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How Purpose-Driven Marketing Can Help Small Businesses Compete Against Large Companies

Build a brand that not only tells a story but also gives consumers a story to tell others.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Purpose-marketing isn't new, but nationwide, there's a growing business trend that involves building purpose into everything a company does. As a small business, it can be tough to compete with the marketing, resources and supply chain that larger companies have access to. Here's how to level the playing field.

Prioritize purpose

You make sure there's an easy-to-understand message behind your business. Reportedly, when choosing between products and brands, 84 percent of Gen Z consumers will choose the one that has the greater social or environmental benefit. And purpose and sustainability are only trending upward in importance. 

It stands to reason that, if you're in the process of launching a direct-to-consumer business and haven't yet thought about its larger purpose, you're already losing to someone who has. 

In the fashion industry, it could be relatively easy to decide on your purpose: sustainability. Your small business could easily stand out when compared to fast-fashion brands that create extensive waste, since you could market an easily understood alternative. Depending on your industry, it may be more challenging to weave your purpose into your product. 

Create a mission

It doesn't matter what widget you're selling; if you're using your company to support, sustain or uplift a marginalized community, you're doing something powerful. 

Today's consumer isn't always satisfied with writing a check to support a cause. They want it to be built into what you do because they want to feel great about buying your product and they also want to be able to tell your brand's story as they use your product. Purpose has the added benefit of driving more word-of-mouth than many other strategies.

As purpose-driven companies become more popular, it's likely that small businesses will have to try harder and harder to stand out. But we're not there yet. We are still in a moment in time where if you're genuine about your company's purpose, there's a good chance it'll be noticed. 

Be genuine 

There doesn't have to be anything sinister behind this motive. You're not trying to trick people that you care so they will buy your product. Quite the contrary: If you appear disingenuine, consumers will likely spot that quickly. This strategy is about the right thing and the best thing for your bottom line aligning. It may seem as rare as a solar eclipse, but it's happening here and now. 

Before you make your first sale or create your business plan, decide on your purpose. It may seem slightly counter-intuitive, but it can pay off in the long run. Start by identifying what you're passionate about or what would have the greatest benefit for your community. Talk to city leaders and people already trying to make a difference in the space you're interested in. Do your homework, and listen. Put in the time to make sure you can authentically talk about the caue you are looking to drive forward.

Then, go out there and tell that story with the help of your business. If you do it right, people will keep coming back and also tell their friends — not only because you have a good story, but also because it gives them a good story to tell. 

Jeff Barrett

Written By

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer

Jeff Barrett has traveled to nearly every state writing about startup ecosystems. He has won the Shorty Award, and is a Webby Award nominee. He creates dynamic campaigns and influencer networks for Fortune 500 clients including Adobe and Oracle.