I’ve always joked that marketing is a not missionary position! There is truth in comedy. Marketing is about preaching to the already converted. Your job is to attract people who believe what you believe.
Too many businesses focus resources on marketing individual products and services. While that is certainly important to a degree, products will change over time. By contrast, movements – commitments to unwavering beliefs and values – have longevity. A better, bigger, and bolder marketing goal is to create a movement based on your values.
Movements are Built from the Inside-Out
A movement requires that businesses assess what they stand for in the world. You have to be really clear on who you are, on what’s important to you, and what you value. IBM, for example, values contributing to a smarter planet where technology can change lives, build better governments and even reduce food spoilage – and thus hunger. Grasshopper.com is committed to improving the lives of entrepreneurs who create jobs and change the world. How the company does that is with phone solutions. While products will evolve, the company is grounded in what it stands for and why it exists. Tony Hsieh of Zappos.com says, “You must think bigger than your product and your company.” He’s right.
TOMS Shoes is a One-for-One company. Its marketing is a movement. They may sell shoes and glasses today; what people buy into is a larger story about making the world better. When you buy a product, another product is given to a child in need. Patagonia believes in exploration and in pushing one’s physical limits, and it also believes that these human heights are compatible with stewardship of the environment.
Competitors will compete on products and features; a larger story that creates a movement offers customers something bigger that inspires greater loyalty. There is value in belonging to a movement. When you share values with your customers, your relationship is deepened.
The Advantages of Movements
Movements attract the right customers. Product life cycles are getting shorter and shorter, especially in technology. Movements built on common ideals are more sustainable because you attract people who share those values rather than customers who are looking for deals, cheap stuff or simply what’s ‘cool’ at the time. While movements certainly evolve, standing for nothing in a world of change is a good way to be lost in the dizzying morass of customer choices today. When you offer your customer choices based on commitments to something bigger than your company, you connect them to something meaningful and that inspires greater loyalty. In my business, I am committed to marketing that is honest and human – and that means no hype, jargon and BS. This commitment also acts as a powerful litmus test for me. Organizations that don’t value people – employees or customers – and thus don’t share my values aren’t customers I want. Conversely, if they believe what I believe, they are likely attracted to my message. That’s as it should be. The power of a movement is that it attracts people who already value what you do.
Movements help allocate resources. Companies that clearly know what they stand for are better able to channel resources into right things and say no to the things that don’t fit. Movements based on clearly defined values act as a strategic GPS for where the company is heading. Anything that compromises or doesn’t fit with those values is not something that merits an investment in finite resources.
Movements cut through noise and provide strategic direction. When you know your values from the inside out, you have clarity on your ‘why story.’ Companies that don’t know what they stand for have no story to tell the world. Look at Yahoo! (or should I say, Ya-Who?!) or HP today. It’s no coincidence they aren’t doing well. When you don’t have a great story to tell the world and don’t know what you stand for, how can you create a strategy to get there? Your values operate as a Northern Star that never changes, providing clarity and direction.
Be the ‘Keeper of the Flame’
Movements signal purpose in the world, and your job is to be the keeper of that flame – that deep commitment to purpose that is bigger than your products and your company.
When you know your larger story, you are not as susceptible to customer demands that don’t fit. The problem with defining your values from the outside-in (instead of inside-out) is that customers will come and go, and they are not created equal. If your ideals change constantly based on what others’ value, you are chasing markets that will always change.
Marketing is dynamic; and while many things change, your core ideals shouldn’t. That’s one constant that the right kind of customers – those who share your values – can always count on.