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What is a business purpose, and why do you need one?

Here are 3 reasons why a business purpose is essential

When I was about six years old, I got bored one day and cut out photos of food from a magazine and glued them on a piece of paper. Then I sold them to my neighbour, a four-year-old boy named Jake when we played one day. 

Jake looked at the haphazardly put together (read: “ugly”) collage and said in a confused voice, “but what am I gonna do with it?”

“Pin it up on your wall and look at it,” I answered.

Jake still didn’t look convinced but just gave me the side-eye. I don’t remember how I convinced him. Still, somehow, I must have said some persuasive words because he handed over his 2 pesos (I was living in the Philippines at the time, and it was a lot of money for a kid) and walked away with his purchase. I went home happy to have made a quick sale.

Not long after, there was a knock at our door, and I heard my mum yelling out my name. Jake’s mother was standing at the door, livid.

My mum held the ugly collage I had sold, and she didn’t look happy. “Jake’s mum said you sold him this for two pesos. Is that true?” 

I nodded morosely. In a matter of minutes, my entrepreneurial dreams came crashing down.

I ended up giving back Jake’s 2 pesos, and my mum warned me not to sell my artwork again. 

I guess not everyone values creativity.

Why am I telling this story? Because it shows that people buy from you when you believe your “why” – the value of what you are selling.

(Okay, so my collage wasn’t great, but I can assure you that my service offering now will give you a lot more value than my kiddy collages.)

I tell this story because it shows the value of your business purpose. Your “why.”

What is a business purpose?

So what is a business purpose anyway? A business purpose is a statement of why you are in business. It’s foundational for any business because it focuses on your goals and frames them into a consistent message.

So, why are you in business?

  • Promote world peace? 
  • End hunger? 
  • Make everyone beautiful? 
  • Make everyone sexy? 
  • See people win? 
  • Save the environment one straw at a time?

In all seriousness, here are examples of purpose statements from well-known companies:

  • Twitter – To give everyone the power to instantly create and share ideas and information without barriers.
  • Microsoft – To enable people and businesses worldwide to realize their full potential.
  • Coca-Cola – To refresh the world…to inspire moments of optimism and happiness…To create value and make a difference. 

These companies (and many others like them) are successful, not the least because their “why” – their purpose for existing – resonate with their target audience. 

So what can a well-defined business purpose do for you?

1. It helps you refine your single value proposition

Getting your business purpose down pat means you can more clearly communicate your value to your customers. It helps them understand why your business exists. Like my story with my friend Jake above, people don’t buy what you do, but why do you do it. When you are selling what you believe, you can better convince your customer to buy from you.

2. It helps you find your ideal customer

Do you know the saying “birds of a feather flock together”? It means that people tend to gravitate towards those who share the same values. People like to organise in “tribes” – other people who “get” them.

This saying is also true in business. Customers prefer to do business with a company that shares their values and goals. 71% of consumers prefer to buy from companies aligned with their values. This means that it’s critical for your business success to know your business purpose and communicate that well.

And if you have employees, your business purpose will help you attract the right employees to work for you – those who share your vision and values. 

3. It helps you serve your customer better

Your business purpose provides your modus operandi (the way you operate) – how you’re going to solve a problem for your customer. 

Purpose, Mission, and Vision – what’s the difference?

So I’ve heard about business vision, mission, and purpose; what’s the difference, you may ask?

  • Purpose is your reason for existing – the Why – Why are you in business?
  • Vision is your end goal – the What – what do you want to accomplish with your business? It is closely tied with purpose.
  • Mission is the roadmap for getting to your vision – the How.

Below are excellent examples that differentiate purpose and vision from brands you know well:

  • AdobeTo move the web forward and give web designers and developers the best tools and services in the world.
  • BBCTo enrich people’s lives with programs and services that inform, educate and entertain.

Purple = Purpose

Green = Vision

My personal favourite is Uber, which combines its purpose, vision, and mission in one statement:

  • Uber – Uber is evolving the way the world moves. By seamlessly connecting riders to drivers through our apps, we make cities more accessible, opening up possibilities for riders and more business for drivers.

Brown = Mission

Brownie points for Uber!

When you look at it this way, you’ll see that it starts broad and gets more granular.

  1. Purpose – Your Why – a broad statement for why your business exists
  2. Vision – Your What – focuses on key goals that tie in with your purpose
  3. Mission – The How – the specific steps you will take to achieve your vision.

See how it starts broadly with your purpose and gets more granular and specific with your vision and mission?

Now it’s your turn. What are your business’ purpose, vision, and mission? If you haven’t defined these yet, I recommend you take the time to do it. And if you need help in figuring this out, contact me, and I can help you refine your business messaging and copy that will attract customers and convert them. No dodgy collages, I promise.


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