Purpose-Driven Marketing for a Purpose-Driven Economy

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Aaron Hurst speaking at Fathom, 4.8.2014

Does your organization have a purpose? Does it shine through in your marketing? Do your customers feel it in their guts and believe in it? With a hat-tip to Aaron Hurst, founder of Taproot Foundation and author of The Purpose Economy, I’ve been inspired to add a marketing layer to what he calls “working with purpose” … you could call it marketing with purpose. (Original, right?)

The consensus of today’s marketing leaders is that the Web-driven shifts in the buying landscape give the intelligent marketer (or at least, the one who wants to survive) no choice but to be authentic and helpful. What does it mean to be authentic and helpful, and why should you behave this way? Essentially, by treating your audience as actual human beings instead of captive dollar signs, you increase the chances of getting their trust … or solidifying trust previously earned and converting it to enduring loyalty. In other words, the old ways of “push” marketing are dead, as regular readers of this blog already know. The sooner you accept this, the better off your business will be. And those on the front lines agree because the reality is the buyer has all the power

Let’s go back to Aaron Hurst and his new book, The Purpose Economy. In it, he argues that people’s desire for meaningful work, growth and community is changing not just individual workplaces, but the entire American economy. As millennials (most notably) follow paths of personal and social entrepreneurship, the workplaces that foster everybody’s growth and encourage workers to realize their purposes are the ones that ultimately motivate their best work and retain long-term loyalty.

OK, what does this have to do with marketing?

What is revelatory about applying Hurst’s concept of purpose to marketing is that in order for a business to cultivate long-term loyalty, it needs to give the buyer value—i.e., some kind of purpose beyond a simple thing or service. Indeed, consider the premise of Simon Sinek’s “golden circle”: The most successful companies/people are the ones that know why they are doing business and make that motivation clear to those who buy in. Their purpose (or why) matches your values; you believe what they believe. Hence, believing in their purpose makes you want to buy from them or buy into their ideas.

How do you actually apply this to marketing?
Simple: Integrate your organization’s purpose into all your communications. When engaging with customers, share your beliefs and tell stories of how your product/service enhances the lives of people just like them. Make them see what you see. Better still, make them feel what you feel … your passion for what you do, rooted in your organization’s mission and ideally reflected in the values of everybody that works there. By clearly conveying purpose (and thus appealing to a deep human force—the “lizard brain” that governs behavior), you make a customer’s buying decision almost automatic.

So, to borrow Sinek’s language again, bypass the rational and make your marketing biological by appealing to the limbic brain (the non-linguistic part) that governs decision-making. How? By conveying the why. By infusing your offering with purpose. How is a buyer going to feel about what you’re selling? How much will they value your values? The greater your values are shared, the more natural selling becomes.

Do you feel me now?

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