Sales and Marketing

This article discusses sales and marketing processes in Teal organizations.

A New Perspective

Starting with the Orange paradigm, businesses have become highly sophisticated at segmenting customers based on their conscious and unconscious needs, preferences and buying behaviors. Driven by the objective of outmaneuvering the competition, they carefully position their products and services for each segment. This has contributed importantly to the innovation brought about in Orange and Green, but increasingly, in our mature markets, it seems companies are bent on creating new needs over meeting existing ones. In this process, they often play on our fears and vanities. “Buy this and you will feel good about yourself.” “Buy this and others will like you.” “Buy this and you will be successful.”

In contrast, the Teal approach to marketing is rather simplistic and stems directly from the organization’s sense of purpose. Companies simply ‘listen in’ to what feels like the right offering. There is less emphasis on customer surveys and focus groups. Essentially, marketing boils down to: This is our offer. At this moment, we feel this is the best we can possibly do. We hope you will like it. In a strange paradox, Teal organizations go about filling a need not by tuning in to the noise of the world (the surveys, the focus groups, the customer segmentation), but by listening within. What product would we be really proud of? What product would fill a genuine need in the world? These are the kinds of questions people in Teal organizations ask to define new products. It’s a process guided by beauty and intuition more than analytics.[1]

In Practice

As an organization’s guiding light switches from sales, profits and market share to its purpose, sales and marketing practices change in fundamental ways.

Inside-out offer defined by purpose

Earlier stage organizations will develop marketing strategies based heavily on an analysis of customers (using surveys, focus groups, etc.) with the objective of increasing sales, profit, market share, etc. often by creating artificial needs. This could be characterized as an “outside in” approach. Teal organizations take an “inside out” approach where product development and communication are driven by the desire to fulfill the organization’s purpose. See also Innovation and Product Development.

Marketing driven more by purpose than product

Because purpose takes priority over sales and profits in Teal, these organizations are most interested in promoting the importance of their purpose and how they are working to achieve it than they are on selling their product or service. See the example of Patagonia below.

The message is less directed at the “competition”

Communications about a Teal company’s offering are less frequently designed primarily to claim superiority over the competition. As noted elsewhere in this wiki, Teal organizations often view others that are pursuing a similar purpose as allies rather than competitors. Communication are more often focused on the importance of the organization’s purpose and how the offering fulfills that purpose.

Less investment in sales and marketing departments

In Teal, the massive resources allocated to marketing typical in earlier stage organizations are largely gone. Traditional sales and marketing departments often do not exist. Responsibility is distributed throughout the organisation through self-managing teams who have direct customer contact. Within project teams there is often a role which links directly to the customer and is responsible for communicating with him and feeding back issues or opportunities to the team.

Fewer top-down sales targets

In Teal organizations, self-set targets may exist, but top-down targets usually don't. Targets are problematic for at least three reasons:

  1. They rest on the assumption that we can predict the future.
  2. They may skew our focus away from purpose.
  3. They may narrow our ability to sense possibilities.

Concrete cases for inspiration

Has grown from 4 people in 2007 to 10,000 employees in 2016 without using any marketing.

At Buurtzorg, with a 10,000 people organization only 45 people work at the head office and there is no marketing department. In fact, since the organization was started in 2007 they have not used any conventional marketing at all. From the beginning Buurtzorg focused on patients and on solving problems.

"We believed this would create a better result. We would not use any marketing, instead use free publicity when people were satisfied with our services.", says Jos de Blok. Today Buurtzorg work a lot on establishing close and genuine relationships with patients, different stakeholders and other people with a natural interest in their services. Because of the success of the organization, this also includes communication with media and newspapers in an effort to meet the interest that has been generated by many years of good word of mouth. "Buurtzorg has become associated with something “good” now, so it is easier for us nowadays.", says Jos de Blok.

Sending love to clients

Through a process of collective discussion, FAVI’s employees determined the organization had two reasons for existence, two fundamental purposes: the first to provide meaningful work in the area of Hallencourt, a rural area in northern France where good work is rare; the second to give and receive love from clients. Yes, love, a word rarely heard in the world of business, and even more unexpected in a blue-collar manufacturing environment. At FAVI, it has taken on real meaning. Operators don’t just send products to their clients, they send products into which they have put their heart. A few years ago, around Christmas time, an operator at FAVI molded excess brass into a few small figurines of Santa and of reindeers. He added the figurines into the boxes of finished products, rather like kids put a message in a bottle they throw out to sea, imagining that someone, somewhere, would find it. Other operators have since picked up on the idea and at random times of the year add brass figurines into their shipments, as little tokens of love to their counterparts working on assembly lines at Volkswagen or Volvo, who will find the figurines when they unpack the boxes.[2]

Marketing as “Don’t Buy Our Product”?!

Where most brands use marketing to convert prospects into customers, Patagonia wants to turn customers into activists. Patagonia is famous for having run full-page ads reading, “Don’t buy this jacket.” The ads were part of its “Common Threads Partnership.” Patagonia reckons that many of us in the developed world have enough clothes in our closets to keep us warm for a lifetime. And yet we keep buying new clothes, which are environmentally harmful to produce and will end up in a landfill. The Common Threads Partnership takes a serious stab at reducing (making clothes that last longer), repairing (Patagonia repairs clothes for its customers), reusing (the company resells your used clothes on eBay or in their stores’ Worn Wear section), and recycling (you can return your old clothes to Patagonia and they recycle them). Will this initiative harm Patagonia’s growth in the short term? Yes. Every repaired and every reused jacket is one less jacket bought. Will it increase its growth in the long term, through higher customer loyalty? Perhaps. But Patagonia’s decision wasn’t driven by forecasts and financials. The company chose the path its purpose called for. For more on Patagonia’s marketing approach see, The Purpose-Driven Marketer: How Patagonia Uses Storytelling To Turn Consumers Into Activists.

Related Topics

    Notes and references

    1. Laloux, Frederic (2014-02-09). Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness (Kindle Locations 4511-4521). Nelson Parker. Kindle Edition. ↩︎

    2. Laloux, Frederic (2014-02-09). Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness (Kindle Locations 4371-4378). Nelson Parker. Kindle Edition. ↩︎