Mission and Purpose:For Profit Slogans Sound Like Nonprofit Visions | SBDC UNF

Mission and Purpose:For Profit Slogans Sound Like Nonprofit Visions

Here is a nice perspective on company slogans by Terry Barber as recently posted in Forbes. Many of these slogans seem to come right out of a nonprofit mindset. Many of our clients show us similar slogans. Many of them are inspiring. All of them are a waste of time if you don’t back it up with actions.


Your Business Can Inspire People The Way Nonprofits Do

Terry Barber, 05.28.09, 03:40 PM EDT

It’s not so hard, if you do real good, as nonprofits do.

Look at some of today’s best corporate promises and slogans. You would think they belonged to nonprofit organizations. Here are a few of my favorites:

“To inspire and nurture the human spirit”–Starbucks ( SBUXnews people ).
“Your potential, our passion”–Microsoft ( MSFTnews people ).
“To improve the lives of the world’s consumers–now and for generations to come”–Procter & Gamble ( PGnews people ).
“To contribute to the overall health and wellness of our world”–Pfizer ( PFEnews people ).

Those aren’t just lines from press releases about social responsibility. They are core statements of mission and purpose displayed on the corporations’ Web sites. As brands today attempt to differentiate themselves from their many competitors, more and more of them have to be truly inspiring.

Companies that can genuinely leaven their commercialism with a sense of higher purpose are more likely to build powerful connections–intellectual, emotional and spiritual–with their customers. Those are exactly the kinds of connections you need to acquire and sustain a loyal and passionate following these days.

However, it isn’t easy. Unless you are willing to genuinely associate with and support an inspiring cause, your customers will strike back with a vengeance. As the Cone 2004 Corporate Responsibility Report noted, when a company is perceived as acting badly, 90% of its customers will consider switching to other products or services.

In anticipation of a new wave of businesses entering the waters of inspiration, I’d like to provide four guiding principles that I have used with nonprofits for years. They can be used by anyone in business who aspires to inspire.

1. To inspire the consumer, you must help him believe in something he once thought was impossible. This is where innovators will thrive and hidebound institutions will die. Innovators think in quantum-leap fashion. Most institutions think incrementally. If you can only describe your company’s dreams and ambitions in the context of a percentage of growth, you will inspire no one.

Here are two types of inspiration busters to avoid: “We want to be the best,” as in AutoNation‘s ( ANnews people ) “Driven to be the best,” and “We want to be the most recognized,” as in United Airlines’ mission statement, “To be recognized worldwide as the airline of choice.”

Both are noble. Neither is the least bit inspiring. Making me believe in something I once thought impossible takes words like imagine, dream, accelerate, change, empower and energize. A dramatic illustration of this was when Microsoft announced its HealthVault initiative, with a vision to build a platform that would store electronic medical records for every American–for free. It would then sell the service in other countries and ultimately transform health care for good.

Ask yourself this question: What would the world look like if you were to fulfill your mission tomorrow? Try asking that at your next team meeting. You will learn very quickly whether or not you have the capacity to inspire.

2. To inspire the consumer, you must show genuine appreciation for her business. Most nonprofit organizations are exceptionally good at making their donors feel special. Even the small contributor receives a thank you note, and usually at the $100 level there’s a phone call too. By those standards, how many companies should you have received a thank you call from? I should get calls from the CEOs of Whole Foods ( WFMInews people ), Starbucks and American Express ( AXPnews people ).

Loyalty programs are effective for retaining customers–until a better loyalty program comes along. People recognize that things like so-called customer-appreciation days are typically traps for more selling, so their loyalty is understandably tentative and short term.

Conversely, expressing genuine appreciation can start a lifelong relationship. Imagine how you would feel on receiving a voice mail that said simply, “Thank you for being such a great customer. We are not calling to sell you anything. We only want to say thank you.” I received such a call recently. It was from my local nursery guy, on whose business my wife and I spend much of our discretionary income. His call was short, genuine and simple: “I am calling to tell you how much I appreciate your business.” I received a similar call from someone at DirecTV ( DTVnews people ) the same week. Now I won’t even consider going elsewhere to buy plants or get a television signal.

3. To inspire the consumer, you must help him see that he is a part of a community of world changers. One of the most powerful fundraising terms is the word join. “Join the fight.” “Join the cause.” “Join me.” Those exhortations all indicate that you can be a part of something bigger than yourself. More than ever before, our identity is defined by the communities we are a part of, even virtual ones.

If business wants to follow the lead of nonprofits, its leaders should participate in social media for the sake of connecting customers to other customers. Customers will then, like donors, show the way to new relationships and new markets. Create or tap into platforms for connecting people in and around your mission. Harley-Davidson ( HOGnews people ) has done this very effectively with its “Join the Family You Have Always Wanted” campaign. What can your business offer that consumers will enthusiastically join you in?

4. To inspire the consumer, you must convey how you are making the world a better place. A short time back I had the privilege of traveling to Guatemala with the child sponsorship organization Compassion International. I had supported CI in a modest way for years, but after that firsthand look at how my dollars were being used to help truly impoverished children, my giving level will never be the same.

I saw this principle illustrated most dramatically when I toured the Huntsman Corporation‘s ( HUNnews people ) offices in Salt Lake City. Throughout the building, wall photos showed people in towns and villages around the world where the company and its employees were providing medicine, clean water and education. The underlying message was: What we are doing as a company is helping make the world a better place. I also see this when I walk into a Chick-fil-A store and see a life-size poster of the founder, Truett Cathy, side by side with pictures of young people in whose lives his company is investing. I see it at the headquarters of International Paper ( IPnews people ), on whose Web site there is actually a link to donate to the World Food Programme.

No matter what kind of business you are in, you can learn from the nonprofit sector how to inspire your customers–but only if you are making the world a better place and can show it. Give them something to believe in that they once thought was impossible. Demonstrate genuine appreciation for their business. Help them connect with other customers as part of a larger community. And communicate how your business is improving the world.

Terry Barber is chief inspirator for Grizzard Communication Group, which advises nonprofit health care organizations and colleges and universities on philanthropic branding. His latest book is The Inspiration Factor. His Web site is www.inspirationblvd.com.

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