08 June 2020, 7 min read
Expressing your purpose through business
The question is, beyond good feelings, can anyone really build a viable, profitable business or career ‘simply’ by fulfilling their own, unique purpose? The answer is yes.
You don’t need to compete when you know who you are.
Purpose is emphatically personal. Your purpose wraps up your talents, passions, and beliefs, fueling you to deliver something that other people need, want, and value. Purpose doesn’t have to be lofty, change the world or alter the future. But it does need to feel meaningful to you, and valuable to others.
In this article, I revealed that in my own purpose-searching work, I found “it was not about dwelling on what makes me different, but rather embracing the difference I make and how I am uniquely capable of making it happen.”
Fulfilling your purpose feels good, rewarding and worthwhile because, through that one-of-a-kind combination of what you love, what you’re good at, what people will pay for and what the world needs, you feel yourself providing “value” – in every sense of the word.
The question is, beyond good feelings, can anyone really build a viable, profitable business or career ‘simply’ by fulfilling their own, unique purpose?
The answer is yes. Purpose-driven and profit-generating are not mutually exclusive.
In fact, enterprises that are clear on their purpose, committed to it, and able to communicate it forthrightly to clients and customers outperform their non-purpose-driven competitors.
When companies or brands linked to a purpose, 80% of them outperformed the market.
Today’s customers expect so much more from brands. They want to align their values and lifestyles with brands that reflect their priorities, beliefs and choices. Whether its eco-friendly products, carbon offsetting, xyz or something as simple as xyz, the demonstration of a company’s authentic commitment to a purpose they deem worthy becomes part of customers’ buying decisions. By engaging consumers’ hearts in memorable, experiential and truthful ways, brands build deeper, longer-lasting, more meaningful and fruitful consumer relationships.
Profit isn’t a purpose. It’s a result. To have purpose means the things we do are of real value to others.
Furthermore, purpose-driven organisations are more likely to attract the best minds, keep employees longer, and benefit from more motivation and energy.
Engaged, hardworking employees, led by the North Star of a company’s driving purpose, attracting loyal customers who become proud brand ambassadors is the formula for a viable, profitable, sustainable business.
Bridging the gap between personal and professional purpose
We yearn to discover our purpose.
Finding purpose brings a settled, centred feeling of knowing and owning who we are. It’s the conviction that we were born with the perfect skills and gifts we need to make something happen, fundamental to guiding our lives and business. We feel useful, content, in flow, and valuable when we spend time and effort in the pursuit of fulfilling our purpose.
Meanwhile, purpose-driven businesses are able to satisfy both their employees’ and customers’ needs more deeply, which is both a profitable and sustainable business model.
If we’re going to spend a majority of hours working to earn the money we need to live, and to enjoy a few perks along the way, we will be much happier if that work helps us contribute to whatever we’ve identified as our own purpose.
Conversely, if we have no opportunity to use our unique gifts during any of our working hours, and sense that our effort is under-valued, meaningless, ‘purpose-less’, then of course those hours spent toiling will be agonising.
Now, I don’t believe we can be fulfilled solely through our work. Purpose is intimately personal, and no single organisation will be able to satisfy every individual employee’s search for meaning and pursuit of happiness.
But we can see how important it is for purpose-fueled humans to find purpose-driven companies that align.
Uncover your value
For me, the penny dropped in 2019 when I attended a 2-day Business For Good conference in Edinburgh run by Alisoun Mackenzie. (Her TEDxFindhornSalon entitled “Isn’t Business an Opportunity to be Kind?” is a must-watch.)
By tea break on day one I’d had my first revelation: I needed to reframe how I thought about my business – the work I did, and the true value I could offer. Coming into the day, I had described my work as ‘intelligent marketing,’ in an effort to distinguish my approach to marketing strategy from the hit and miss, sales-centric, blandly-messaged marketing I saw around me.
But the term ‘intelligent marketing’ didn’t adequately describe my approach, and it didn’t mean anything to prospective clients. Even more significantly I felt uncomfortable that ‘intelligent marketing’ made me sound as if I was right and everyone else was wrong – which is not the message I’m trying to convey!
The real reason that standard marketing processes and results struck me as ‘unintelligent’ was because in far too many cases, the methods were not truly strategic, nor brand-aligned, nor sustainable, nor effectively measured. I witnessed costly and lengthy attempts at a series of marketing approaches, either as in-house projects or by outsourcing work to expensive agencies, without close to a return on investment. The marketing was activity for activity’s sake, rather than marketing that is from purpose, with purpose, on purpose.
I know now that my own talent is the ability to join everything up, ‘finding the thread’ that runs from a company’s purpose, through its people to reveal itself in its branding and marketing.
What I came to understand during that 2-day conference, is that I still ‘do marketing’. However, my happiest, most productive and most successful work is when I am engaged by purpose-driven companies to express their purpose and values through business strategy, culture, brand, marketing and collateral.
Shining a bright beacon that attracts loyal customers, like-minded partners and suppliers, enthusiastic employees, and dedicated leaders; capitalising on a sustainable and profitable business model; and helping a company evolve to be its best, inside and out… is what I believe the Purpose of Marketing is.
Align your work with your value, and values
My business, how I work and with whom I work, now aligns with who I am. My business is a reflection of the personal journey I’ve been on and the deep digging I’ve done along the way.
When we want a purpose-driven transformation for ourselves and our businesses, we need to dig deep and answer tough questions with honesty and courage.
A marketing strategy or plan alone will not deliver sustainable results unless it’s woven into the fabric of the organisation so it becomes ‘how things are done around here’. Every organisation has two nuclei: brand and culture. Honest, authentic, purpose-led businesses fuse the two, building the brand from the inside-out. This approach is the only way forward for significant purpose-driven businesses and initiatives, to ensure a true customer centric approach takes hold effectively.
Putting purpose into practice
Values, purpose, culture and brand are not things that change quarterly, or get ‘tweaked’ to create marketing campaigns. Your business’ overarching values and purpose should be captured in a statement which clearly reflects its long term raison d’être.
Purpose should last for 100 years.
This is more challenging than it sounds, especially framed by our existence in a world which was built to prize speed and pivots and rapid growth and constant innovation above all else.
The emergence of Covid-19 may have slowed down the pace for some, but accommodating and innovating to adapt has thrown organisations into a new era of ‘pivots’.
Instead, now is the right time to re-affirm your company’s True North. Once the rod is fixed firmly in the ground, you will always have the security of knowing where you’re going and what you stand for.
Even before the world’s big shake-up Adam Fridman wrote back in 2017:
Daily habits are how we live out our purpose and put values into practice. Our habits are really about integrating unchanging ideas into a world that is changing all around us. We can’t change our purpose or values whenever a new technology or idea comes along, but we can change our habits to incorporate new ideas and new ways of doing things.
In such a tumultuous world, we must keep our values and purpose secure and steadfast, and habitually retained at the centre of our universes.
You’ll find businesses is most rewarding when it is, ultimately, an expression of purpose. From that emerges a distinct culture that unites the people whose jobs it is to fulfill the purpose, and a system of habits, or processes, to ensure the purpose is achieved. Marketing comes in to help articulate the purpose, amplify the culture and communicate the brand.
If you’re still unsure how to fulfil your purpose through business and marketing after reading this article, book a call with me and let’s chat through your approach.