This blog first appeared on Fresh Business Thinking on 17 June 2015.
Our hyper-connected lives make it harder than ever for businesses to break through and connect with customers. Brands can still win the trust of consumers, but only if they are deemed to be authentic and credible. They need purpose, a reason for being that people can both believe in and buy into.
It is a brand’s sense of mission and their ability to campaign that differentiates them and ensures their continued success against the odds. As entrepreneurs, we can all build on and learn from these successes.
Having worked closely alongside a host of British success stories for the last five years, and interviewed entrepreneurs from around the world for a new book, from the founder of Whole Foods to co-founder of Airbnb, I have heard the stories of those who have made it. And, my advice to aspiring and emerging start-ups would be this.
Spend the time you need on product and concept development, but be sure to invest as much time in working out what you are trying to achieve and for what purpose.
Set an ambitious mission for your business that can be the guiding star both for getting a venture off the ground and for getting past the challenges of growth. Don’t worry if this mission is seemingly impossible; it is this audacity that gives businesses their missionary zeal.
Be able to say not just what your product or service does, but why it really matters. Why you were motivated to do it and for whom. Then, be sure everyone knows what your founding mission is and how that purpose has evolved over time.
If your business is losing its way, reduce your mission and story to just a couple of sentences to focus everyone’s attention.
And remember, a mission is nothing without a campaigner to make it real. A campaigner must embody the activist mentality, being optimistic in the belief that they – and their followers – can change business, and society, for the better. Most importantly, you must practice what you preach.
There are seven campaigning traits: drive, judgment, communication, disruption, persuasion, connection and optimism. Identify those you possess, those that you need to work on improving and those that are missing entirely. Then, seek to build a team with complementary skills and traits to your own.
The crucial ingredient for continued success is momentum. Ask yourself, are you moving forwards or falling back? Focus your market research on momentum trends, which will give you a better chance of harnessing major changes as they happen, allowing you to lead rather than follow a market.
And when you are just getting started, don’t be disheartened if your business isn’t a hit immediately, as Joe Gebbia, co-founder of Airbnb told me “even the best ideas can take time to catch on”. Embrace the challenge to try and create your own market and leave the competition behind. Be fearless in taking on the status quo, and never give up.