Thursday, February 18, 2010

What Is Your Purpose?

Last year, I shared a story about United Way to make a point about being helpful. The story is worth repeating to introduce a new conversation about purpose!

Many years ago, United Way produced a video that cleverly poked fun at itself, while at the same time making a powerful statement. The scene was set in an elementary school classroom where a student brought her Dad (A United Way Exec) to talk to her classmates about what he does for living. As Dad launches into his "United Way speak," the kids quickly look confused and bored. The daughter immediately senses the problem, stands up, and proclaims, "He helps people!" Fortunately, Dad picked up on the cue and began engaging the class. The confusion and boredom quickly gave way to comprehension and smiles.

Crafting a clear statement of purpose matters. Why shop at Wal-Mart or Best Buy? For customers, there's no ambiguity regarding why these stores exist or the reasons they shop there. Can you say the same thing for your customers and prospects? How well do you communicate your purpose in a single sentence? It can be more challenging for some businesses than others, but its importance cannot be overstated. You may deliver value on several fronts, but on closer examination, you'll usually discover there's a primary purpose, with supporting value propositions.

If it takes you several minutes (or even longer) to explain to a friend or relative what your company does, then take a moment to a write statement of purpose. It will not only offer the simple explanation you're looking for, but also serve as the foundation for even the most sophisticated of communication programs. Being part of an enterprise without a clear statement of purpose is tantamount to being in a boat without a paddle.

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