Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Web Marketing Today. Practical Ecommerce acquired Web Marketing Today in 2012. In 2016, we merged the two sites, leaving Practical Ecommerce as the successor.
You want your customers to remember the essence of your company, not just its public face. Your brand is not your website look and feel, your logo, or even your snappy slogan. These help clarify your brand and make it more memorable for your customers. But they are only expressions of your company’s personality, not who you are. Who your company is and what it does must come from the inside. This is expressed in your core purpose.
Your Brand Starts with Defining Who You Are
Building a brand starts with defining what business you’re in and what is your core purpose. This definition or purpose is the basis of your brand, the inherent promise you are making to your customers.
Your purpose statement is often similar to a mission statement, though mission statements tend to expand on the core idea to explain customers, business methods, etc. Your purpose statement is also similar to your Unique Selling Proposition (USP), but it doesn’t have to state how you differ from other similar companies. Your business definition or purpose concisely states what makes you tick and what your organization exists to do.
Define Yourself Strategically, Not Functionally
What business are you in? Don’t define your purpose only by your current products or services. Rather, consider defining your company purpose in terms of what customer needs you meet. Western Union was founded in 1851 as a telegraph company. But it is still thriving in a world without telegrams because, in 1980, it started understanding itself a “money transfer” service: “Connecting friends, family, and businesses around the world.”
Formulating Your Business Definition
Crafting a concise definition of your business purpose may sound easy, but it takes some concentrated effort. Start by writing down your ideas, then keep refining them until you have perfected your purpose statement. Here are some guidelines to help you formulate your business purpose:
Reachable through effort. For example, the X-PRIZE Foundation, known for giving large cash prizes for accomplishments such as the first commercial spaceflight, defines its mission as: “To bring about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity.” As each of the prizes it offers is won, the foundation grows closer to reaching its purpose.
Memorable and simple. Disney is a huge, multi-faceted company, but its purpose is defined in six words: “Keeping alive the magic of childhood.” It is simple and memorable enough that everyone in the company can find it inspiring. Auction site eBay states as its purpose: “Pioneers communities built on commerce, sustained by trust, and inspired by opportunity.”
Customer-focused. It is one thing to do things well, but if you don’t satisfy a customer need, you won’t succeed in the marketplace. ActiveFilings.com developed as its purpose: “To provide business start-ups with affordable, fast, and convenient business formation and incorporation services.” Professional Development Institute “provides quality continuing education courses online to teachers across the globe.”
Broad enough to embrace changing core competencies. As technologies expand and marketplaces change, your company will need to change, too, so your purpose statement may need to be broadened. Several years ago, British Petroleum was focused on the oil industry. Then it shortened its name to “BP” and began to use the tagline, “Beyond Petroleum.” Why? Because it saw that it would need to become an energy company, not primarily an oil company.
Keeping Your Company Focus
Especially when capital is limited, as in most small businesses, a good business purpose statement can help every employee assess where the company should spend dollars or assign people based on what helps it best achieve its defined purpose. In general, if something doesn’t support your core purpose, it’s not worth the investment of time or money and could cause your business to lose its focus and momentum.
By defining and fine-tuning your business purpose, you are laying the foundation for a clear-sighted company and building a consistent brand.