Purpose-driven marketing doesn’t amount to much when it isn’t tied directly to a firm’s target customers and embraced by employees, according to a study from Harvard Business Review Analytics.
Based on a survey of nearly 450 HBR readers, the report, Purpose: The Critical Importance of Tying It to the Customer, was commissioned by Royal Oak, MI-based CX consulting firm Gongos.
Poor integration of purpose and CX across teams within a company was the most-cited barrier to engaging employees, followed by 37 per cent who said leaders often fail to articulate a consistent top-down CX strategy. Thirty-three per cent called out an inability to see how CX strategy plays out across all areas of an organization, and about a third (30 per cent) said firms often don’t have enough data to compare return on investments (ROI) across all areas of CX spending.
“Once companies understand their purpose, putting it into play requires that they create an operating plan that helps customers achieve their goals, makes clear to employees what they should and should not be doing in support of the purpose, and explains how they will be rewarded for bringing the purpose to life,” the report’s authors wrote.
Examples of brands that weave CX and purpose together successfully in the report included sports apparel manufacturer Brooks Sports Inc., whose purpose is helping its customers “run happy,” and LinkedIn, which the authors noted “strives to ‘connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.’
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Much of the report’s responses were broken out into those working at “customer-committed companies” vs the rest. This was defined as “companies where the customer is the sole or primary focus of the company’s purpose.”
Of course, required respondents to self-identify as customer-committed, and it only amounted to 38 per cent of a relatively small sample size. Still, given the perceived seniority and authority of HBR’s readers, it may carry weight as this data gets shared (the report is ungated). The report is also filled with interviews with well-known CX community experts, including Customer Of The Future author Blake Morgan and Jeanne Bliss.
It may be easier to make sense of the research’s key findings by thinking about those companies whose purpose doesn’t seem closely tied to its customers. Social issues such as diversity and inclusion and the environment, for instance, are increasingly a part of corporate events (even as they’re now mostly virtual) but often in isolation to the more business-oriented themes being discussed in keynotes and breakout sessions.
The report is also interesting in light of the ongoing discussion of how a strong employee experience directly correlates to strong CX. Often “employee experience” is defined as making service agents happy, but the data here makes the case for a more thoughtful, even philosophical approach to nurturing a particular attitude towards a brand’s purpose (or perhaps more intentionally hiring those whose values align with that purpose).
It might go without saying, but most of those involved agreed the thesis explored in the research is particularly relevant this year. In fact, three-quarters of survey respondents said that the Covid-19 pandemic increased the importance of having a company purpose centered on the customer in 2020.
Shane Schick tells stories that help people innovate, and to manage the change innovation brings. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and Yahoo Canada and is the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.