Companies that want to be purpose driven have several challenges to contend with on their journey towards purpose. The first is to define what that purpose is, or why it is you do what you do? The second challenge you'll face is engaging your community - all the people who serve or are served by that purpose - and getting them involved and engaged.
Here are five tips for getting community involved with purpose.
1) Define Your Community
Community isn't just people who live or work in a geographic area, although that is one kind of community. Community really refers to everyone who touches or is touched by your brand. It's your employees or tribe, your customers, stakeholders, partners and others who benefit from or are impacted by your brand's purpose or objective.
When it comes to connecting community with purpose, it's not so much about the actions you take to connect your community with purpose, but the understanding of your community that is demonstrated by the purpose itself. Following are some examples of how you can engage different types of communities in your purpose.
2) Deliver Solutions That Serve a Purpose
Purpose shouldn't just align theoretically with the needs of your community; it should meet some fundamental need or solve a problem that your community has. For Kirby Atwell of Green Vet Homes, purpose means running a real estate investment firm that sustainably rebuilds communities and provides housing for homeless veterans.
"Through my volunteer work, I learned that veterans who receive housing benefits from the VA sometimes had a difficult time finding decent housing " said Atwell, an Army veteran. "Many landlords won't rent to them because they don't understand the VA's processes. At the same time, many investors have difficulty finding prescreened renters with stable income. Green Vet Homes connects these two communities to fill a fundamental need."
The arrangement benefits all the communities Green Vet Homes serves: veterans and the property owners that are Green Vet's customers, and fulfills the company's purpose of developing green, sustainable housing.
3) Take Chances: Experiment with Purpose
Some of the most brilliant and purposeful things happen by accident. When seeking for purposeful ways to connect with your community, experimenting with data and strategy can sometimes yield very useful results.
Chicago-based experiential agency, MarketingWerks engages communities with targeted, immersive experiences that can help accelerate a brand beyond just a single moment in time. Deep within consumer data, they identify the unique needs of each community they are trying to reach and uncover the best place, time, and experience for connecting with those communities.
According to Holly Meloy, SVP, Managing Director of Marketing Werks, "Today's consumers expect to be in charge of how they interact with your brand. They'll actively avoid brands that demonstrate a lack of understanding of who they are and what they're about. You need to really understand those needs and how your purpose connects with that, in order to build long-lasting relationships that will drive advocacy for your brand."
Case in point: Marketing Werks' program for Hershey's REESE'S Peanut Butter Cups. REESE'S wanted to increase trial of its peanut butter cups among Hispanic Millennials, but research indicated that peanut butter and chocolate was an unexpected combination of flavors for their target which is why trial was low. Simply handing out samples wasn't going to cut it.
The solution? Reese's "Spin your Beat" Tour, a series of sampling events designed to reach Hispanic Millennials that mashed different music genres and dance styles together to show that unexpected combinations -- like peanut butter and chocolate -- can be awesome. The program allowed the brand an opportunity to sample to and engage with more than 160,000 consumers in more meaningful way.
4) Leverage Data for Purposeful Experiences
Tomer Tagrin, CEO of Yotpo, a platform that allows eCommerce companies to drive fan engagement and sales conversions through user generated content, believes that analytics is the key to rallying a tribe around shared passions. "Our research indicates that community - whether on-site reviews or community discussions - plays a big role in helping people decide if a product or brand is a good match for them," he said.
Yotpo's research found that 55% of buyers on eCommerce sites interacted with community-based or user generated content before purchasing; site visitors who interacted as part of a community were more than twice as likely to purchase as those who did not participate.
"People view the products they buy as expressions of themselves," said Tagrin. "Younger consumers in particular choose their brands with great care. For them, buying something fulfills a number of needs, including a need to belong."
Data uncovers strategies to connect purposefully with the communities you want to reach but the decision to engage still lies with the customer. To encourage engagement, companies must demonstrate their understanding of the community's needs and wants.
5) Take a Broader View
It's also important not to look at the idea of community too narrowly. Taking a broad view of community is how Chicago-based Giles & Associates Consultancy (GAC) helps healthcare and life sciences companies provide innovative cures and treatments for patients.
The company's work is about envisioning the future and helping companies determine strategies for delivering their innovations to market. Lisa M. Giles, CEO of GAC says, "We believe that our purpose is to propel meaningful innovation to those who can most benefit. Yet, we never work directly with a patient."
GAC takes a holistic view of how to deliver purposeful results to all the communities they serve. "We 'zoom out' and look at the problems our clients face: regulatory issues, competition, different medical approaches," says Lisa M. Giles. "We integrate data from all these communities - our clients, their competitors, regulatory agencies, and patients themselves - to help our clients see how their solutions fit uniquely into the broader marketplace while keeping focus on the ultimate goal - delivering cures."
Community doesn't necessarily have to be the city or town where you live, it can refer to any set of people that share a connection with or interest in your brand and its purpose. And there's usually more than one kind community you'll want to engage. The key to doing this is gaining a deep understanding of your communities' needs - either by leveraging data or through experience - so you'll understand why your purpose connects, and how to engage your communities with that purpose in a way that build deeper relationships.