An organisation’s purpose unites the practical and emotional reasons that consumers make meaningful connections with brands. When a brand’s purpose resonates with our own values, it sparks loyalty and advocacy, which for marketers are the holy grail of customer journey goals. 

Purpose is the ‘why’ that underpins everything you do. It explains why your team comes to work, why your audience is invested in your brand, and why your organisation is pursuing its business plan. It's essentially your company's DNA, which of course means it’s incredibly important.

As a marketer, it’s your role to ensure that your organisation’s purpose is accurate and authentic from an internal and external perspective. Defining your organisation’s purpose is no simple task. Although the final output is just a sentence long, it takes a lot of digging to determine your why. In this guide, we’ll talk you through how to run a successful purpose workshop, so you can make sure the purpose you define is authentic.

Why having a purpose matters 

Purpose is a key part of your value proposition. This is your promise to your customers, communicating what your organisation stands for through its purpose, values and beliefs. Defining your purpose is the key to helping your organisation thrive – having a clear-cut explanation aligns and inspires employees and encourages meaningful connections with customers. 

Your purpose should shine through every aspect of your organisation, not just your marketing activity. From sales pitches to customer service responses, your purpose will inform how each part of your business operates. This means your purpose needs to resonate with every member of your team, to make sure that your value proposition is authentic to the people that bring to life the organisation. 

A common mistake for many organisations is to focus only on the ‘what’ of its offering and the ‘how’ of its delivery. Whilst these are essential to the operations of a business, it can cause huge problems when its services or products are no longer needed or face intense competition from other companies.

As consumers are constantly bombarded with new choices and are more in control of their purchasing decisions than ever before. A brand that stays true to a purpose that resonates with its audience will be much stronger in the face of an increasingly saturated marketplace. 

The purpose is the heart of an organisation and is often the reason customers become loyal to your brand. Focusing on the ‘why’ through the purpose is a far more sustainable strategy that will outlast market changes and make your organisation a staple in its industry.

Who should be involved in defining your purpose? 

Your first instinct might be to keep the development of your purpose within the remit of your marketing team, but it needs to be a collaborative effort. For a purpose to genuinely reflect the truth of why you’re doing what you do, it needs to be influenced by all parts of your business.

As you organise your purpose workshop, there are a variety of people you’ll need to invite:

  • Your MD or Founder. They’ll offer their initial reasons for creating your organisation.
  • Some of the senior management team or legacy team members. They’ll have insights on the business that stretch back to its origins.
  • A business champion from each key department. They’ll be able to share their unique perspective of how your purpose has developed from its initial stage. 
  • Your fellow marketers. You have one foot inside and one outside the business, so you can bring the perspective of audiences to add to the internal considerations.

How will I organise the workshop? 

Whether you are redefining your purpose as part of a new marketing strategy, or writing one from scratch for a new business, you need to define your purpose as early as possible. With that in mind, you should find the earliest availability of all the previously mentioned attendees and book an hour’s meeting in the diary.

In advance of the meeting, plan the structure of the workshop, so that you can ensure your team stays on track and achieves the goals of the session. You’ll want one person from the marketing team to facilitate the session (since you’re reading this guide then that’s probably you), and another to keep notes and help prompt the flow of discussion.

Wherever you hold your workshop, make sure you have a flip chart for taking notes, as well as notepads or sticky notes for the attendees to scribble thoughts down on. Snacks and refreshments are a good idea too, as they’ll keep energy high and get the best out of your group.

What will the workshop involve? 

As the facilitator it’s your role to maximise the use of everyone’s time and ensure you get all the information you need. Our recommended structure for a successful purpose workshop is:

  • Introductions: explaining the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the workshop.
  • Examples: giving some examples of well-crafted purpose statements to give the workshop context
  • Questions: asking participants questions that will draw out the insight needed to craft an authentic purpose statement
  • Reflections: tying up everything discussed and ensuring agreement on the outcomes of the workshop

Remember that there may be people who do not fully understand why the workshop is taking place, so it’s important to get everyone up to speed. Start off with introductions, explaining what the purpose statement is and why it is so important to the organisation’s success. Then outline what the session structure will be, and how the participant’s contributions will help inform the final purpose statement.

