Well, we’re barreling towards the end of the first quarter of 2022 and we’re knee deep in an era of dramatic visibility, media and technology that have given individuals the power to stand up for their opinions, their beliefs and their values on a grand scale.
This power has infiltrated every aspect of people's lives, and now, is pivotal in their purchasing decisions. I firmly believe that everything we do, everything our businesses do, will be increasingly scrutinised under a spotlight underpinned by such opinions and people power.
The clash of customer beliefs and brand values.
So, what does this mean for businesses? Well with many of the conversations I find myself having with our clients, they are rightly concerned about consumer expectations about the alignment of brands with personal values. But these expectations for brand alignment also present an opportunity for my clients to demonstrate their competitive agility. The steer here must surely be focused on building more authentic and profitable relationships with customers. Meaningful relationships that shift the customer dialogue from being exclusively product focused to instead support the beliefs held dear by customers. Long-lasting relationships grounded in a common purpose and built around a collective sense of brand belonging.
So really then, is this simply about authentic relationships based on an affinity to brands that do more than just make money? Well, my view is that this is exactly what it’s about, but if you explore how this is actually done there are some quick wins and easy lessons learned to adopt a similar approach in your business but beware… at the heart of this is the necessity to be authentic and genuine with your approach. I’m sure your customers will hold your feet to the fire if you operate a faux purpose led approach.
Being Purpose Led
When any organisation takes a meaningful and thoughtful approach to defining its purpose, it takes great steps forward in becoming a business that can sustain growth through hyper-relevance by creating opportunities to contextually address, a wider array of customer needs. Of course, this needs to be done at the right time and not just done for the sake of marketing!
To that end, such businesses are able to continually evolve around their customer, adapting with great agility to their changing preferences and market conditions with speed and scale. I believe that to achieve this remarkable feat, such businesses must have a strong sense of their purpose to not only underpin their organisational behaviours, but also to create a set of tenets to guide them as they evolve.
So, what about the ‘how’?
Well, if becoming both a relevant and competitive company is key to you then it’s important to think about the guiding principles that shape your purpose in a way that can be embraced and telegraphed by your team and well received and appreciated by your clients and customers.
Some companies that excel at product or service quality and customer experience believe their customers will always remain loyal, regardless of their brand's mission. But many companies are now looking for new ways to engage their customers beyond simply relying on their brand. Well, these companies are already taking a stance on issues they believe in, but that is because it should be obvious that activating a purpose-led brand makes competitive and bottom-line sense.
Of course, you can't expect this to happen in a vacuum. Doing this as an entirely business led approach is likely to result in failure. It must surely be mandatory to involve customers, employees and the larger ecosystem of stakeholders to identify shared values, common goals and areas where the company can make a real difference? Well at least that’s my opinion on how best to approach it.
So, what questions should I be asking to determine my Purpose?
There will be many questions that will help you produce laser like specificity of purpose but as a starting point, think about these:
§ What is our real brand promise and our actual brand truth?
§ What do our employees and customers want us to stand for?
§ How can we make the lives of our customers, employees and suppliers better?
§ What is the value in doing so?
§ What are the risks of not doing this?
As I said, these are a short form ‘starter for ten’ type questions – there are many more questions that can be asked to get to a specific and meaningful purpose but remember, it is key that organisations establish emotional connections with their customers and for this, meaningful communication is a necessity. It probably won’t come as a surprise that customers who experience active and thoughtful communication of a company’s purpose find such ventures much more attractive to deal with. Good examples of this in recent years revolve around those ventures prepared to apologise when they get it wrong without being forced or promoted to do so… it’s about being human and being authentic.
Don’t forget authenticity
This point of authenticity is critical. Consumers don't fall for any old rubbish. I come from the recruitment world and can speak to this from first-hand experience! But in 2022, we know that customers will reward authenticity, strong leadership and businesses with a positive, purpose driven point of view.
Sound good? Well, tone at the top is key to getting this right. Such traits need to cascade from the very top of the organisation to the entire c-suite and across the full extent of the workforce. My own views and experience here are that many customers and clients are genuinely influenced to buy a brand, product or service by the words, actions, values and beliefs of a company's employees-not just the CEO or marketing spokesperson.
Authenticity without creativity creates a gap
Customers have emerged as your key business partners! But for many this is still not seen as the norm. I believe that this evolutionary step has actually been a work in progress for quite some time with many of the best advocates of the approach co-develop products, services and experiences.
So, how tough would it be for you to host innovation workshops with customers to re-imagine products, services and approaches to business. This way, consumers can have a real stake in a company’s success and the venture can achieve that utopian holy grail of full engagement.
Perhaps in such circumstances, customers themselves can act as sales partners through channels they control or influence? Or even participate in crowdsourcing schemes to fund new innovations within the start-up community? Or even invest in a company's growth in exchange for certain perks?
This type of approach and dialogue would have been unthinkable twenty years ago and largely avoided ten years ago! In my view, there's virtually no limit to the roles customers can play, or the value they can provide.
Well, having said my piece and got that off my chest, I hope you’ll see what is important to me in my life, business and stakeholder dealings. Many are talking the talk, but a smaller number are walking the talk. Buy me a coffee and I’ll happily share why this is much more important than the masses appreciate.
Michael Young - CEO @ MBN Solutions - firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael’s the boss. As our CEO he founded the company almost twenty years ago, wanting to revolutionise the way data and technology recruitment was done across the UK. He nailed it (if we say so ourselves) and continues to be a driving force in the UK’s data and tech communities. As MBN pushes out into the world Michael is augmenting his CEO role as an advisor to a number of start-ups, charities and third sector organisations. When he’s not doing that, he raises money for charity through endurance events.