The beginning of a new year seems like a good time to talk about marketing basics – what is our purpose? What are we trying to accomplish? Other than making money, why are we in business?
Today we’ll talk about how to write a compelling mission statement – one that does more than lie around in a drawer turning yellow.
This will be the first in a series of posts about some basic marketing documents you need in business. It will be followed by how to write a vision statement, company/organization values, a positioning statement, an elevator speech, a tagline, key messages, buyer personas, a SWOT analysis, and finally, a marketing/communications plan. In addition, you’ll need is a crisis communications plan.
So, what’s the point? Why should you spend all of your precious time putting words to paper? Because if you don’t know why you are in business, who you are targeting and what makes you unique, your chances of succeeding are much, much less.
The power of these words is the process that it takes to get to those words. You must make decisions to choose those words, and in making those decisions, you are making a commitment to yourself. Once you commit yourself to paper, these words have muscle. Don’t shove them in a drawer. Leave them out so you can see them. Frame them. Let them guide your decisions every day.
The other reason you must do this is because it is preliminary work for successful branding. A successful brand has its roots in a well-conceived mission statement. Branding is storytelling at its purest form, and your mission statement is the foundation for it.
So, let’s talk about mission statements.
What is a mission statement? A mission statement is a statement of purpose for your business or organization. It gives you direction and focus, and helps you find your most profitable customers. It’s the driving force behind everything you do and sets your corporate culture. It helps you to see the big picture, and keeps you from getting lost in the weeds.
When you are ready to write your mission statement, get your employees involved. Often organizations hold retreats away from the day-to-day business operations so that a core group of employees can work on mission, vision and values statements.
Here are some questions to consider:
- What do we do?
- Why do we do it?
- For whom do we do it?
- Why do we do what we do the way that we do it?
- How are we different from others providing this service?
- Why do we get up in the morning to do this?
- What are we passionate about?
- How do we make people’s lives better?
- What do we want to be known for?
After working through these questions, start putting words to paper. Use powerful, exciting language! It should be an action-oriented statement, not a flowery, lofty sounding treatise. Too many prepositional phrases, adverbs and adjectives weaken it. Colorful verbs make your statement come alive – place one near the beginning of the statement.
Keep it short! No long paragraphs and run-on sentences. You and your staff should be able to remember your mission statement without having to look it up.
Here are some examples of great mission statements:
- TED: Spreading ideas. (Two words!)
- Sentara Healthcare: We improve health every day.
- Nike: To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.
- Starbucks: To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.
- Google: To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
- Skype: To be the fabric of real-time communication on the web.
- Twitter: To instantly connect people everywhere to what’s most important to them.
I have been working with the Peninsula Women’s Network helping them rebrand their organization. Part of its process includes rewriting its mission, vision and values. Its old mission statement was:
The Peninsula Women’s Network connects motivated women of diverse accomplishments for the exchange of ideas, experiences and mutual support. The Network provides educational programs and activities that enhance the business, professional and personal development of its members.
After conducting a focus group, our committee shortened the mission statement to: “We connect women.”
Everything we needed to say was contained in those three simple words. It is so concise that we can also use it as our tagline, which isn’t always possible with a mission statement. Now, everyone in the Network can readily recall the mission statement and it gives focus to everything that the organization does.
Here’s the mission statement for my business: We communicate stories that inspire people to think differently and take action.
What’s your mission statement?