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The why factor

April 26, 2017
I recently purchased a dining table that had been refurbished from an old door found in a landfill. Once I read how the craftsman was passionate about reducing landfill waste, and would scour old construction sites to find materials, I was compelled to engage. There was an image on the merchants’ website of a man rummaging through a massive mound of debris. And next to it, another image of beautiful slab of wood that had been cleaned, sanded and meticulously buffed, soon to become a crafted piece of furniture. I found myself thinking about the time and care being put into this table….and realized I was caught up in the story, and I wanted to be a part of it. Without any hesitation I made the purchase.

The point being, whether we want to admit it, emotions drive our purchase decisions. And, when we are evoked emotionally, we become more engaged with “why” we are buying over “what” we are buying. As people, and consumers, we are becoming more conscious about our basic need to be a part of something that reaches beyond ourselves. Having a more meaningful connection with the things we buy is driving share of wallet for consumers and businesses alike.

A lot of B2B companies do a great job at coming up with aspirational mission statements and even participate in philanthropic activities. But what most B2B companies overlook is a shared purpose with their customers and employees, that embodies their core existence beyond just profits – they miss connecting the “why” factor.

A recent article, Why Purpose-Driven Companies Are Often More Successful, points out what those businesses that are successful have in common; “the pursuit of purpose, behind the pursuit of profits.” Those companies, regardless of how small or large, that have a “mission-driven” purpose have stronger engagement with their customers. Often times, it has nothing to do with a products’ features and benefits… but rather a vision of making something better for the greater good.

Businesses are seeing the benefits (and profits) by becoming more “purpose-driven” by enacting positive change in our world. This is not something you add to your annual marketing plan to boost morale or drive the next campaign. Becoming “purpose-driven” runs far deeper, and it begins by listening – to your employees and to your customers.

Customer engagement is fostered by employee engagement. When employees are a part of the greater purpose of the company, they create a more positive culture and mindset which then reflects outward to your customers. Employees are more productive, and more loyal when they feel like they are working towards a greater cause. And when employees are inspired by their mission, they find more meaningful ways to engage and connect with their customer audiebonnces []. With so much focus for businesses to increase customer engagement and drive sales revenues, it may be a good time to evangelize your company mission from within.

I like how Mark Boncheck [] highlights the three stages that companies take to becoming purpose-driven:

  • A purpose to, which is the value proposition for the company. This is where most organizations are.
  • A purpose for, which highlights the good corporate citizenship, and what it does good in the world and telling everyone about it. This is better.
  • And third, a purpose with. This is the true shared purpose that includes both employees and customers, and that speaks to a higher purpose. One that goes beyond profits for the company, but makes a difference of some kind.

The dining table I purchased has since become a conversation piece. Not only because of the unique look, but also the story behind how it was made. And most importantly, the purpose behind it. Inevitably, when I talk about the table, the conversation turns into a discussion around the amount of waste we create every day, or what other things can be repurposed rather than tossed into the garbage. Intentionally or not, there becomes a heightened awareness, and the start of a shared purpose.

Each and every one of us can exert an influence to effect meaningful change for the better – even while at work.

Written by: Theresa Guerra, Solution Consultant, Infor CX

If you would like to read more on how to create change within your organization, the book “For Goodness Sake: Satisfy the hunger for meaningful business” [], describes in detail three key areas that effect change for the better: purpose, brand, and culture.
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