Inspiring companies are on average more successful on all fronts: they have more productive employees, more loyal customers, more innovation and better profit figures. And: that level of inspiration can be developed. Joris van Zoelen has been researching inspiring companies for ten years. In recent years, social impact appears to play an important role in that level of inspiration. The marketer can play a crucial role in this – if he dares.
What causes employees and customers to get “light in the eye” of a company?
Joris van Zoelen: “Ten years ago we came to the conclusion that inspiration was an underexposed element when looking at organizations. What causes employees and customers to get “light in the eye” of a company? And what does that mean for the success of such an organization? Since then we have examined this annually. Among other things, it led to the inspiring 40, a list of companies that score above average on innovation, relationship, product and vision. Over the course of those ten years, a factor became increasingly important: high scores are mainly for companies that have a goal that is not primarily aimed at profit; they work from a strong vision on a better world. If you combine such a strong drive and vision with a healthy size, we speak of an impact organization. “
The PIM session on October 26 is about “Working on trust”
Whether you are Fairphone or Unilever
The most inspiring organization of 2019 was Too Good to Go, a platform that combats food waste. Quite easy, you can say, they are fairly new, a sympathetic initiative, a nice start-up. But don’t you just have to earn money? “Yes,” agrees Van Zoelen. “There are many initiatives that arise from idealistic motives. They only gain real influence if scale is also achieved. Tony’s Chocolonely is a well-known example of a company that has made that step successful. That does not happen automatically, you have to consciously work with that business side. Seepje is a wonderful organic detergent, but they realize that they only really make an impact when they get a full place on the shelf, next to the established brands. Yet you don’t have to be an idealistic startup to provide inspiration and contribute to social improvements. As an established company, you can also make the switch from a traditional corporate to an impact organization, look at DSM or Unilever, for example. That requires a clear long-term vision and very strong leadership, but it is possible. “
Impact organization, isn’t that a very buzzword? “No, that’s not a buzzword,” says Van Zoelen fiercely. “In fact, if you use it that way, you haven’t understood it and your impact will be limited. “Purpose in one day”, those kinds of promises, go away, that’s not possible at all! It’s really about wanting to make a difference in the world and your entire business going for it. You need leadership that believes in it, employees who are involved and above all, you must continue to embrace your dissatisfaction, never be satisfied. It’s about setting big goals and doing everything you can to achieve them. Incidentally, it is not at all bad if there are economic motives involved, I am not at all against that. The answer to the big questions is always a balance between intrinsic ideals, or the fire that burns inside, and a financially healthy organization that makes it possible to really make a difference. “
It’s about setting big goals and doing everything you can to achieve them
The marketer as a window on the world
The marketer has a very important role in that process. That is to say, if they are willing to fill in their position in the broadest sense of the word, Van Zoelen believes: ‘We all see that the world is confronted with fierce challenges and there are opportunities for companies to get going. The marketer forms the eyes and ears of the company, he can bring those insights from the outside in, in fact, he should do that and preferably not too subtly. Because if you as a company have insufficient eye for the world around you, you quickly lose your relevance. Then you’ll look at each other in three years’ time and wonder where you missed the boat. “
That means a different way of thinking, also of marketers. “You should not only ask your current customers what they want, it is important to feel what the issues are, now and in five, ten, twenty years. You have to go outside for that. The days when you sit in the office to develop a fun Insta campaign, you can better use it to find out what your company can positively contribute to the developments that take place outside. “
How do we do that?
On October 26, Joris van Zoelen will bring a number of interesting examples of successful impact organizations, including the less obvious ones. From the field of B2B, technology, but of course also from the consumer market and both startups and established names. How do you make the step to a real impact organization? It is not so much the question of whether you should work with it, but mainly how you can do that from your situation. The ten years that I have followed this theme clearly shows who owns the future: the companies that do well, that do it exceptionally well and that realize the scale necessary to really contribute to a better world. For everyone it boils down to the question: Who do you want to be and what do you want to work on? “
Joris van Zoelen is one of the speakers during the PIM session “Working on trust”, which will take place on October 26, 2020. It is not yet clear whether this event will take place offline, online or hybrid. Other speakers are Huib van Bockel from the natural power drink Tenzing and Guido Stein from Vattenfall.