Mission statements. It’s too easy to be glib and cynical about them. But a Mission statement done well is powerful. It’s inspiring. It sets parameters. It allows organisations and their people to focus. It sets the very foundations on which your business is built. Your Marketing Plan falls from the Mission Statement, so make it a good one. I’m going to outline three steps you need to take to create a strong, unifying mission for your organisation but first, let’s clarify what a Mission statement is.
What a mission statement is
Philip Kotler, the father of marketing, stated in 1996 that a Mission Statement is, “A statement of the organisation’s purpose – what it wants to accomplish in the wider environment”*.
In short, an organisation’s mission is their reason for existing – what they are there to achieve.
Some great examples of mission statements are:
- IKEA: To create a better everyday life for the many people.
- Patagonia: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
- TED: Spread ideas.
- Star Trek: To boldly go where no one has gone before.
All of these statements make it very clear what each organisation is about; they provide a yard stick against which to measure all activities, people, and attitudes.
- Not fussed about the environment? Patagonia isn’t the place for you to work.
- Your fire not lit by spreading ideas? Perhaps pass TED by.
- Not keen on the unknown and meeting aliens? Probably best to stick to ground control rather than hop on the USS Enterprise.
Okay, the Star Trek one is a bit silly but it beautifully illustrates my point.
Three steps to creating a powerful mission statement
First: Be honest
You, and the other Directors in your company, need to really accept and understand your why.
If you are the founder of your organisation or a director, then really think about why you set it up or why you joined it. Go deep. Get beyond, “To make money”, “To earn a living”. There are a million ways to make money; why did you choose this way.
Simon Sinek’s powerful TED talk, “Start with Why” really helps leaders get to grips with their why. Watch it.
Then sit down and write out your why.
- What is the real reason you are doing this?
- What is your company all about?
- What is the mark you want to leave on this planet?
If there are a few of you, then do this together. You may find it useful to have an outside facilitator to come in and help. I have helped many businesses find their “why” – contact me for more information.
Second: Make sure it feels right
Okay, touchy feely, but if your mission statement is to be a rallying cry, to be a yardstick, to be an aspiration, then it has to “get you there”. It needs to mean something to you, your business, your people.
When I run workshops with organisations to help their articulate their mission, I always know when we’ve got it right. They all look happy. They nod. The words I read out resonate with everyone. And I know when we aren’t there yet. They kind of smile but their faces screw up a tiny bit. They use words like, “Yeah, it’s good but…” So we keep going until everyone has that genuine smile of agreement.
Next: Articulate the “how”.
This goes beyond your mission statement and gives it even more parameters. It sets the scene for your Business Objectives.
Mission: to improve the lives on the regional community
How: by providing financial information and advice on community based projects and to community leaders.
Bang! You, and everyone in your firm and market place, know that you are in the finance sector. Want marketing advice? Move on. You work with community based projects and leaders – running a business that doesn’t support the local community? We’re not the people for you. Your mission and how can now shape your business objectives and strategy.
Some real examples
Here are some mission statements from real SMEs:
- We make the law work for you
- We are experts at solving ICT problems in UK Education
- To make the world a better place
- To connect people
- To stop people disliking themselves
- To solve problems for people.
And here’s one from the bank I worked for when I first started my career:
To maximise shareholder value.
I could never get behind that mission and hated how things were judged against it rather than against what the customers needed. The mission and what it did to how business was conducted was one of the reasons why I chose to move on in my career and work for the Fire & Rescue Service.
Your organisation’s mission statement is more than glib words – it should be the driving force behind everything your company does. So take the time to really articulate one that means something.
References: *p78, “Principles of Marketing”by Kotler, Armstrong, Saunders, Wong, Third European Edition 2001.
Kara Stanford is a Strategic Marketing Consultant based in Hampshire, England.
Contact her to find out how she can help your organisation have clarity of purpose and a mission statement that means something.
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Read her blog on Marketing Planning Essentials to find out how to use your Mission to shape your marketing plan.
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