What is a mission statement and why does your business need one?

Illuminate your vision

Mission statements. We read them on business websites all the time. Everyone from global mega-corporations to one-person operations can use the mission statement to define themselves and the benefits of buying their services.

If you have any kind of online presence, it becomes even more critical that you differentiate yourself from the endless other places your customers and clients can choose to spend their dollars.

How do you do that? By clearly communicating exactly who you are, what you do, and what your clients can expect from you in your mission statement. It can set you apart from the competition.

What is a mission statement?

You can dissect a mission statement into three main parts:

A clarification of who you are, what you do, and who you do it for

In its most basic form, a mission statement illuminates you and your business, making it easier for customers and potential customers to see what you are about.

A promise to your customers

A business is only as good as its commitment to delivering on the promises made to clients. The promise should be explicit and, if at all possible, measurable.

A values statement

A mission statement can highlight several aspects of your business, and while your service promise is key, many people find social missions (values) just as important. Whether you write your economic and social/values missions in one mission statement or break it into two separate pieces, communicating to your customers that ‘for-the-greater-good’ part — what you care about, how you feel about serving your customers, and your commitment to social causes — is actually good for business. If you can work this into your mission statement, all the better.

Why have a mission statement?

I mentioned the fact that mission statement can set your business apart from the competition, but what does this really mean?

It separates you from the masses.

This is one of the most important benefits of having a carefully constructed mission statement. By defining yourself clearly, you make your business uniquely qualified to serve the customers you are trying to attract.

It shows your customer what you are all about.

A mission statement helps you find your ideal customers by letting people know up-front what you believe in, what you produce and who you serve.

It helps you never lose sight of your goal.

A well-written mission statement helps you stay on track with your purpose and goals. Some business owners even post their mission statements within their line of vision — on their computer monitor or framed on a nearby wall — so it guides everything they do for and say to their customers.

It makes it more likely that your employees’ behaviors and actions are aligned with your business’s core purpose.

Your mission statement serves as a guide to your employees in their daily interactions with customers and clients. They should be familiar enough with it so the actions that align with it become second nature.

It ensures that your goals and values are reflected in everything you produce.

From creating a new product to delivering a new website, your mission statement’s goals and values will become embodied in everything you create.

Elements of a head-turning mission statement

The best mission statements:

Are simple and uncluttered.

Too many details will complicate your statement and confuse your reader. See this post from adweek.com for an infographic that has some great examples of short-and-sweet mission statements.

I think IKEA’s mission statement is particularly brilliant:

Mission Statement IKEA
At IKEA our vision is to create a better everyday life for the many people.

IKEA’s mission is to improve people’s daily lives through quality furniture. They go on, in a few more sentences, to tell us the how. But in the first sentence alone, “the many people” reference introduces the benefit of affordable prices that make it possible for the masses to buy their product. This is a beautiful example of melding audience and benefit in very few words.

Are audience-, benefit- and result-specific.

A good mission statement often ties in audience or customer base (who you serve), the major benefit you provide (the value or results you provide for your customers), and how you help them get those results (what you do to help your customers achieve their goals).

To see some helpful examples of real-life companies’ mission statements that do this well, head on over to Inc.com’s post with its amazing infographic of 30 inspirational mission statements from billion-dollar startup companies.

One that stands out for me is the mission statement of Stemcentrx, a biotech company that is working on destroying the cancer stem cells that produce tumors:

“Our mission is to develop therapies that cure and significantly improve survival for cancer patients.”

We immediately see their audience (cancer patients), the major benefit (improve survival) and how they help (by developing therapies).

Promotes hope and trust.

The first mission statement on this list from a HubSpot post does this well. Life is Good, a T-shirt company, has made sure its mission statement supports their philosophy of spreading optimism and working for the greater good through their foundation:

“We can focus on what’s wrong with the world (see most news media), or we can cultivate what’s right with the world. What we focus on grows. That’s why the Life is Good community shares one simple, unifying mission: to spread the power of optimism.”

Who wouldn’t want to buy from a company that radiates positivity and inspires hope?

Connects emotionally with customers.

A mission statement should make the reader feel something, so don’t be afraid to show the human side of your business and connect with your customers emotionally. Nike’s mission statement demonstrates the power of making those connections:

“Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world.”

* If you have a body, you are an athlete.

Nike Mission Statement]Nike accomplishes a couple of things here. One, they speak to inspiration, which is a must-have feeling for anyone who exercises. You must somehow find the motivation to run before you can start seeing the benefits. And two, they make us feel a sense of belonging when they put us into the pool of athletes. Wouldn’t you feel pretty special special if someone called you an athlete?

Have you created a mission statement for your business? Share some of your favorites with us!


Also published on Medium.

Image by: 愛上我 妳會死的很慘 via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-ND