structure your business to lead the way with personal commitment.
Become a thought leader early through social media. Today anyone with a purpose can test their message through blogging, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and many other channels. Every customer is looking for provocative thought leaders, such as Sir Richard Brandon and Elon Musk, who are able to challenge current issues with creative solutions.
Tie marketing content to the bigger picture of the world. Companies that matter focus beyond the buy/sell transaction view of the world. They recognize and contribute to the interconnectedness of all moving parts of the market as it evolves in real life. It’s about relationships, communication, thought leadership, and social value contribution.
Build a skilled team to design and develop what is needed. Your company can’t be a leader without providing a great solution, based on realistic market needs, and demonstrating an ability to execute. Building a solution and a company is not a solo exercise. Assemble the right people, and don’t forget to include real customer interaction.
Incent your team to focus on the purpose rather than profit. Nothing motivates a team more than feeling that company success is a function of their personal contribution to purpose and solving customer problems. This requires hiring people for their attitude, as well as strengths, training them properly, and empowering them to make decisions.
Be a leader to a positive future, rather than a follower. People want to see inspiration and commitment to a better tomorrow, as well as sources of better solutions today. This requires that you be a disruptor of the status quo, and proactively lean into complexity to align people, processes, and systems to turn current problems into new opportunities.
Demonstrate daily your personal commitment to your purpose. Your team and customers watch your actions, more than they listen to what you say. Your company has to be more than an in-animate brand – it has to come alive through people, starting at the top. People that matter take a long-term view, and value the future of their customers.
Seek out partner relationships aligned to your purpose. Community partners should be aligned around a purpose they all explicitly share, such as eliminating world hunger. At the same time, partners should be clear and explicit on the benefit to their own group for involvement in the partnering endeavor. This will strengthen the message for all.
If your company consistently finds ways to add more value and drive higher-order customer needs, it will become the preferred choice in your targeted markets. In addition, it will attract the best talent, the most customer loyalty, and provide greater personal satisfaction to you, as well as your team and your customers.
Even in today’s rapidly evolving economy, driven by technology, the most successful companies lead with their purpose rather than their technology. It doesn’t matter whether your business is a startup or mature operation, the principles are the same. Start implementing these steps now, before your competitors pass you by.
The Writer is a veteran startup mentor, executive, blogger, author, tech professional, and Angel investor. Published on Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc.