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Why purpose matters to marketing: growth, revenue, and profit

Does your purpose currently impact your marketing, revenue growth, and profit? If not, it should.

Here’s why:

According to research, curated by Mack Fogelson, consider the following:

  • 73% of people care about the company, not just the product when making a purchase. (BBMG)
  • 50% of purchases are made because of word-of-mouth (Brains on Fire)
  • 85% of purpose-led companies showed positive growth (Harvard Business Review/EY)

In sum, purpose matter because it impacts your growth, revenue, and profit.

That’s why I interviewed Mack Fogelson (@mackfogelson), the CEO of Genuinely, a consulting and training company. I met Mack through a mutual friend and we’ve developed a friendship too. I’ve learned a lot about marketing with purpose and why it’s important to revenue growth and profit and I’m excited to share her thinking with you. You’ll also learn four steps to articulate your purpose.

Author’s Note: The transcript was edited for publication.

Mack, can you tell us a little bit more about your background?

Way long ago, I was a teacher and did that for a while. Then over the last fourteen years, I’ve been in the marketing space, so everything from building and coding websites to optimizing with search engine optimization and SEM to building community and brands and the full, integrated approach to marketing a company.

All of those layers have brought us to where we are now which is primarily teaching companies how to use these concepts, frameworks, and the processes that we’ve tested and know really work to grow their companies. We do this to ultimately help businesses in the digital age compete, contend, and build really great, meaningful and sustainable businesses.

What inspired you to focus on purpose and humanize marketing?

Around the time I started having my family, I just realized that if I was taking that time away from my kids that I really needed to make it count. I’ve built a business around something that has been very meaningful to me and for my employees. We started by helping companies be better. I started getting in the conversation about community many years back. When many marketers were talking about how to rank #1 in Google, I was talking a lot about the benefit of community and of businesses building a community to help their companies. What I didn’t realize at the time, but unfolded many years later, was that purpose was really at the heart of all of that: helping companies to understand how you bring people together through purpose and drive the organization’s growth.

You said that it’s not about what you spend on marketing; it’s purpose that helps you get focused. Why is that?

Because there is so much that has changed. The world isn’t the same. Businesses aren’t the same, and the way the business community works. Customers are not the same. So, we cannot expect marketing to be the same. Mainly we’re looking at consumers now. We expect authentic and very real and human experiences. And not only that but employees are looking for more meaning in their work just like I was many years ago.

It really comes down to the fact that it’s not about what your company sells or solves anymore, and certainly, you need to be incredibly stellar at what you sell and what you make, but it’s about who your business is. And really, it’s about the three components of purpose, people, and promise, and having those pieces work together for any given company so that they can reap all the benefits that purpose brings, like, customer acquisition and retention, customer connection, and employee satisfaction.

How can we overcome this disconnect and better connect with our customers?

Most companies are pushing their product and their services rather than really leading from what their business is here to do and bridging that gap between the purpose of the company and the people that are in line with that. So, when the conversation is about the product, there isn’t much of a conversation to be had.

Let’s say we’re just talking about Dove. They sell soap. But ultimately their aim is to help women feel good about their bodies. So, it’s the intersection of those things (selling soap and helping women feel good about their bodies); the cultural relevancy of attacking an issue like women’s self-image and body image and wanting actually to help solve that problem in our world is what has given Dove such incredible growth in their organization.

When the conversation shifts from being about the product to being about purpose it becomes something else entirely that drives growth because it’s the word of mouth that companies are looking for. And that doesn’t come through talking about a product; it originates from the connection that they have with the shared values and wanting to do something bigger. Not to say that they don’t generate significant profits from this path; it’s just a different way to it.

You’ve talked about why building an authentic and human company is necessary. So why should those in B2B marketing care about this?

Purpose is becoming more of a trendy topic; you see it everywhere and I think that’s the biggest disconnect. Companies think that, on the outside, if they market with purpose, they’re good; they’re safe. And maybe many companies are doing that. But if then the experience with your business is not real all the way to the core, then that’s where you’re going to have significant problems (think about recent events with companies like Uber, United, and Pepsi’s commercial fail).

Ultimately, in the day-to-day, companies want to know how do we achieve growth and how do we continue to acquire customers? How do we keep our customers? When your business is not looking at how to build a deeper connection with that customer (which comes from purpose and empathy as we’ve talked about) there is no connection. When you have no connection, you have no customers.

