“But my business isn’t saving the planet so we don’t have a purpose.”
“I don’t think we can say we’re making people’s lives better, we’re just selling popcorn that tastes amazing.”
I hear things like this A LOT. This is how I respond:
Every business has a Purpose Story. For some, it’s clearer than others because they’re doing something meaningful like making reusable bottles out of ocean plastic, or creating a personal safety system to help everyone live safer lives. For other businesses, it’s not as clear because they’re not doing something that’s directly saving the planet and making people’s lives better.
Your Purpose Story is there, though. Trust me. It doesn’t have to be this big, world-changing narrative. It just needs to be the truth. Your truth. Your reason for being here and doing the work you do. Big or small, it’s still a Purpose Story. My job is to find it, pull it out and polish it up.
Let’s get a bit closer to the Purpose Story. Shall we?
A true Purpose Story is always active and that’s why it’s hard to identify sometimes. It’s there, moving around, doing the work. The real work. When you’re so close to it, it can be harder to see and easy to overlook.
Your Purpose Story is all about why you’re here doing the work you do. That’s it. Yep, that simple. It’s what you do everyday consciously and subconsciously. You wouldn’t have your business without it.
Think about it this way: maybe you started your business because you were passionate about something. That passion made you act and do something. That something is your purpose. Passion is form. Purpose is function.
Allow your purpose to guide your priorities. As a brand, never forget who you are and where you came from. You’re here for a reason. Be sure your customers know about it through your messaging, your campaigns and, above all, your positive action.
How to create your brand’s Purpose Story
Get clear on why you’re here doing the work you do. This will give you the confidence you need to communicate your Purpose Story.
Start by answering this question:
- Why does your business exist?
Happy with where you’re at with your answer? Cool. Let’s go a bit deeper into it.
- What does your business believe in?
- What does your business really care about?
Now you’ve started to think about why you exist, what the world needs and what you’re passionate about (no pressure!), it’s time to think about the most important component of all: your customers.
Because no Purpose Story is complete without getting your customers’ input, too. What it comes down to is your customers’ values and whether they’re aligned with your brand because THAT is the sweet spot. That’s when you start connecting deeper with hearts and minds.
An example of a Purpose Story in action
Say hello to Thursday. No, not the day. Not exactly, anyway. I’m talking about the dating app.
Get Thursday. Because there’s more to life than dating apps.
Thursday, for me, have completely nailed their Purpose Story and you can feel it in every one of their customer touchpoints. AND they haven’t even launched yet.
They’re here because of a real, deep truth. A truth that so many single people can relate to. THIS: Dating today fucking sucks. It sucks because it’s insanely time-consuming. It sucks because it’s not fun. It sucks because it feels embarrassing. “Why am I still single?” “Why does no one want me?” “What’s wrong with me?” Yeah, deep, emotional stuff. I hear this all the time from my single friends and boy, do I feel for them!
What have Thursday done differently to other dating apps? They’ve listened and they feel their customers’ pain. Yep, you’ve got it. The Empathy Story. Their Empathy Story made them want to take action. And that’s how they got to their Purpose Story.
Their Purpose Story starts with a question that I love: When did being single become a thing to be ashamed of? This question set the stage for how their business communicates and shows up in the world. They believe dating should be exciting and enjoyable for people. Not an everyday, mindless and meaningless chore.
They exist to make Thursday the most exciting day to be single, every week. They want to make Thursday a day singles look forward to because they get to chat and meet other singles.
Yeah, they can do this with Bumble and Tinder, but they feel like they’ve exhausted these apps. They’ve been on them for hours, DAILY. They feel like the people on these apps are time wasters. They need a positive voice in the dating world. A voice that gets where they’re at. Hello Thursday. The dating app that’s not available 6 days a week. Thank god for that. There really is more to life! The Purpose Story is intentional. Thursday are a great example of that.
How to apply your Purpose Story to your everyday marketing
Practically-speaking, here are some examples of how your Purpose Story can show up in your everyday marketing efforts:
- Organic social media content: Put your Purpose Story at the heart of your organic social strategy. Create the kind of content that creates a conversation — start by sharing your brand’s purpose in a short, simple post and ask your audience for their thoughts and suggestions. What do they believe in? How does your brand’s purpose relate to what’s important to them? Ask the important questions and listen hard to the answers.
- Website copywriting: Create a short video on your brand’s purpose and share it across social media. This can form part of your ‘Our Story’ or ‘About Us’ page. It doesn’t need to be high budget, either. It just needs to be clear, purposeful and personal. If it’s simply you recording yourself sharing your Purpose Story in a short and concise way, that counts. 60 seconds or less is the sweet spot.
- Blog post writing: Write a blog post about the story behind your brand’s purpose. One of Google’s earliest marketing tricks was creating a blog post called ’10 things we know to be true’ and inviting their readers to hold them accountable to the things they included. What can your version of this be? Be bold, be brave, be clear. That’s the best way to build a relationship with the people you exist for.
- Create regular purpose progress reports: Once you’ve shared your Purpose Story publicly — whether your purpose is a more of a brand-led initiative, like changing the way people consume vitamins, or planting a tree for every product sold — keep regularly updating your customers on your progress. You can do this via email or social media or both. Reboxed, a refurbished technology brand, do this really well with their tree planting updates. An easy and effective way of reminding people what you stand for and why you exist.
Before you go, remember: Purpose is always, ALWAYS active.
It’s conscious and it’s intentional.
It means, walking in a different direction.
It’s more that saying, “I’m sorry...”
It’s saying, “that is horrible.”
It’s saying, “this is the path we’re going to walk in together to fix it.”
Your Purpose Story is that active grasping and walking towards a
different future. And it has to be done together. You, your customers, your team, your partners and society.
Thank you for being here. I hope you enjoyed reading this piece.
Here’s a little bit about me…
I’m the co-founder of Make Us Care — a strategic creative partner for businesses doing good in the world. I work closely with founders, leaders and marketing teams to build brands people care about. My magic sauce is a communications framework I created called the 5 Stories.
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