How to bring more purpose into your marketing.
In a crowded market, B2B brands need to be clear about the qualities that differentiate their offerings and their organisations. Traditionally, brands have focused on attributes such as price, quality, service and agility. While these remain important selling points, there has been a shift in the way that buyers evaluate brands – with many expecting organisations to operate more ethically and responsibly, with a focus on the greater good rather than just the bottom line.
In this context, a marketing strategy based on cost-effectiveness or flexibility may not be enough to earn customers’ attention, trust and loyalty. A more relevant B2B marketing approach is to focus on brand qualities that these customers value – and to build relationships based on shared beliefs, causes and passions. This has given birth to a new movement called purpose-driven marketing.
What is purpose-driven marketing?
This is a marketing model that focuses on purpose as a key differentiator. It digs deeper than the features and benefits of the solutions being sold, to highlight the positive impact that these offerings – and the organisation behind them – can have on the industry, community or environment.
A company could, for example, shine a light on the fact that all products are ethically sourced, fairly traded or designed to support environmental sustainability, or that the company is actively closing the gender gap within its organisation and the industry as a whole. Purpose-driven marketing may also focus on a charity that the enterprise actively supports through a corporate social responsibility project.
These are just a few examples and purpose means something unique to every organisation. That said, it is important to understand that purpose is outward-looking rather than inward-looking – towards the positive impact that the organisation and its customers can make when they work together towards a common goal.
Why is purpose important to customers?
When marketing focuses on purpose, customers are able to relate to the brand in a new and powerful way, because there’s an instant connection – based on a shared belief or goal. Moreover, a strong purpose appeals to customers on both an emotional and a rational level, which provides a very solid foundation on which to build a relationship. It’s also something that remains relevant as this relationship evolves.
A team of researchers at the Economist discovered that 79% of millennial consumers prefer to purchase products from a company that operates with a social purpose (1). This highlights that purpose is a strong selling point; and one that can give your organisation a clear competitive advantage.
Does this matter in a B2B context?
Purpose-driven marketing makes complete sense in the B2C environment, where customers are free to make buying choices based on their personal principles. But is this approach relevant in the B2B field?
We believe it is. It’s essential to remember that B2B marketing is still aimed at people. There are human beings involved in every B2B procurement and purchase decision – and these individuals do not check their emotions and values at the door.
At the same time, every organisation is part of the broader community and has a valuable role to play as a responsible corporate citizen. Today, corporate greed at the expense of society and the environment is an issue that the public and media will no longer tolerate. Companies are under greater scrutiny than ever before and need to ensure that they have and demonstrate credible brand values. They can’t afford to associate with suppliers or partners that aren’t 100% ethical – or this may lead to reputational damage, dwindling customer trust and a loss of business.
In this context, many companies are actively looking to do business with other companies that have and demonstrate a purpose – in order to protect their own good standing in the market and ultimately, their business resilience.
But how do you cut through the clutter and connect with your B2B customers on a purpose-based level?
Here are our recommendations:
Identify your purpose
The first step is to clearly define your organisation’s purpose. What sets your business apart, how are you helping your customers to achieve their purpose, and what positive impact does your offering have on your community or environment? This needs to be an enterprise-wide process, not one that happens in the marketing department alone. Everyone needs an opportunity to share their opinions, so that you can all agree on the purpose that holds you all together as an organisation.
Is it relevant to your customers?
Your purpose could be very admirable, but if it is not a purpose that resonates with your customers, it is unlikely to provide a strong foundation for relationship building. It may be as simple as reviewing the way you’re framing your purpose. Are you focusing on how you can make a difference in your customers’ operating environment, or just your own? Your purpose needs to be meaningful in your customers’ business context.
Make your purpose clear
Once your organisation has clearly defined your purpose, you need to clearly communicate this to your target market. Instead of just stating your mission and vision on your corporate website, let your purpose guide all your marketing messaging and conversations with customers. This way, you can clearly and consistently position your brand in the market – shaping the way your customers perceive your organisation. Be the business that stands for something clear and concrete.
Is your purpose genuine?
