Mark, CEO of the fastest growing startup in Gotham city, gets some alarming news from his Head of Sales. The sales team is unlikely to meet their targets for the third quarter in a row. The problem is they simply aren’t getting enough marketing leads.

According to his CMO, the marketing team has created several different campaigns to try and market the wide range of features the company had developed over the years. The problem was, the messaging had to be recreated for each different feature, leaving potential customers (and the marketing team itself) confused and uninspired by the varied messaging coming from the company.

Now that the product had developed to offer this wider range of possibilities, it was just too difficult to explain in a concise clear way what the company does.

This is not marketing’s fault. In the hurry to develop the product, scale his company and grow his business, Mark failed to take one essential step at the birth of his company that would have helped him avoid this sudden identity crisis.

Successful companies like Apple, Nike and Southwest Airlines all have one consistent thread connecting their marketing campaigns. As Simon Sinek explained in one of the most widely viewed talks in the history of TED, “It’s not about what you do, it’s why you do it.”

Developing a clear purpose for your business from the outset is surprisingly one of the factors that differentiates companies which reach a peak and fade and those which achieve long-term sustainable success. Companies that don’t have a purpose spend their time chasing trends rather than starting them.

At PR Lab Hub, we often work with clients who want to transition from being profit-driven to be being purpose-driven. Here are 4 all-time mistakes we see founders make with their company’s purpose and how to avoid them:

  1. Not knowing the difference between mission and purpose

By far the most common mistake people make is failing to realize the difference between a mission and purpose statement.

Going back to Simon Sinek’s famous talk, he breaks down each company’s communication into why, how and what. He explains that in their messaging most companies start with what they sell (computers, shoes, etc.) and then explain how their product differentiates from competitors. However, the most successful companies start with why.

Sinek uses Apple as an example. They start with why their company exists: to think differently and challenge the status quo. Then how they do this: by designing beautiful easy to use products. Then finally what: Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store.

This messaging is more powerful than throwing numbers, facts and figures at a person. As Sinek states multiple times throughout his talk, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” This is evident in Apple’s iconic “Think different” campaign. There’s not a single mention of the company’s products. Instead it focuses on what the company stands for.

Knowing the difference between your mission and purpose statement will help you devise cornerstone messaging that will inform and influence all future messaging coming from your company.

A mission statement describes what we want our company to achieve. As a kid, everyone has inevitably been asked the question “what do you want to be when you grow up”. Think of your mission statement this way. What do you want your company to be or achieve when it grows up?

Purpose explains why your company wants to achieve this mission. If you told your parents you wanted to become a doctor or a rockstar, they most likely asked you “why?” What is the why that drives your company to achieve its mission?

  1. Skipping purpose altogether

Still, the mistake many companies make is failing to define their purpose from the beginning. You may argue that there are plenty of big companies that don’t have a purpose statement but, in the long run, there are consequences for not developing and understanding your purpose from the beginning.

Wracked with controversy over fake news, data and the use of the platform for violent acts and online bullying, Facebook recently changed its mission statement from ‘Making the world more open and connected’ to ‘Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.’ (aside from the fact that Facebook has confused mission with purpose) something that you can see missing from the original statement was the why.

Facebook has no purpose statement, so when you consider it wanted to make the world more open and connected, the question you may ask is why? At last year’s Facebook Communities Summit Zuckerberg explained, “I used to think that if we just give people a voice and help some people connect that that would make the world a whole lot better by itself.”

Had the company really considered ‘why’ maybe it would have been able to circumnavigate some of the crises it’s experiencing today.

  1. The beauty queen effect

Investors, employees and customers can spot a disingenuous purpose statement a mile away. If your company’s purpose sounds like a cliche from a beauty pageant, i.e. “To achieve world peace”, you’re not trying hard enough.  

Think back to where the idea for your company came from in the first place. Why did the idea appeal to you? How does it relate to your own personal beliefs/values?

Even if you actually did just want to make boatloads of cash, there’s still always going to be a reason behind why you chose to develop this particular business. The point is to uncover what that is.

  1. Not making your purpose a cornerstone of your organization

Creating a strong purpose isn’t enough. To truly become a purpose-driven organization you have to spread, live and breath your purpose. Your purpose should be something that impacts everything from your daily decision-making to the way you hire.

Studies show that purpose-driven companies are more likely to have employees who are engaged, loyal and likely to promote their company outside of work. As a result, these companies experience greater customer satisfaction and higher profits. A three year study found that 58% of companies with a clearly articulated and understood purpose experienced over 10% growth.

It’s not just internally. Purpose also has a strong influence on consumer behavior. Today people are not just looking for a product, they’re looking to be inspired and be able to contribute, even in small ways, to society. A global study found that 66% of consumers were willing to pay more for products from sustainable brands. In fact, amongst millennials alone, this number increased to 73% speaking volumes about this ongoing shift in consumer behavior.

Southwest Airlines is a great example of a company that lives and breathes its purpose. The company’s purpose statement is to, “Connect People to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.”

When investors and consultants began pressuring the airline to charge for bags, claiming it was losing out on $300 million a year, CEO Gary Kelly faced a difficult decision. He would have to go against his purpose or his investors. Ultimately, Kelly decided not to compromise his purpose and instead ran a “Bags fly free” campaign. By sticking to his company’s purpose, the campaign raised over $1 billion in revenue, offsetting the cost of not charging for baggage.

You will not feel these amazing benefits if you only pay lip service to your company’s purpose. Take decisions that will advance your company’s purpose, regularly remind your employees why you’re doing what you’re doing, hire people who believe in your purpose and, by all means, make your purpose the core of all your internal and external marketing strategies.

Simply setting out to beat the competition or make lots of money won’t make you an industry leader. To truly innovate you need to have the motivation and drive to do it. This comes from truly understanding why you’re doing something.

Reach out to us for a free consultation on how to define, develop and market your company’s purpose.

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