Today we’re discussing both, and how to build your business from the beginning for a flywheel of success.
In a word: Authenticity
Seem counterintuitive? It is.
The thing is, most businesses are full of crap. Their mission statements are full of rainbows and unicorns while they cut corners on quality, customer service, employee rights… They ain’t practicing what they preach.
Customers and employees see right through this: cable companies couldn’t give two sh*ts about us, and Facebook’s the anti-social company…
On the flip side, a mission-driven company like Patagonia puts everything in the open: suppliers, standards, commitment to a cleaner world… They sacrifice margins for what they believe is right.
It’s hard to find stats, but I’d bet money their employees stick around longer, their customers purchase more… and talk about great referral marketing!
Customers that buy Patagonia care, and showcase their moral superiority by tell everyone. Who doesn’t post pics of their new sweater that practically announces: “I’m basically Captain Planet!”
But that wasn’t planned or salesman scripted. Just a founder with a hard-headed mission who kept his company private.
Private… that’s the key word. Yvon Chouinard would never have been able to sacrifice sales and profit (without a proven reason) for so long if Patagonia was a public company. Clothing companies don’t get Bezos-like leeway and Wall Street wouldn’t tolerate it.
In the do-or-die world of quarterly earnings, that erodes authenticity and values, hamstrings long-term strategy too. How many enduring public companies stand by such strong statements? Could you name two?
Tim Cook won’t call out Trump, IBM built China’s Great Firewall and Facebook’s this generation’s Stasi…
Mission > Money
What’s your company stand for? Why?
Those are two of the most important questions any founder/CEO must ask themselves. It’ll define the direction of your business for years (or decades) to come.
And really, it’s less about what you stand for, and more about what you tolerate, what you deprioritize entirely…?
It’s impossible to focus on everything: Employee friendly, the best customer service, the cheapest price, the best product… often, values are mutually exclusive.
Employee friendly is great, but expensive: Healthcare, benefits, higher salaries…
Same thing with customer service. It increases overhead and kills profits or forces you to raise prices. Pretty soon, you’re pulled in a thousand different directions.
That’s what happens to large public companies.
With so many “important” company values trumping each other, the value of values degrades to nothing.
What started as premium soon becomes ordinary… and so on.
If ALL your hires don’t align with your mission, you’re destined for failure. Zappos offered new employees $5000 to quit before they even started. That’s a big commitment.
You need dedication to do great things. Is your team up to it?
What are your anti-values?
If you see a bully and say nothing, you’re allowing it to happen… you’re part of the problem.
And while we all agree bullying is bad, what do you do about it? And when? How extreme does the situation need to be to step in?
The same is true with business.
Are you an eco-friendly enterprise? How much so? Where’s the line? How much pollution is “acceptable,” and what CAN’T you compromise on?
Without strict boundaries, companies drift from mission to mediocrity. They didn’t define their nemesis.
What’s the opposite of what you’re looking to achieve? Sometimes, simply stating this can be enlightening, a lightning rod for marketing. It’s simple, supercharged and points customers and employees towards a tangible, attainable goal.
There’s a reason “the bad guy” exists — an enemy’s a great unifying force.
Tesla: kill oil companies and crush climate change.
Beyond Meat: end evil animal agriculture while reducing pollution.
Honest Tea: eradicate obesity and sugary drinks.
And the arch nemesis isn’t only for “mission-driven” businesses. It works equally well for organizations of any type.
A few examples:
Slack is the antithesis of email
Apple used to be the anti-PC
Etsy’s the exact opposite of Amazon
So, who is your antithesis? Who (or what) is your company out to kill?
And most importantly, how can you use that to sell more product/scale faster?
Rivalry’s a great way to get attention and quickly convey a message.
Most consumers recognize industry leaders, but not you. Let’s leverage.
A few sample headline ideas:
Wealthfront: Like a money manager, but 100x cheaper | Price
Snap: Share things your parents shouldn’t see | Privacy
Clif Bar: Ingredients you can actually pronounce | Natural
And few real world examples:
Avis vs Hertz: We try harder…
Remember I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC? What about the Pepsi challenge?
And Tim Cook’s been hammering Android’s privacy policies for years while spouting the merits of the iPhone.
From mission to movement
Your company has values, and those values can be a differentiator (like this). But to build a truly defensible flywheel, you need more than that… you need a tribe. The bigger, the better.
But quality trumps quantity. One thousand true fans…
According to Kevin Kelly, you can build a self-sustaining business with 1000 folks who LOVE you and your stuff. And it’s true. The more devoted a following you build, the stronger and more sustainable your base.
But how to recruit? How do you get consumers fired up?
Ownership is important when it comes to action. How can you make your customers part-owners in the mission your working towards? And why would they want to be?
Those two questions are the key to your moat and marketing.
Get people involved through personal stories, hashtags, community building/outreach, events and a feeling of togetherness. United we stand… sometimes, we need an excuse to take action.
Nothing beats word of mouth marketing. It’s free, friend-recommended and infinitely scalable. For most businesses, product isn’t going to cut it, especially with millennials/modern consumers.
We want more from our brands. And you want more with your business.
Think about the points we highlighted above:
What does your business stand for?
What’s the antithesis of your mission?
How do you create a culture of authenticity in your company?
Nail those three and your north star is set. Good luck growing and change the world in the process.
Need help with this? I’d love to chat. I help mission-driven companies define their brand, build & scale their business and change the world faster!
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