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Leading with a Purpose

October 23, 2020


Leading with a Purpose

Our organizations have been asked to step up to the plate over and over again this year. In times of uncertainty, people look to entities they trust—whether those are people or brands or companies.

And, as brands, we’ve had to show our customers that their trust isn’t misplaced. We’ve been asked to show leadership in so many different areas this year: safety, health, community. The list goes on and on.

Most of us have met this challenge head-on. We've realized how important it is for us to show our customers how to get involved with their community or how they can be safe when they visit us in person.

Now, we’re needing to step up to the plate again to help our customers—and our team members—stay safe and healthy through what might be a long winter.

As we enter this moment, we need to think about leading with a purpose. What do we want to accomplish? What do we want our customers to take away from our leadership?

Why Leaders Must Have a Purpose

Our customers have looked to us for leadership precisely because they trust us. Our purpose gives us a goal or destination—or a framework to operate from and deliver to.

For some organizations, their purpose is profit and they work hard at simply marketing a purpose that may be seen as giving back.

Leading from a higher purpose, means there’s something deeper. There’s a raison d’etrethat makes the company unique. Google and Apple are both profitable companies. But if profit was the purpose, then Google’s “don’t be evil” mantra wouldn’t have lasted as long as it did.

Google’s purpose is leveraging technology to make everyday tasks easier. Google’s search engine, their very first product, made searching the Internet better, easier, faster. Finding what you need to know—or want to know—is simpler when you use Google.

We can see that in more recent products, like the company’s foray into self-driving cars. How much better and easier would it be to hop in a car and let it drive itself? You could relax, read a book, look out the window at the scenery. Would there also be fewer traffic jams and accidents? Can self-driving cars make driving smarter, faster, easier, and greener?

Google thinks maybe! And that attitude—optimism and faith in what tech can do to make our lives easier—is the guiding light for the company.

That’s leadership with a purpose then. Google wants to develop cutting edge technologies to make everyday life better.

Finding Your Purpose

You might be a Google-esque company, seeking new ways to make life better for people. Maybe you’re interested in computer technology, or you’re working with biotech. Maybe you’re designing an app that helps people manage their mental health. You might run self-improvement classes. Or maybe you’re focused on helping our customers access healthier foods or adopt a vegan diet.

Our interest might be in community and connection. There’s no shortage of purposes our companies can embody. The question is always about making sure we know our brand’s purpose inside out.

For many companies and brands…the essence of our brands may be consciously invisible to us. These companies may have been around for so long and changed brand managers every few years, such that the higher purpose may simply be unclear or lost. Start-ups may have been built from a feeling or personal passion, without really understanding the overall benefit. In both examples, talk to your best customers about why they buy? Learn the holistic and deep benefit that they are seeking to have fulfilled by you. That is the best way to get to the essence and most direct way to build trust and loyalty.

What Does Leadership with a Purpose Look Like?

Remember that our best customers are often more aware of our brand’s essence than we are ourselves. They know why they buy from us. They know what our brand gives them that no other brand does. It might be comfort or a feeling of confidence. Whatever it is, our customers look to us because they trust us to provide that intangible consistently. These are our most valuable customers!

All touchpoints must continue to honour and deliver what our customers expect. If we don’t, then we’ll damage the foundation of our relationship ….the trust our customers have in us.

It does not take long… one bad customer service call or no refund or credit and our customers realize we’re only in this for a quick buck. They feel we don’t care about them—just their wallets. In turn, they do not trust, worse they can quickly shift and advocate against our brands.

By contrast, when we lead with purpose, we inspire our customers and prove that they were right to trust us. If we’re community-minded, then we give back to our customers, our employees, and our communities. We tell our customers how we’re getting involved and what we’re doing to make our communities better places. And we tell them how they can get involved too!

Or maybe we’re a company that’s concerned about the environment. We tell our customers what we’re doing to make the planet greener. We tell them how their support helps, and we hold events like waste collection, clean-up efforts, or even tree planting.

Leaders should always lead by example. When we know our purpose, it’s easy to align our actions with that purpose. In turn, we show and prove our purpose to our customers. In turn, they continue to trust that we’ll meet their needs. They also feel good about trusting us.

Purpose and Trust Go Hand-in-Hand

When we lead with purpose, we’re rewarding our customers for their trust in us.

It’s easy for people to be skeptical of brands, and today’s consumers are more skeptical than ever. They’ve seen that, too often, companies they trusted turn out not to live up to the ideals they talk about. Our customers put a lot of emotion into their relationships with our brands. When we don’t live up to our values, we’re betraying that emotional investment.

Take a look at Hootsuite’s recent brush with consumer trust. The company was poised to sign a three-year deal with ICE in the US. Employees had already been vocal that the deal didn’t align with Hootsuite’s stated values.

When the company didn’t respond, employees took to social media. The backlash was swift. Customers felt Hootsuite was talking up its “values” but not acting on them. People began cancelling their accounts with the company.

Hootsuite reevaluated the deal and decided it didn’t align with their values. They cancelled it. But the damage has likely been done for some customers. The company showed signs that they were chasing the almighty dollar at the cost of their values and their people’s values. How can customers trust that the company will do the right thing in the future? Fool me once, right that’s on you….fool me twice….well you know that saying!

Some customers won’t come back to Hootsuite after this. Their trust is broken. Others may continue to work with the company for the time being, but they’ll be leery about it. Another scandal—however minor—could see them decide to fly the coop.

Trust is what keeps our customers with us. When we let them down, they’re understandably disappointed and betrayed. They wonder why they gave us their time, their energy, and their money.

Long-term and loyal customers are more valuable—and less expensive than acquiring new customers. Decisions today, even internal decisions can be made shareable and public. There is no room anymore to think short-term at the risk of misaligning to the values or bedrock of a company or its brands. The risk is your most valuable customers AND employees. Don’t get distracted. See what is valuable in the business and honour it.

So maintaining trust is paramount to the health and sustainability of a business. In a world that’s so uncertain, people need to know who they can look to for leadership. When we lead with a purpose, we’re in a much better position to fulfill the needs of our customers.

And our purpose always comes from the brand essence. So start with the why!


Meet Margo…brand visioning & marketing

Margo Jay is a Master Brand Strategist with a career leading globally recognized brands; developing and launching a proven model that maximizes competitive sales potential and consumer appeal. She has built the model to help companies of all sizes. Her Client roster includes entrepreneurs through to Fortune 100 brands: NHL teams, Global QSR brands, CPG brands, Broadcast brands, Agencies, Non Profit brands, Hard goods…this model and process provides competitive advantage in any category.

Complete clarity. Ownable distinct selling proposition. Shared values. Brand Clarity. Brand Focus. Brand Inspiration. Brand Obsession. Unlocking brand potential is what she does.

And it all starts with why!

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