Carl B. Forkner, Ph.D.
This is the final part of a multi-part Blog series on strengthening your team by building on thoughts from experts. The foundation for these articles derives from comments made by writers in the Harvard Business Review over the years to which I add my expertise and experience.
You may have heard of the “What’s Your Why?” assessment that can help individuals discover their purpose and vision through a reliable, live evaluation. But beyond that, one must realize that defining a purpose–a mission–is essential in both personal and professional contexts. But none of that matters if your purpose lacks relevancy to the evolving world, workplace, or marketplace. You must be focused both outside as well as inside in order to maintain relevancy. And then, once you have a purpose and established that it is relevant, you must tell your story through both traditional and emerging modes of communication.
PURPOSE. One of the most important tenets of purpose–or a mission statement–is that it has to be expressive enough to promote your company while being simple enough that every person in the organization or company can remember it, understand it, and promote it. But the purpose goes beyond the concept of a tagline–it is the single idea that defines your company or organization; it provides embodiment of the company or organization’s reason for existing.
There are simple steps to discovering true purpose; well, at least they seem simple until you add a diverse group of employees and stakeholders who each have their own belief in what the mission–purpose–should be. That being said, the place to start is by collecting data and then brainstorming with your senior leadership to hone in on the purpose. Once that is established, carefully craft it into a single sentence–a memorable sentence that can permeate the company or organization. Don’t be acceptable, meeting standards, or nondescript in terms of quality. Strive to be the best, the most, the leader, or something that shows an understanding of the potential future–innovative, revolutionary, or ahead of its time. It does not have to be flashy, colorful, or flowery–but it must be memorable.
RELEVANCY. Where does your brand fit in? Where is it going? How does it get there? Some of those questions get answered when you establish your purpose–or mission. It is essential to be in tune with the emerging marketplace and the product or service needs of your consumer base–or projected consumer base. Too many companies–especially SMBs–double-down and entrench themselves in their current and traditional practices in development and marketing.
So…now you have done your market research, matched your purpose with a prospective market sector, and are ready to convey your message through marketing. That’s right–your message, not your product or service…in today’s marketplace [and that of at least the near future] products and services are no longer what is presented to consumers. Today’s consumers want solutions to help them address their needs and wants. To meet the demands of the evolved–and evolving–marketplace, companies and organizations need to have a common thread pulling through the entire end-to-end process from purpose to relevance to message.
TELL YOUR STORY. From traditional marketing methods to new and avant garde and everywhere in between, you must understand what platforms are most likely to reach your target consumers/customers/clients. A quarter-century ago this was relatively easy because the technology revolution had not yet emerged; today, however, the choices for channels, media, and platforms are numerous and diverse–no longer a one-size-fits-all set of marketing tools. And then, let’s take this one step further–not all of the media and platforms will (or can) tell your story the same way! Confused yet? many people are–and yet, many of those people do not step into learning about the new media and platforms available to them, making assumptions on functionality as though they were using the platforms as a personal user…no, they differ greatly!
Many marketing professionals are slow to understand the vast differences of online marketing–especially social media–when compared to traditional marketing methods. The primary differences include:
Cost. Online and social media marketing are substantially less expensive–often in terms of pennies on the dollar–than traditional marketing methods.
Targeting. Social media marketing allows targeting of different prospective customer demographics using media that is most preferred by that demographic instead of trying to cover every geographic area with the hopes that your potential customers will see it. Combined with geographic targeting, social media’s multi-layer targeting capability saves money by getting your message in front of the right people.
Style. Print media can present nice color images…but that’s it…images. Using online and social media platforms provides the ability to use slideshows and videos to transmit your message, optimizing the psychology of human communication retention far beyond the written word or static image; and if you are after Millennials and youth for marketing your solutions, then you need to understand that they grew up with moving images and messages from the time they got their first crib.
Engagement. Today’s media platforms are designed to encourage two-way engagement as opposed to the one-way messages of traditional media. When customers–and prospective customers–reach out to engage from your online and social media sites, you must be ready to respond and engage with those customers.
So, what is your company or organization’s story? Why is it unique and what makes it appeal to your selected demographic of potential customers? Are you transmitting your message with a common thread that passes through the solution being marketed all the way back to your purpose? How consistent is your message, both in meaning and timeliness?
All these questions–and more–are important to answer. Once they are answered, use all the tools at your disposal. Craft your message to optimize your message on specific media and platforms so that you take advantage of each platform’s unique capabilities. Use the latest technology to share your message; making it available to be accessed across a variety of hardware and software platforms helps it reach a higher percentage of your prospective demographic. Ensure that you use coordinated touch points across all media and platforms so that your message is not ambiguous, but consistent and easily understood.
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Harvard Business School. (2011). Management tips from Harvard Business Review. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.