Purpose wooden sign with a forest background

Harness the difference you want to make in the world

your purpose is the foundation for business growth

Much of the work I do with clients involves reviewing business goals, then mapping out a marketing strategy to help drive those goals forward. Before we get started, it surprises me if the leadership team can’t clearly express the company purpose, vision, and mission. Sometimes, founders bumble along for five minutes and insert explanations. Chances are, if the leadership can’t easily share these foundational concepts, it’s unlikely their employees can. How is company purpose tied to marketing and why should you care? There is growing evidence that it can be a competitive advantage and big reason why some companies thrive while others wilt.

My preferred definition of purpose, mission, and vision come from Conscious Capitalism, a book and a movement developed in collaboration with Whole Foods’ co-founder John Mackey:

“Purpose refers to the difference you’re trying to make in the world, mission is the core strategy that must be undertaken to fulfill that purpose, a vision is a vivid, imaginative conception or view of how the world will look once your purpose has been largely realized.”

This simple hierarchy sets a solid foundation for a business, laying the groundwork before designing the business or marketing strategy. A clear purpose can be the glue that holds a company together and a draw to attract the right people – from employees to customers, suppliers and investors, to your big idea. Purpose gets everyone pointed in the same direction; while a well-designed strategy maps out HOW to get there.

Your company purpose is a competitive advantage. What is your Why? #consciousbiz Click To Tweet

So what is your WHY? According to Beyond the Brand, Why Business Decision Makers Buy Into Strong Cultures, 80% of over 500 executives surveyed around the globe felt that the biggest idea of a company is likely the one upon which the company was built. What exactly inspired your founders to start the company in the first place? Getting to the heart of a founding idea is a key differentiator for any business. It may be that untapped opportunity for a company to completely stand out from the competition.

According to 80% of respondents, the biggest idea of a company is often the one upon which the business was built. Beyond the Brand, Why Business Decision Makers Buy Into Strong Culture

If you’ve launched a business, gained momentum, hired new people, and taken a few turns, have you veered off track and lost sight of this? That same study noted above found that the penalty for losing your culture and sense of purpose may be losing your customers.

To better understand this reality, you need to look at human nature and how decisions are made. The rational side of our brain looks at analytical thought and language. The limbic brain however, looks at our feelings, such as trust and loyalty. It guides human behaviour and decision making, but not language. This side of the brain connects to that lingering feeling in your gut when you have to choose between a few options.

This science is the premise behind Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why. His big idea genuinely resonates with my clients when we talk about it in the context of purpose, branding and marketing:

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

The video of Sinek’s TED Talk, “How great leaders inspire action,” has received over 27 million views. Its popularity is a sign of the times, illustrating that more than ever, people seek to make a deeper connection with a business before buying.

Beyond the Brand also revealed some other notable insights: about two thirds of respondents that develop long-term relationships prefer to do business with companies that clearly define what they stand for. This is a huge message for brands in the B2B space. Further, while purpose may have previously been an idea reserved for rallying staff at annual retreats, companies are now more transparent about their big ideas, with 85% of executives now sharing their company purpose with a range of stakeholders.

85% of executives are sharing purpose with stakeholders, more than ever in last 5 years. Beyond the Brand, Why Business Decision Makers Buy Into Strong Culture

So before embarking on a strategic initiative in your business, how about starting with WHY? Reconnect to purpose, mission and vision. Dig deeper, ask Why? at least five times to get to the soul of why you do what you do. Remember what inspired this journey to begin with before hitting the road and taking a new direction.

When you’re ready to explore how to embed these ideas into the heart of your brand, don’t overlook how your purpose nourishes corporate culture. Contact Seeds Consulting for advice on how to get started. Learn more in a related post: A healthy company culture = stronger brand promise.

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A healthy company culture = stronger brand promise

why a solid company culture bolsters your brand

I recently had breakfast with a young professional who decided to hang up a shingle and go out on her own as a writer and content marketer. A millennial with big career goals, she left behind a great job with a director-level position at a well-known brand. The reason: the company was not living up to its brand or the inspirational values it promoted, particularly in how it treated employees. Business owners who want to build a stronger brand that is known and respected with their target audience need to take note. The health of your company culture shows up in how your brand is viewed in the marketplace. If your employees are not buying into the brand promise, chances are your customers won’t either.

A company’s brand strengthens when it is consistently represented across all touchpoints, inside and outside of an organization. Marketing (what you do) is really what builds the brand (what you are), and your employees are a critical target market that are often overlooked. Ever design a marketing campaign aimed at informing employees or designed for recruiting new ones?

This is not just about sharing the business strategy or sending out an internal newsletter highlighting a new marketing initiative. It’s about finding ways to activate the brand in the workplace and convince employees of the brand’s power and promise that your customers have come to expect.

“You can’t be special, distinctive, and compelling in the marketplace unless you create something special, distinctive, and compelling in the workplace. How does your brand shape your culture? How does your culture bring your brand to life?”  William C. Taylor, cofounder of Fast Company

A brand often becomes fragmented when employees sense that the leadership team are not living the company values. For example, if the front line does not trust the brand, it’s unlikely your customers will have great experiences. If operational staff aren’t aligned with company culture, they may cut corners, which shows up in product or service quality.

A brand often becomes fragmented when the leadership team are not living the company values. Click To Tweet

So how can you improve company culture to help build a compelling brand promise? Start with sharing a lofty purpose: What’s the difference you want to make in the world? Go back to why the company was built in the first place and revisit what motivated its founders to start the business.

six measures of a strong company culture

Once you’re clear on the big WHY?, consider these six components of a strong company culture noted by John Coleman in a Harvard Business Review article on organizational culture:

Vision

A foundation for the corporate culture. Imagine your company purpose (the why?) has been realized. What’s the vivid, aspirational view of the world when this happens?

Values

These are guidelines on behaviours and mindsets. Choose up to five and consider writing them as verbs so they are active and alive in the organization.

Practices

Your policies need to support certain behaviours and values. Ensure your team is empowered to enforce the desired outcomes.

People

Hiring people who share and want to exemplify the core values. Do you recruit and attract new hires with a focus on higher purpose and values? Are they truly on board?

Narrative

History, folklore and easy-to share anecdotes about the company. What’s your organization’s unique story and who can share it? Make sure your are passing along wisdom and insight from company founders.

Place

Aesthetics, architecture, virtual and in-person gatherings. Does the place you do business reflect your values? Let’s say your company values include ‘open communication’ but employees are constantly closed up with office doors shut, perhaps the work environment could use an overhaul.

Take the time to audit company culture across these six areas and see where there may be gaps. Better yet, ask a millennial on staff where they think culture is broken. Like my friend noted above, these young employees really care about the company’s foundation, and they’re the new ‘culture police’ you can enroll to keep the purpose and company culture at the forefront. Review each component of company culture and pull these ideas together into a story that can be shared within your organization. When your internal ‘customers’ believe the company culture is alive, it will resonate with your target audience.

“By weaving the brand messages into employees’ everyday experiences, managers can ensure that on-brand behavior becomes instinctive.” Selling the Brand Inside, Harvard Business Review

Linking company culture to the brand’s essence is imperative to creating a brand your customers and employees will love and respect. Their loyalty and positive word of mouth referrals are priceless and can help a company reach its wildest goals to grow and thrive.

Need help auditing your brand and igniting it within your company? Contact Seeds Consulting and get started today! We love working with purpose-driven brands.