It’s really in applying the purpose to the day-to-day of the organization and understanding that it’s not just some visionary thing, but it’s about identifying your purpose and then making it relevant to your customers. It’s helping your teams understand what purpose is or isn’t. Many companies think it’s a PR approach or it’s a tag line, or it’s a mission or value statement. And that’s all great, but when it comes down to it, the purpose is really what does that mean to your customer who needs your product and wants to connect more deeply with your company?

Think about Patagonia: they’re selling a stellar product, but they’re also going deeper to say, “We are going to pioneer technology to make better clothing. And we’re going to reduce the impact of that on the environment. Then we’re going to give this technology to our competitors because if they have it, then we’re making a larger impact altogether.”

Companies need a purpose. Because they need to keep their employees; they need purpose to keep their customers, and ultimately there’s something bigger that their businesses are here to do, and it’s not an altruistic path. It’s a road to profit, it’s just, again, a different way of getting there.

Does empathy play a role in understanding your purpose and connecting with customers?

Definitely. One of the biggest things that we see is that companies lack the customer connection and, apparently, the connection to their purpose and any type of authentic or personal or empathetic connection to their customer.  Because they’re using data to make decisions (which they have a copious amount of) some companies just don’t know what to do with it anymore. Success is not in just analyzing your customer data or your audience data or the psychographic data that you get

Success is not in just analyzing your customer data or your audience data or the psychographic data that you get on your customers. It’s participating in one-to-one interviews with them to understand their behavior truly and, more accurately; knowing what they’re thinking and feeling. Because when you just get that digital data about your customer, it gives you some very quantitative benchmarks about the profile of these people, but it doesn’t tell you what they’re afraid of; it doesn’t say what they’re struggling with right now at this point in their lives.

Connecting with your customers on that one-to-one basis obviously opens up a huge conversation for understanding and empathizing with where they’re coming from. But then, by understanding that thinking and feeling, you can then shape your entire content strategy based on removing those roadblocks. And that is something I think ties into many things, in addition to purpose and empathy.

Brian: That’s where we were going to go next. I often talk to marketers who really don’t get to spend face time with the customers they’re looking to influence or reach outside their companies. I think the takeaway here is that marketers need to spend more time connecting with clients, not just through their channel of their sales team, but actually having these conversations and spending time practicing and using their empathy to do just that.

Technology is getting in the way of customer connection

Mack: You and I talk about this a lot with technology, and how everybody thinks that technology is a magic pill; they believe that there must be a tool or piece of technology or software that is going to help them build their customer base faster. The fact of the matter is that technology is part of the root of the problem in which companies need a purpose; they need empathy because they’re trying to solve these much deeper connection issues with their customers by using technology instead of speaking with their clients. Tools and technology can’t help you do that.

So, I think the companies that understand how to use technology wisely need to be able to use these tools at a certain level, even just to do a bunch of the heavy lifting and dirty work that we couldn’t take part in many years ago. But success is in taking that data and pairing it with the one-to-one participation in the flesh with these people to understand who they are, what they need really, and to help them get their roadblocks removed.

Brian: I agree with you.  The very thing that’s supposed to help us (this technology) connect with our customers more efficiently and effectively, is getting in the way of doing that. And so, to counteract that, or the counterpoint, is humanizing and putting more energy into that human connection so that when we do apply the technology, we’re using it well, and in a way that can help facilitate conversations and connections that we’ve already established.

Can you share any other tips or examples that our listeners can use to articulate their purpose? 

Mack:  There are four steps that would really help them understand “how do we even approach this conversation?” There are so many things that must be in line: strategy, leadership, and obviously, your product or service. But purpose greatly enhances the opportunity for success, especially in the digital age, especially regarding competitive advantages.

So just know, if you’re going to go down this road, that you don’t have to start all over, you don’t have to overhaul your entire organization. In fact, many companies that we work with, they just need an outside perspective to help them understand their systems and processes that they use to market and sell; they just need a little tweaking here and there and a reminder of “Hey, at this place is when you integrate purpose. At this place is when you really bring it back to the goals of the organization, wrapped with purpose.” Or, “You need to get to the customer in this place a little bit earlier.”

Four Steps to Articulate Your purpose

stepsStep 1: Clarify the purpose of the organization

We talked a little bit about Dove.  Their purpose is not to sell soap: their purpose is to help women feel better about their bodies. So that’s a big difference there.

Same with Chipotle. Their purpose is not to sell burritos: their purpose is to make food with integrity, and ultimately to pioneer food safety systems and help other fast food organizations to know that they can make great food and still make it healthy and good for our earth.

