B2B Companies See Purpose As A Path to Success

February 26, 2020

ANA Why B2B Companies Embrace Purpose Feb2020For some time now, purpose has been an important factor when it comes to consumers feeling loyal to and having a connection to a company. While purpose has been a driving factor for B2C businesses, B2Bs are also recognizing the role purpose plays in setting them apart from the pack, with about 9 out of 10 (86%) B2B professionals saying purpose is important to their business, per a report [download page] from the ANA.

ANA defines purpose as “a company’s reason for being, beyond profits, that guides its business growth and impact on society.” Some 93% of B2B professionals surveyed say that they are somewhere on the purpose journey, with 57% saying they are more focused on purpose today than they were three years ago. Another 42% say they are in the early stages of this journey, somewhere from discussing purpose internally to assigning teams to develop it. But why are B2B companies embracing purpose?

Per the report, 4 out of 5 (82%) B2B executives feel that companies with purpose have greater success than those without. Three-quarters (75%) also say that purpose supports recruiting, while 73% say that it motivates sales teams.

To a lesser extent, the study also found that 51% of B2B companies are embracing purpose because it shows values and character in action (51%), drives business growth (47%) and deepens customer relationships (46%). These dynamics have been identified on the consumer end, as research has shown that consumers have a more positive image of – and are more likely to both trust and recommend – purpose-led companies.

Few B2B Companies Have Fully Embedded Purpose

Although the majority of B2B companies acknowledge the importance of purpose to business, only one-quarter (24%) say that they have activated purpose, meaning they have embedded purpose across the business “from culture and innovation to operations and engagement with society.”

One challenge identified by 56% of the companies that haven’t activated purpose is that purpose engagement feels more like a PR exercise than an authentic commitment. This sentiment may not be unfounded, as other research has shown that many consumers feel that the reasons brands take a stand are related primarily to PR or marketing purposes.

Other B2B businesses that haven’t activated purposes say that purpose does not play a considerable role in their competitive set (51%) and that they lack the capacity to adopt and activate purpose (50%). Only 3 in 10 (28%) say that not having a way to measure the impact of purpose is a challenge.

Purpose Brings Positive Outcomes

If businesses are able to overcome the challenges of activating purpose, they do appear set to enjoy positive outcomes. The vast majority of respondents agree that their focus on purposes protects their company’s reputation, deepens their relationship with customers, opens doors to new customers, and enhances new talent recruitment opportunities. A majority of respondents also agree that purpose earns loyalty from employees.

This employee loyalty can have an even wider reach, as more than two-thirds (67%) of B2B professionals say that their employees are excited to discuss company purpose on social media. With a recent report indicating that people are more likely to trust an employee than a company executive, employee advocacy could dampen worries about purpose being viewed more as a PR stunt than real commitment.

The full report can be downloaded here.

About the Data: Findings are based on a survey of 259 B2B professionals across sectors. The majority of respondents are from companies with revenues ranging from $50 million to $2 billion.

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