Abraham Maslow, a psychologist, “wanted to understand what motivates people. He believed that people possess a set of motivation systems unrelated to rewards or unconscious desires” (Simple Psychology). He developed a five stage model separated into a foundation of basic needs (e.g. physiological, safety, love, and esteem), moving upwards toward growth needs (e.g., self-actualization).
Most businesses address consumers who are at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. These consumers have their basic survival and safety needs met and are looking for something that satisfies their growth needs.
So, for instance, I’d still buy my cereal, but I’d like it to be offered in eco-friendly packaging. I’m also more likely to buy products from companies that support a social cause, or businesses who are passionate about what they do and why they do it.
You see – the “why” is becoming very important for consumers. They want to know your purpose for existence as a business.
Customer loyalty is waning. So, it’s important for you to ensure customers want to be a part of a larger journey, and not just a transaction. For that, you need to tell them where you are going.
What’s your vision?
Do you remember the movie Alice in Wonderland inspired by, English author, Lewis Carroll’s 1865 fantasy novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland?
The plot begins with Alice running to chase after a rabbit in a blue waistcoat, and she accidentally falls down a large rabbit hole. She is transported into a hidden world and encounters a Cheshire cat perched on a tree. The conversations goes something like this:
Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to…
Alice: I don’t much care where—
Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,
Alice: —so long as I get somewhere,
Cheshire Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if you only walk long enough.
Here’s the thing, this exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat is a good example of a key life lesson: if you don’t know where you are headed you’ll end up doing a lot of mindless wandering.
Customers have neither the time nor the patience to indulge you. Don’t plan on getting “somewhere.” Like the Cheshire Cat said, anyone can do that if they walk long enough. Differentiate with a purpose.
What is your Purpose?
How can you apply this ideology to business? Take a page from the book of the pros. Google’s purpose is “organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful.” Disney aims “to make people happy.” Johnson & Johnson is “caring for the world, one person at a time” and Coca Cola is “inspiring moments of optimism and happiness.”
What is your purpose?
When you know where you want to go, it’s easier to decide how to get there. So, effectively, once you’ve defined a purpose, it becomes the root for your metaphorical “tree of life.” And from it stems your business strategies, values, brand essence and attributes.
Let’s say you own a travel agency and your purpose is to “deliver life changing experiences.” Immediately one strategy becomes clear – you have to find ways to create unique journeys for all of your customers. The next step entails identifying the skills and attributes you have to make this happen.
How are you going to deliver this promise? Will it be through technology? Or by creating a community of world travelers? Or can it be something else?
Living your Promise
To bring your purpose to life, everyone who is a part of the promise must live it. This is where your company’s core values come into play. A life changing travel experience may mean something as simple as attentive employees.
Take South West Airlines for example, they’ve redefined the flight experience completely. They value the customer and their employees do everything they can to make the journey easy, fun and interesting for fliers. Do your employees buy into your purpose?
We all know business is not about transactions any more, it’s time to live and do business with purpose.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Supriya Jain is the Founder of Miitra, a social organization for the elderly and teztadka a Bangalor-based restaurant serving North Indian cuisine. Supriya is also a self-proclaimed wordsmith and a foodie. A marketer by profession she also heads the Global Thought Leadership Marketing Initiative at Wipro Ltd. In this role she has successfully revamped content strategy, revitalized social presence, and contextualized Wipro’s point of view by institutionalizing experiential and real time thought leadership. Connect with @jainsupriya on Twitter.
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