Business Advice

Six steps to building a successful profit-with-purpose business strategy

- May 9, 2022 3 MIN READ

In the post-COVID era, customers, clients and investors are keener than ever to work with businesses who have a clear, purpose-driven strategy that includes open communication about their social and environmental impacts, writes Carolyn Butler-Madden, author of two books on social purpose, For Love & Money and Path To Purpose.

Societal leadership is now considered a core business function. According to the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer, 58 per cent of people buy or advocate for brands, and 60 per cent choose a place to work, based on their beliefs and values; 64 per cent invest based on their beliefs and values; and 88 per cent of institutional investors subject ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) to the same scrutiny as operational and financial considerations.

Now this might cause whiplash to some readers, but it shouldn’t really come as a surprise. It is entirely consistent with the growth of the purpose-driven business movement.

These days it’s near on impossible to read a publication, listen to a podcast or attend an event without hearing about the importance of purpose. And purpose is essentially societal leadership.

We have moved well past the conversation about whether businesses ‘should’ have a purpose. We are now at a point where leaders are expected to implement a purpose strategy.

It’s time, therefore, to understand how to build an effective purpose strategy that doesn’t just tick boxes, but drives business success and profitability through societal leadership. Profit through purpose.

6 steps to building a profit-with-purpose business strategy


It’s important to understand that becoming a purpose-driven business is a journey underpinned by action.

Through my work with clients and my research into some of the world’s most successful purpose-led brands, I’ve developed a methodology designed to unlock the full value of a meaningful and profitable purpose strategy.

It involves six key steps. These steps can also be used as a guide to build your own effective purpose strategy.

Step 1: Put purpose at the centre of your brand

Too often, businesses ‘tack on’ a purpose statement to their brand. This is a useless and superficial practice.

An authentic purpose exists at the heart of your brand, driving your business strategy and inspiring action. Building it from the centre outwards provides a vital foundation for your business on its path to purpose.

Step 2: Give your people ownership of your purpose

This is about inspiring and unifying your people behind the purpose that your business exists for. Involving them early will allow them to bring some of their unique ideas to the table.

Not only will this give you a treasure trove of actionable ideas and opportunities, but it will also give them ownership of the organisation’s purpose and emotionally invest them in its success. Their ownership is integral to your success as a purposeful business.

Step 3: Find your partners in purpose

Finding and activating your collaborators is essential to a purpose-driven organisation. Building movements of change requires many hearts, minds and hands on deck, so collaboration and partnership is important, especially to scale your impact.

Step 4: Use marketing to build a movement for change

I’m often asked how to ‘market’ a business’ purpose. Sounds pretty inauthentic doesn’t it? So instead of approaching marketing as a way to promote your brand, reframe the opportunity.

What if you were to use your marketing and comms channels to build and scale a movement of change? You’d invite people to be part of it, wouldn’t you? That’s the opportunity you have here. Think of your customers and prospects as your fellow collaborators rather than someone to sell to.

Step 5: Use your purpose to shape your customer experience

How you engage your customers in your organisation’s purpose is important, so this step explores how your purpose can drive innovation in your business.

It’s no coincidence that many of the companies on ‘most innovative’ lists are purpose-led businesses.

Step 6: Track your impact and business performance

Purpose is a long-term business strategy so you need to have long-term measures that you can evaluate, alongside shorter-term markers so you know if your strategy is delivering on expectations. These measures fall into two core categories:

  • Social impact – linked to your social purpose.
  • Business performance – people, brand, revenue.

Purpose and profit are inextricably related. Without profit, a purpose-led business won’t survive and won’t be able to create impact that is sustainable or scalable.

Following these six steps will enable you to unlock the full value of a meaningful and profitable purpose strategy and along the way, to build a business that you can feel proud of.

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