Mission, vision, values: if you’re of a certain age, when you hear these terms you might feel transported back to the 80s or 90s, to the height of the “planning school” and corporate jargon. In 1984, one influential business writer proclaimed, “everyone agrees they are necessary” — and the stats back this up. In 1991…
In business, growth is more than important – it’s essential. But chasing annual revenue and profit goals, whether by building upon existing relationships or expanding into new markets, can sometimes come at the expense of a company’s core position in the marketplace: its brand.
A shared purpose after extending offerings
We recently partnered with a health care technology company who was facing a familiar problem: wanting to grow by expanding into a new customer base, it had built a product set aimed at an audience whose interests were at odds with its existing customer base. Having traditionally helped insurance providers and other health care payers save money, the company was now also offering cost-saving solutions for hospitals and other health care providers.
Right away, its brand story got muddled. The interests of payers and providers are not always aligned, at least not at the surface: for any health care claim, providers want to get paid more, while payers want to pay less. How could this company serve both payers and providers without eliciting accusations of serving conflicting interests from its customers?
The company initially dealt with this by hiding the connection between the two offerings – speaking separately to payers and providers and refraining from ever talking about what the company offered overall. While this worked to delay any client misgivings, it caused a number of problems:
- The lack of transparency was misaligned with a brand built on trust, causing erosion to the brand meaning internally and externally.
- There was confusion among employees about what the company was able to offer, which hampered lucrative cross-selling opportunities.
- The company had a weaker marketplace story, as the full breadth of its solutions was not evident in how it talked about itself.
This company wasn’t unique in dealing with a growing portfolio that no longer seemed to fit into a cohesive story. The companies we work with have often grown through multiple acquisitions or are expanding product portfolios, moving beyond their core story to one that lacks cohesion and that employees and clients can’t articulate.
The common problem in these situations is that that the company is too focused on the what – the products and solutions it offers – which is holding them back from talking about the why – the higher purpose for why the company exists, its vision and the ultimate impact it wants to have on those it serves.
In the case of the health care technology company, its purpose was clear: by handling all parts of the health care payment chain, the company was helping to make the market more efficient for all parties. And because they had developed such trusted relationships with both payers and providers, the experience clients had on both sides was far superior than that which they could receive anywhere else in the market.
Purpose helps tell your brand story
Elevating the company’s story to this level enabled employees to understand and articulate the rationale behind the company’s growth, eliminating confusion and removing the elephant in the room. Now employees, marketers, the sales team and even enthusiastic clients could go to market telling the full story of what the company brings to each customer with clarity and consistency.
More broadly, finding your company’s why and identifying how this evolves with acquisitions and growing product portfolios enables you to move beyond the nuts and bolts of specific services or products that may seem incongruent or conflicting. Going higher means finding a story that all audiences can connect with and believe in. It gives your own people a rallying cry and story to tell that’s not driven by any one business unit or product, and it’s inspiration that all can get behind.