know your purpose


If you want to make progress, focus on your purpose 

Some people believe progress comes from more resources, wiser allocation, increased efficiency, more favorable economics, or better technology. None of these are bad things, in fact, all of them are helpful at pursuing progress.

But progress requires more than the right set of resources and circumstances. Progress requires the resources to be used wisely—in the right way and for the right reasons. Merriam-Webster defines progress as, “a forward or onward movement (as to an objective or a goal)” or “gradual betterment.” What does it mean to get to the root of progress? What is the most foundational piece to making progress every day?

In marketing, progress is defined by growth in lead acquisition, sales revenue and brand recognition, often trying to manage the ideal balance between those three strategic initiatives. C-level executives strive to set strategic, measurable goals for the organization that trickle down to the CMO, Marketing Directors and Product Managers to interpret into strategic, measurable goals for their products.

For example, let’s say Company A’s strategic planning process produces a three-year plan that includes a goal to increase revenue by 10% each year. The Marketing Director would review that strategic plan and marketing analytics to determine the best path to contribute to that goal. He or she may determine that 60% of the new revenue could come from expanding services to existing clients. That would inform a goal for the marketing department which would then provide guidance on tactics and budgets needed to reach that goal.

Does that mean an organization’s goals then become the foundational piece that makes progress possible? I believe it goes deeper than that. I believe progress is ultimately driven by purpose. Going back to the original definition, progress not only involves having a goal but also includes “betterment.” An organization must be making incremental improvements to be making progress. However, in order to know that it is making improvements, it needs to know the ultimate purpose for that improvement. There must be a destination.

As Jimmy Dean said, “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” Any improvement goal set is a good goal with the potential to make progress, however goals with a purpose have a greater impact. A goal must aim toward a purpose because, as any marketing leader has experienced, the wind WILL shift and take the team in a new direction. If the team does not know the purpose, they cannot adjust their sails to reach the destination.

Look at Southwest Airlines. The organization states its purpose is to “Connect People to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.” That purpose drives organizational decision making which has led to profitability in 2019, for the 47th consecutive year, despite setbacks like the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX. From a marketing perspective, it has led to decisions to prioritize customer service, provide a stellar frequent flyer program and treat “Customers fairly, honestly, and respectfully, with its low fares and no unexpected bag fees, change fees, or hidden fees.” You cannot change the direction of the wind, but you can set your sails to always reach your destination. Clarity on your purpose gives you the ability to make progress despite unfortunate circumstances and limited resources.

Which is why I believe progress ultimately comes from purpose. Arriving at where you want to be is ultimately guided by knowing why you want to be there.

At Pace Marketing, our purpose is to help determined business to business professionals expand their resources to accelerate sales growth. Our purpose is to be a partner in progress. Therefore, we only win if and when our clients win. Finding clarity on our purpose has given us the ability to bring progress to our partners.

We recently started redesigning a client’s website. A couple of weeks in we realized the platform they were utilizing, while sophisticated, was not going to fit their needs. So, we put our heads together, did some digging, and mid-project offered a new web solution to our client at no cost to them. In fact, this new solution is going to save them money! They said, “Yes,” and we said, “PIVOT!” in our best Ross Gellar impersonation.

Why change directions mid-project? Why risk a little profit margin? Because we have clarity on our purpose. We happily made the pivot, because we believe so much in helping our clients pursue progress that it is one of our corporate values.

We have seen our most successful clients strive for progress by pursuing it with purpose. No good Marketing Director wants their revenue to remain stagnant. However, the most successful marketing executives are keeping the organization’s and product’s purpose top-of-mind. They are defining why they add value to their clients and then allowing that purpose to drive the who, what, where and how in their marketing plan.

Most organizations are trying to balance limited financial and staff resources with the need to increase brand exposure to target personas. The digital age has created an over-abundance of marketing opportunities but has also diluted the effectiveness of each message. What used to be the rule of 7, creating seven touches to turn prospects into customers, is now thought to be more like 13. Combine the modern marketing environment with the Project Management Institute’s statistic that nearly 10% of every dollar is lost to poor project performance and the need for purpose, even at the project level, is highlighted even more. Circumstances are rapidly changing. Resources are always limited. But I believe you can still make progress, if you focus on purpose. But how?

Defining the purpose of each activity and creating specific, measurable goals around that purpose allows a marketer to:

  1. Align marketing leadership and their teams on the purpose and expectations around each activity
  2. Create boundaries to help prevent scope creep and determine what is in or out when the wind shifts
  3. Evaluate the effectiveness of each activity
  4. Connect the individual project to larger organizational purpose and goals

This certainly drives large strategic marketing initiatives, but it can and should also be a driver at the individual project level. Time is precious. Resources are precious. So why would you spend time and money on a marketing project that does not contribute to organizational progress? You wouldn’t! But we all have, because we’ve lost sight of our purpose.

Defining the purpose of each project is not hard, but it will cause you to slow down and think through the demands on your plate so you can make more meaningful progress. Even if you can only take 15 minutes to try this on your next project, it will be worth it. For a framework to help you get started, download our free tool, the 1-Page Project Planner. Here’s to progress!