OPINION: How we found our purpose statement – and why it matters

Alan Mackenzie

Alan Mackenzie heads up Marketing and Communications at Target. He shares insights from the company’s new purpose statement and looks at why business leaders are moving away from outdated perceptions of brand and unlocking the commercial benefits of becoming purpose led.

In business to business environments, brand has often been seen as cosmetic: a logo, a colour palette, photography and a catchy strapline.

These outdated perceptions are shifting. Brand isn’t just for the creative types: it fundamentally expresses what an organisation does, what it believes, and what customers, prospects and the wider community perceive the company to be.

Putting purpose at the heart of your business goes even further. It aligns internal culture with external strategy, connecting culture with the wider marketplace. Done well, it’s the golden thread that runs end to end through your business.

There’s plenty of research to back up the importance of purpose: for example, Harvard professors John Kotter and James Heskett argue that purpose-driven companies outperform their counterparts in stock price by a factor of twelve.


What is purpose – and how to find it

Purpose doesn’t always have to change the world: it can also be more local, talking about things your organisation cares about. Things it can change for the better. At Target Group, we created a new purpose framework earlier this year to articulate a deeper understanding of our business DNA and culture. Purpose aligns our culture, strategy and proposition.

To help us articulate this, we looked at a few agencies and selected Six Agency from Bristol. We felt this type of assignment was in their sweet spot – and the chemistry felt right.

To unlock purpose you need to dive in. We asked Six to immerse themselves in our business. They carried out workshops and 1-2-1s with colleagues in different locations and at different levels across the organisation. They spoke to clients and looked at competitors.

Six Agency’s immersion formed a 360-degree view based on colleague and client feedback and competitor positioning. It’s important to build out the next steps from a true and honest reflection of the business. Authenticity is key.

Six then distilled all the raw information. As you would expect, common themes and trends emerged. Six played the summary back to us to sense check before their creative team got to work.

This team then built the framework of principle values, supporting behaviours and tone of voice before turning to our new visual identity.

After this process we defined our purpose as: “We transform customer experiences.” It’s our expression of what we do, what we’re good at, why we exist and what drives us. Internally, our Employee Value Proposition outlines our values and the behaviours we expect of one another (this carries through into job descriptions and appraisal framework).


Strategic Alignment

Business strategies often talk about double digit growth ambitions, reducing cost to serve or expansion into adjacent markets. For most colleagues these concepts are meaningless. You have to bring everyone along on the journey. They have to understand how they can contribute. Purpose enables this.

Once purpose is set, it’s not good enough just to tell colleagues. They need to feel the change. Senior leaders need to make the shift in style to leading with purpose and every colleague should be engaged.

We started to make changes in style long before launch, building up to launch day with teasers and a countdown before the launch day splash. We also ran workshops with our senior leaders to ensure they understood and connected. If leadership don’t buy in, the momentum can easily ground to a halt.

This was followed up with team workshops to ensure everyone connects with purpose in their every day work. Empowerment.


The feedback loop

Feedback from staff and clients has been overwhelmingly positive in the early days. We also have harder mid and long-term commercial metrics that we’re tracking. These include colleague engagement, client satisfaction and brand awareness.

With our colleagues empowered, improvements and efficiencies are driven from the ground up, not just the top down.

Externally we’re also seeing a difference – in the market our story is differentiated and our narrative is consistent. Colleague engagement is increasing, attrition is reducing and clients are seeing the difference, with satisfaction scores on the rise.

From telephony agents on everyday conversations to solution and service designers, or our internal support colleagues providing data or audit – they all have a meaningful part to play. They can all make a difference.

I like the story of John F Kennedy visiting NASA in 1962. During his tour he noticed a janitor carrying a broom and asked what do you do here at NASA? The janitor replied:

“Well Mr President, I’m helping to put a man on the moon”

The point here is that no matter how big or small the role, the janitor knew what he was contributing towards. He took pride in the purpose.


Inside-out: A summary of purpose-led benefits

A good purpose:

  • Clarifies employee value proposition. Brings to life company culture through clear articulation of purpose, values and behaviours.
  • Energises employees, creating a sense of unity and shared ambition toward a vision
  • Creates a distinct and differentiated brand, allowing an organisation to stand out in the market
  • Creates propositional clarity around who you are and what you do. A distinct and differentiated proposition is more memorable, so by proxy increases visibility and credibility

Alan Mackenzie leads Market Engagement and Communications at Target Group. In an award-winning career spanning over 30 years, he’s held several senior marketing roles, predominantly in Financial Services. He’s a past Chair and a Fellow of the Marketing Society.

Target Group are a leading provider of digital transformation and BPO servicing for Lending, Investments and Savings. They recently made the strategic shift to put purpose at the centre of their business.


Image credit: mrgao

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