It’s worth also reminding everyone that there are no wrong ideas or silly questions. You want to make sure that everyone feels comfortable in contributing, so that you can dig deep into their unique insights. 

Next, it’s worth sharing some well-crafted examples to give the workshop a clear context for those who are unfamiliar with purpose statements. Tech giants often have excellent purpose statements because they are constantly innovating and extending their offering into new products and businesses. These types of companies often have an impactful purpose statement because the purpose should not be descriptive of products and services, but instead reflect the wider motivations behind these innovations, to ensure the purpose outlasts any specific products.

Some examples we look to are:

  • Facebook: ‘To give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.’
  • Squarespace: ‘To help people with creative ideas stand out and succeed.’ 
  • Oxfam: ‘To help create lasting solutions to the injustice of poverty.’

Using a series of questions, you’ll need to get your team to agree on why you exist and how the world would be different if you weren’t around. Encourage people to forget existing values, vision and mission, and shift the conversation to why you do what you do. Your role here is to really push for thoughtful answers to these questions. You don’t want the workshop to result in a purpose that still focuses on the ‘what’ and ‘how’.

There are 3 key questions you can ask your team to get your purpose defined.

Why was the organisation founded? 

This question should be directed to your organisation’s founder. You should ask them why they got into this in the beginning and what they wanted to see change when they set up the organisation. Be sure to dig into what problem they were looking to solve and how their own personal purpose is linked to the company’s wider story.

Who are we doing this for? 

This one is for your leader as well as the wider team. Ask them to consider who your organisation operates for and why it does so. The ‘who’ shouldn’t just be in terms of customers, it’s also about the bigger picture. If you as an organisation were to deliver everything you promised to your customers, who would that impact in the world and what legacy would it leave behind?  

What is our unique strength? 

The final question is also for everyone in the workshop. Ask your team what makes your organisation different to your competitors. Each person in the business will have a unique perception of this, so it’s important to hear everyone’s thoughts. Having a unique purpose will really help your brand stand out from the rest and create deeper relationship with the people that really matter. 

Once you’ve got all this information agreed, it’s time to ask everyone to craft their own purpose statement. Give all the participants around 10 minutes to write out what they think the purpose statement could be. Be sure to remind them that there’s no pressure for this to be perfect, as the next step is refining the statement together.

Once everyone has drafted their own statement, ask participants to look at combining them all into one purpose statement that resonates with everybody. An efficient way to do this is by gathering them all on post-it notes on a sheet of paper or writing them all on a board. Together you should spend 20 minutes refining the statement and agreeing on a final purpose that is no longer than 20 words.

At the end of the workshop be sure to thank everyone for their time and let them know you’ll share the outcome of the workshop with them as soon as its ready. It’s likely that you’ll have gotten everyone invested in the purpose statement and keeping them in the loop will ensure that they keep the finalised purpose close to heart in their daily role.

What happens after the workshop? 

You should finalise all the notes and purpose statement drafts into a master document. Do this as soon as possible, whilst everything is fresh in your mind. Then use these insights get to work on fine-tuning the purpose statement to ensure it is concise, authentic and impactful. 

Once you have this developed, test it with all relevant stakeholders both inside and outside of your organisation to make sure it rings true. If it doesn’t, don’t be afraid to go back to your notes and rework it until it’s right. A truly authentic purpose must resonate with all stakeholders involved, not just the marketing team.

When your team is happy with the purpose statement, it should be rolled out company wide. It’s for everyone to live by within their work and should be apparent at every brand touchpoint.

If you’re looking to gain a deep understanding of how your organisation’s purpose fits into the full value proposition and marketing strategy, then our course will give you just that. To learn more, head to the course page, or get in touch. 

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