If there is not a clear connection between your business and your purpose, customers may be cynical. Your purpose needs to be at the core of your business model – at the very heart of how you operate and serve your customers. Customers are looking for authenticity. It’s therefore essential that you go beyond “talking the talk” and make sure that your actions and conduct are purpose-led. Otherwise, your marketing strategy could end up doing more harm than good to your brand reputation and customer relationships.
Monitor your impact
In addition to authenticity, customers also value transparency and openness. You can’t, therefore, claim that your organisation is making a difference unless you’re able to prove your positive impact by putting the necessary checks and balances in place. At the Cannes Festival of Creativity in 2017, for example, an impressive 47% of Grand Prix and Gold Lions winners were awarded for purpose-led marketing campaigns. However, 60% of these organisations did not measure the societal impact of their campaigns. Without monitoring and evaluating your purpose-driven initiatives, you won’t know whether you are making a positive difference (or even heading in the right direction). How can you expect your customers to believe you? When you gauge your progress, however, you can back up your claims and also use the intelligence gained to adjust your approach where necessary to maximise your positive impact (2).
More than just a marketing strategy
On a practical level, a purpose-led marketing strategy gives your marketing efforts a clear focus. On a deeper, more cultural level, a strong sense of purpose can bring meaning to every role in the organisation, keeping everyone more motivated and inspired to give of their best.
At a time when companies are under extreme pressure to deliver more valuable and meaningful customer experiences, an enterprise-wide focus on purpose could be the solution so many companies are looking for. Research conducted by the Customer Experience Excellence Centre reveals that only a small number of UK-based firms managed to offer exceptional customer experiences during 2017. The overall UK Customer Experience Excellence (CEE) score fell from 7.33 in 2016 to 7.08 in 2017, with a mere 8% of brands managing to improve their scores year-on-year (3).
What can companies do differently? How can they improve the experiences that they are offering their customers? According to Adrian Clamp, UK Head of Customer Advisory at KPMG, successful brands “have clear customer strategies and ensure customer experience design is delivered by connecting and integrated marketing, sales and service operations”.
If you do choose to pursue a purpose-led marketing strategy, it’s clear that you need to be sure that it’s a purpose that every employee across your business shares. This way, you’ll be able to deliver the outcomes and make the positive impact that your customers expect you to.
Power your purpose with the human touch
Inviting customers to work with you towards a common purpose involves building a relationship that is based on more than just a business transaction. Human interaction, over the phone or face to face, provides the opportunity to create a more personal connection with each customer, so that you can engage them in a conversation and discover what they truly care about and whether your purpose means something to them.
The Economist study mentioned earlier found that 73% of executives believe consumers are increasingly basing their perceptions of companies on the “humanness” of their corporate character. When conducted well by experienced agents, phone-based contact allows you to show the human side of your organisation, enabling you to build relationships with each customer through unscripted, authentic conversations.
In a B2B context, a flexible and data-led channel such as telemarketing, allows you to target key individuals within your most valuable accounts and introduce them to your organisation and your purpose. These human-to-human interactions allow you to convey your brand values (and passion for them) in a more emotive and compelling way than you would be able to via other channels, such as email or automated chat – which add value in the broader marketing mix but feel too impersonal in the context of communicating something as poignant as your purpose.
Moreover, by capturing the voice of the customer through research, you can monitor and evaluate the relevance and efficacy of your purpose-led initiatives. You can then use the insights gained to refine your marketing strategy and even adjust your offering to better suit customers’ expectations.
In all these ways, it’s possible to build a powerful B2B marketing strategy based on purpose. However, the success of this approach will hinge on your ability to position, communicate and live up to this purpose in your day-to-day interactions with customers.
To achieve this, you need to ensure that you have the capacity to deliver an authentic customer experience that is aligned to the values that you share. Through voice contact, you can highlight the “humanness” of your brand, position your purpose in a way that is meaningful and genuine, and create personal connections that allow you to delve deeper and make sure that you understand your customers’ expectations and values thoroughly enough.
To find out how we can help you communicate your purpose, get in touch today.