Healthcare Marketing Master Series: Driving Business Performance Through Core Values

If you look at the brands that really stand out today, you'll notice most have a clear purpose and mission. Zappos delivers WOW through service, Google doesn't want to do evil, and Volvo has a long-term commitment to safety, to mention a few. When a company has a powerful story and strong core values, it attracts recognition, customers, employees and growth.

Steve Jobs talked about this incredibly well back in 1997 when Apple launched its "Think Different" campaign. And while a lot has changed over the last 9 years–video recording quality for instance–the importance of core values has remained the same. If you haven't seen this video, it's well worth the time.

Rather than focusing on product features or price, Jobs' view was that you should base marketing on your company's core values and how you can make a difference in the world.

This is as true today as it was then. Branding shouldn't be about gimmicks. You have to live your brand. Alignment starts with your core values and leads into your brand, your marketing and everything you do as a business.

Aligning Your Core Values With Your Brand

Before you can project a unique and charismatic external brand (which is defined as a product or service that people view there is no substitute for), you must first understand your company’s core values. This internal identity is the source from which all other aspects of your company will flow. Your core values should make it crystal clear what you stand for, what you stand against, and why customers should choose you over the rest.

You must be doing something that other companies aren't doing or you must represent something in the marketplace that other companies don't. Maybe you're doing it better, cheaper, faster, with more knowledgeable people, or with more efficient manufacturing. Whatever it is, you need to understand what that difference is, turn it into a core brand value, and make sure your company consistently embodies it.

The fewer values you concentrate on, the more focused your company is and the easier the decisions are for everyone involved with your brand.

Why Core Values Are So Important

Why are core values so important? They tell the world what you're about. They give your employees a reason to do what they do and your customers a reason to cheer for you. When a company truly lives their core values and everyone works by them, the results are revolutionary. Today 80% of the Fortune 100 tout their values publicly, and companies with a high sense of purpose outperform others by 400%.

Core values also become the guiding principles by which companies make decisions on how they deploy their resources, develop products, explore partnerships, and respond to customers. Core values should live in the world of black and white, not shades of gray. When your core values are black and white, then all the people in your company understand what's expected of them and you're that much closer to doing what you say you're going to do 100% of the time. This means you're that much closer to being a trusted brand.

Defining Your Core Values and Maintaining Focus

It is important to recognize that just writing down your values, or publishing them on your website, does not actually do anything. The values must encompass an active management process that motivates employees on a day-to-day basis, leaves room for individual contributions, provides new operational definitions as circumstances change, and guides resource allocations and focus.

The companies that are famous for their values implement them in a consistent way. This consistency across the company is what drives higher functioning companies. If a company behaves in ways that shows disregard for the core values, it will quickly be understood by employees and customers. Johnson & Johnson has a long and proud tradition of adhering to its core values. As the brand's website states: "We believe our first responsibility is to the doctors, nurses and patients, to mothers and fathers and all others who use our products and services." It was an unprecedented act of loyalty to core values when the company ordered a $100 million recall of Tylenol following reports of cyanide poisonings in 1982. While it would arguably have been easier, and perhaps cheaper, to deal with lawsuits from the poisoning deaths on a case-by-case basis, Johnson & Johnson wasted no time pulling its top-selling product from store shelves across the country (never mind that the contaminations were found to have occurred only in Chicago). On the other hand, Enron cited its core values of Respect, Integrity, Communication and Excellence in its 2000 Annual Report, but their actions clearly showed they were hollow.

Using Your Core Values As Part of Your Competitive Advantage

It's been shown that companies with core values that differentiate themselves from their competitors also outperform them. What seems to matter too is that companies who revisit and adjust their values over time outperform those who keep their values static. In effect, "tweaking" your values shows that you are actively trying to reform and improve the company, which is connected to financial performance.

Determining your company core values is a lengthy process. Many companies skip it altogether or they pick from a list of the most common core values successful organizations have. But your core values are part of your competitive advantage. It is an excellent opportunity for you to separate yourself from your competitors by sharing values and beliefs that are unique and fundamental to your business.

We have created a worksheet to help identify your misalignments and create new alignments which are crucial to survive and thrive in the new healthcare landscape. Values really do drive the business.

Use this worksheet to uncover you company's core values.

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