I recently heard a Tesla Motors exec give the back story on the company that’s shaking up the auto world. It was great to get a look under the hood of their strategy and future plans, but the thing that stood out to me most was what they had done with their core message. There’s an important lesson from this B2C brand that every B2B marketer should pay attention to.
For Tesla, it’s not about cars. It’s about “cause”.
Tesla isn’t just out to build better electric cars. For them, it’s not even about driving technological innovation. All of those things are a means to an end. Their end goal is to get the world off gas. And that cause drives everything at Tesla.
According to an article from their CEO, Elon Musk, back in 2006, “… the overarching purpose of Tesla Motors (and the reason I am funding the company) is to help expedite the move from a mine-and-burn hydrocarbon economy towards a solar electric economy.” This cause is captured succinctly in their mission statement: “to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable transport.” It showed up in customer-facing communications from the very beginning with lines like, “Burn rubber, not gasoline.”
The impact of a cause.
Tesla’s cause fuels their internal culture, guides their company strategy, and has led to all kinds of innovative thinking.
- It’s why Tesla has released their patents to anyone who wants them. (Why not help others make better electric cars if your mission is to get the world off gas?)
- It’s why they’re building out a nationwide network of free charging stations – and even talking about making them available to other electric vehicles.
- It has helped them go head-to-head with established dealer associations and win over legislators to their new direct sales model.
- It’s what inspired a couple in New York to take out a full-page ad in a Silicon Valley newspaper just to thank Elon Musk and offer some helpful suggestions.
It even changes the game for recruiting.
A quick glance at Tesla’s Glassdoor profile shows that working at Tesla is not all fun and games (with rumors of 12 hour work days, six days a week). So why are young engineers still flocking to the company – even leaving high-paying posts at companies like Apple? One reviewer from a Tesla project team captured it perfectly, “It is a great feeling knowing everything you do at work is one step towards building the future.”
That’s the power of a cause.
What’s the take-away for B2B marketers?
You don’t have to be on a mission to tackle a worldwide challenge like sustainable energy. But you do have to be on a mission that changes the conversation from “buy our stuff” to “join the movement”. We’ve seen this work for companies in behind-the-scenes B2B industries ranging from plastic packaging to IT consulting.
Lead with cause.
What’s your market’s biggest challenge or pain point? Turn it into a cause. Then, watch what happens to your marketing communications, your sales conversations, your recruiting efforts, and your company culture.