Over the past several decades, there have been a myriad of books written and talks given on how to grow your business, improve your marketing, increase sales performance, etc. Some of those lessons are good. Some are useless. I certainly don’t want to take the arrogant position that everything ever written or spoken prior to this post is garbage and that I’ve cracked the proverbial code that now transcends all previous sales and marketing strategies. That being said, the following is not just my opinion; rather, these are common strategies among successful organizations boiled down into three critical elements which guarantee results if executed effectively.
As you read, keep in mind that the key is not just to have these three elements, but to effectively communicate these elements to the world.
Element #1: Company “Why”
In Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why, he outlines many reasons why people don’t buy what you do – They buy why you do it. There is a neurobiological reason for this. As humans, we make decisions with the limbic system of the brain, and we make them emotionally and instinctively. The vast majority of companies today communicate what they sell, not why. It has to be larger than the money they can make. Revenue is simply a positive side effect of operating effectively.
As an example, let’s look at Toms Shoes. Their entire mantra is “One for One.” Founder Blake Mycoskie was deeply moved by the fact that as he traveled, he encountered so many children around the world who didn’t have shoes. He created his company’s purpose around helping those children. Now, for every pair of shoes his company sells, they donate a pair to a child in need. His company has experienced tremendous sales growth. People emotionally connect with his “why,” and because we all need shoes at some point, wouldn’t you rather feel like you’re helping contribute to a global cause? That makes you never want to go to Dick’s or Famous Footwear to buy shoes again, doesn’t it?
It doesn’t really matter what your company sells. If they don’t tap into the “why” first and foremost, you will limit the engagement of your employees and your customer base. In his book Grow, Jim Stengel found that over a decade period starting in 2000, companies that understood their “why” grew at a much faster rate than their peer group.
Your company’s “why” needs to focus on one (or two at most) of the following purpose-driving categories.
- It brings Joy to people
- It evokes Pride in people
- It creates Connection for people
- It encourages Exploration in people
- It improves Society in a tangible way
Here are a few companies that have tapped into the power of purpose; Coke=Joy, Mercedes Benz=Pride, Starbucks=Connection, Google=Exploration, Tom’s Shoes=Improving Society. There are many others, but you have the idea by now.
Element #2: Brand “Why”
Many companies don’t understand element #1 above, leaving them without a true roadmap on how to do marketing the correct way. Marketing is all about understanding who your customers are, what motivates them to buy, and how your solution solves their problem. Once you know those three things, you must create an emotional connection with that audience and build authentic trust with your brand. How do we do that? By creating a brand purpose.
Your brand purpose is your brand “why”. It generally flows out of your company “why”. Step one is to determine whether you are a “branded house” or a “house of brands”. An example of a “branded house” would be BMW. Their purpose category is joy. In fact, their entire marketing campaign is laser focused on “the joy of driving.” They allow the house to be the brand i.e. BMW. Yes, they have the 3, 5, and 7 series vehicles, but everything revolves around the house brand. They know their category and they know their brand purpose. In this case, the company “why” and the brand “why” are the same. An example of a “house of brands” would be Procter & Gamble. They have a company brand but primarily communicate to the market through individual brands. Pampers, Tide, NyQuil are just a few of their brands. Each brand has to have its own purpose and shouldn’t be too far off from the company purpose for consistency. Once you know your brand’s purpose (or as we call it, your “brand driving purpose”), you can begin to create messaging that speaks directly to your customers’ emotional “buying” brain with laser focus.
I know you may be thinking that this strategy works well for consumer brands but not for business to business (B2B) companies. That’s absolutely not true. It’s simply a case of B2B companies not generally having the sophistication and knowledge on how to do this compared to the high profile marketing budgets of consumer retail companies. EVERY company needs to have a company “why” and brand “why.” There is no exception if you want to truly create trust with your market.
Element #3: Personal “Why”
When you look at the Fortune 100 list of top companies to work for, you generally see a consistent theme: The employees of those companies believe strongly in the purpose of the organization. I had the privilege of working at Genentech for most of my corporate career, and we were consistently in the top ten companies to work for. Why? Because the employees there knew our “why”. It was to create novel therapies to treat unmet medical needs. In some cases, we were literally curing cancer. Our “brand driving purpose” category was clearly to improve society. Now, it’s one thing to have a great company “why” and brand “why” but if you don’t understand your own personal “why”, then all you can ever do is try to use your company’s credibility to connect with customers.
What it all comes down to is the individual, especially in B2B. People tend to want to buy from people, not companies. That being said, we know emphatically through research that the number one driver of sales is trust. Trust is an emotion that happens at the subconscious level. How does one develop trust? You must first make a genuine connection. Guess what? I don’t connect with the facts and figures of your products or services. I don’t connect with your ten year track record of success and awards. I don’t connect with your resume of respected companies you’ve worked with. I connect with people who believe what I believe. I connect with people who come across with authenticity, humility and honesty. I connect with people that are real. The only way to come across as real is to be real. You must have a personal “why.”
Why do you do what you do? It can’t be for the money. Again, like with the company “why”, the money is a result of effectively executing the “why” before the “what.” What universal beliefs do you possess that I will connect with? Why are you trustable, and where did you learn that from? What’s the story behind your “why”? We teach clients to communicate their personal “why” in 90 seconds in a way that’s emotional, visual and experiential. It’s powerful. If you want to know why I do what I do, read my profile.