A mission statement is a key marketing tool for your business. In a few short words, it captures your core brand positioning, helps you stand apart from your competitors, simplifies your strategic direction, and communicates a company persona. You can leverage your mission statement to build an instant rapport with key audiences like investors, new employees, and potential customers.
Your mission statement should reflect every dimension of your business from the services you provide to the products that you sell and the value proposition you have to offer. It should be actionable, substantive, dynamic, and charismatic.
To write the perfect mission statement, you need to start with the right questions. What are the core values of your industry? Who is your target audience? What distinct value does your business provide, and what image do you want to maintain? Why should prospects want to spend money with you?
Your mission statement is a marketing tool that you should outline, write, rewrite, and overthink. Here are five key guidelines (with examples from the world’s most powerful brands) to steer you in the right direction.
1. Substance over Vagueness
Your customers want results, not buzzwords and fluff. Your mission statement should be a down to earth description of the value that your company provides. Answer the simple question – what does your company strive to do?
Example Wrong Answer
“To ignite a digital revolution.”
This mission statement is much too broad, without any substantive or actionable takeaways. The words are energizing, however, the concrete value is difficult to pinpoint.
Example Right Answer
“To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”—Google
This mission statement is objective-focused and concrete in clearly articulating Google’s place in the Internet search industry.
2. Clear and Focused
While your company may be a jack-of-all-trades, your company’s mission statement should have a clearly discernable, linear direction. If you try to cover too many bases, you’ll end up confusing your prospects who are likely to have very clear objectives in mind. Even if your company specializes in a wealth of products and services, your mission statement should speak to the “umbrella” that covers it all. Consider the following example from the Wikimedia Foundation, a resource for "everything and anything."
“To empower and engage people around the world, to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally.”
Wikimedia’s mission statement consolidates the organization’s multifaceted value proposition into a clearly discernable path. If you’re confused about pinpointing your organization’s key themes, focus instead on the following question: what does everything that you do have in common?
3. Emotional Appeal
If your company’s mission statement is boring, nobody will notice or remember it. Don’t be afraid to infuse your copy with a little edge and personality. Aim to be energizing, inspirational, and memorable. Rather than taking a bland, objective, and scientific approach, strive to build an emotional connection with your prospects. Your mission statement will help build that bond in under 30 seconds. Here’s what Nike says to connect with the customer’s core audience – athletes:
“To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.”
For sports enthusiasts, these qualities are key for motivation. Words like “inspiration” and “innovation” effectively tap into the psychology of physical endurance.
4. A Brand Persona
Think of your mission statement as one context for an introductory handshake between your company and your prospects. It’s an opportunity to showcase your company’s personality and to stand apart from your competitors. What makes your company unique? Here’s eBay’s answer:
“To provide a global online marketplace where practically anyone can trade practically anything.”
Be casual and conversational to build comfort and a strong rapport with your audiences. Nobody wants to work with or buy from a stuffy, impersonal organization.
When writing your company’s mission statement, plan for the long haul. Mission statements should be enduring and build to last through your company’s changes in direction. The continuity is important for resonating with your audiences and maintaining a consistent brand image. Of course, you can rewrite you mission statement as your company evolves, but for the most part, plan to keep changes to a minimum. In other words, make sure that your mission statement is broad and resilient enough to embrace change. Consider the case of Zappos, for instance:
“To provide the best customer service possible.”
Zappos is primarily a clothing and shoes retailer, but what if they want to change direction? No problem. The mission statement has any and all shifts covered.
Final Thoughts: Involve the Team
Ten heads are better than one. Get everyone involved in creating your company’s mission statement – from brainstorming to outlining, writing, proofreading, and rewriting. Your prospects, customers, and audiences come from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives, so don’t be afraid to face-test your mission statement with everyone who is willing to contribute and provide critical input.