It’s kind of like understanding the difference between just a mission and the product that you’re selling and actually making the conversation about purpose. So, start there. If you’re at a loss as to how to do that, there are lots of resources online. And that is how you find your purpose. It’s not easy to do, but it’s certainly a place that will make you extremely relevant in your customer’s lives.

For more on this read: Ogilvy What’s the big ideaL and Evolve or Die: How Authenticity and Purpose are the Future of Brands.

Step 2: Deconstruct your customer’s journey

So, now I’m getting specific to sales, marketing, customer experience and those teams in your organization and understanding how to do this by talking to your customers. Just as I mentioned earlier, you definitely want to be looking at the customer data that you can collect digitally. Understand the audience data, the demographic data, psychographic data that you get. But that is typically where companies stop.

They build these personas and then they don’t go any deeper into actually spending face time with the customer. And that’s where all the good stuff is. That’s where you’re going to find connections, and that’s where you’re going to understand what your customers are thinking and feeling at every stage in your funnel so that you can generate resources, content, experiences that help to remove those roadblocks. So, that’s the second part, deconstructing that customer journey so that you can make that bridge between your purpose and your people.

Step 3: Connecting your team’s purpose to your organization’s purpose

The third step in getting purpose really well integrated into your organization is connecting your team’s purpose to your organization’s purpose. Ultimately, you have to know the purpose of your organization in its entirety to really understand why your organization, as a whole, exists beyond making money?

With your team: understand what role they play in achieving that purpose so that they can apply that more specifically to their day-to-day. That can go a really long way toward efficiency, output and morale, especially when your team is pushing hard and days are getting long. The meaning side of that really matters to them.

Step 4: Adjust the communication of your purpose externally

This very much directly applies to your sales and marketing and customer experiences team. They’re the most outwardly-facing, and they have the biggest responsibility in making sure that what is happening inside of your organization is also being effectively communicated outside, so customers know you’re not a façade; that purpose is not a veneer and that it’s truly how you operate inside and out.

You want to teach your sales and marketing team to understand the difference between having a product conversation and having a purpose discussion. When you make that shift to not just pushing your product, but to helping those teams understand the bigger purpose of your organization and how that connects to your customers, you’re opening an opportunity to connect with exponentially more people, more organizations, more influencers, more people in the media, more communities, who are either already your ideal customers, or they know somebody who could be.

For more on these steps, read: Why Your Organization is Getting Sales and Marketing Wrong

Brian:  Mack, that was fantastic. Thank you. You did a good job breaking down to four points, and I feel like this will be tangible for our listeners. We’ll also supply some resources and links for people to dig into these areas as well.

I wanted to ask what advice you would give to those who want to apply what you’ve just talked about and bring this idea to other leaders inside their company.

What if someone, is inspired by this idea – how can they get the conversation started inside their company?

Mack:  That’s a great question. I think it’s starting small. I believe that purpose as a concept seems very intimidating, especially to leaders, because they feel like “Oh my gosh, you’re talking about an entire organization overhaul, and we can’t even keep up with what we’re doing every day.”

It’s not really starting over, it’s just optimizing what you have, and better connecting it and communicating it so that your employees and your customers can understand it. So, I think it’s just starting small.

We typically start with a small purpose workshop. We’re talking maybe 45-60 minutes of helping companies understand what purpose is and what purpose isn’t.  Once they start the conversation I think it’s also to understand that purpose seems kind of fluffy, maybe, when you’re trying to hit your ROI and your metrics and the goals that you have financially for your team and for the organization. But it’s not fluffy. This is about growth. And in this day and age, this is the approach to growth.

But when you’re selling it to your leadership, it’s “We’re going to teach our sales, marketing, and customer experience teams how to remove roadblocks for our customers by connecting that purpose. And that, ultimately, is going to drive sales, it’s going to drive retention, it’s going to drive connections, and ultimately it’s going to drive our growth.”

Brian:  Terrific. What’s the best way for readers and listeners to get in touch with you?

Mack:  They can come to our website genuinely.co. or just come find me online. I’m on twitter at @mackfogelson most every day, happy to chat there.

Additional resources on purpose:

Why Your Organization is Getting Sales and Marketing Wrong

How Purpose and Authenticity are the Future of Brands

Winning with Purpose – EY

Purpose at Work – LinkedIn/Imperative

The Business Case for Purpose – Harvard Business Review [PDF]

You might also like:

How Empathy Will Grow Your Sales and Marketing Pipeline

4 Ways You Can Humanize Marketing and Build Relationships

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