If being important has never been so important, why aren’t we doing more?

Five tips for those languishing without purpose or worse, all talk and no action

In the never-ending march of consumer expectations, people expect more from businesses. A great product or service isn’t enough anymore. People need your business matter to them.

The benefit of showing you care is that people will care about you in return. They'll think about you more often, build longer relationships and tell others about you. Employees that feel part of something bigger share an infectious passion and energy. And you'll feel a force that focuses, aligns, and energises your company.

So, why not more action? Over the last few years, there’s been a lot of talk about brand purpose (or whatever you call it), most of which feels like it fuels inertia. While many companies are on the journey, few are making real progress. Some send up a firework and then forget all about it.

Two reasons there’s little action

The first is communication. Gallup uncovered a staggering fact – less than half of employees know what differentiates their company. And Tenet Partners reported that only 28% of employees strongly agree they know their company's brand values. It feels hard to believe that three-quarters of a workforce don't know or share values when they matter so much. After all, it is people who deliver purpose and build a reputation.

Secondly, without an activation plan, you'll never become more important to people. Only 10% of companies with a purpose have an activation plan, so if you don't, you're not alone. We all know actions speak louder than words, and a heart-warming statement on its own will never be enough. If you don't change your behaviour, don't expect anything to change.

As with so much, it comes down to people, inside and outside the organisation. Inspire them, move them and take them with you by involving them in the ambition, making it meaningful and actionable with moments and experiences they’ll want to be part of.

Make more of an impact

1. Reframe Your Audiences – of course, customers are important, but they're not the only ones who need you to matter. Employees and suppliers matter too. So do communities. Think about your broadest set of stakeholders. Think about your role in society. Whose lives can you make better, and who can stand with you and help you do that?

2. Find Your Advantage – every business we've worked with, from printers to financial services, has something special. Sometimes it is buried deep. It’s worth mining for – whether it’s from your origins, your values or your passions, what you care about will make others care about you.

3. Align Ambitions – is everyone on the same page, with the same agenda? A focused and aligned organisation aiming at the same destination is powerful. You’re seeking a set of well-communicated values that energise people.

4. Actions Over Words – while finding your purpose is half the battle, it’s worthless if it only exists as a set of words on a wall or in a PowerPoint deck. Look at what changes can be made to your products and services, what initiatives you can create and what partnerships you need to make it real.

5. Start Small. Inertia follows when we try and do everything at once. Take the first few steps, see what sticks, refine and roll out. I believe the reason so few get around to activating their purpose is down to dwelling on how big (and scary) it is.

Priorities have been shifting for a while. Edelman found that 71% agree they'll lose trust in a brand forever if businesses put profits over people. The pandemic has added further clarity around what matters to us and what we value.

We all know customers don’t wait, and the way to keep up is to simply get started. To make a real difference to your business, find time to re-discover and reignite what you stand for. Then create initiatives that turn words into actions. Because when you rise above the clatter of ‘business as usual’, you'll make your business more important to the people that matter to you.

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