When establishing your brand strategy, one of the most critical tasks on your list will be to create what is known as a company mission statement.
A summary of an organisation's purpose and identity, a mission statement is a one-sentence description of the firm's objective and function – it gives investors, consumers and partners a reason to justify putting resources into your business.
Nearly all of the world's most successful brands have powerful, visionary and succinct mission statements that have guided their business models; for example, Microsoft endeavour to "empower every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more", while IKEA aims to "create a better everyday life for the many people".
Despite comprising of only a few words, these sentences contain immense concepts that are integral to the brand strategy of those organisations. Given how short they are, a mission statement might appear easy enough to create, too, but every verb, noun and adjective has to have impact and meaning.
To help you structure one, we've compiled a breakdown of what you need to include - and what you should avoid; this is how to create a mission statement for your business.
1. Know What Your Company Does
Here is an important question: What does your business do?
Yes, it might be clear to you, the business owner, but it is essential for everyone else – employees, customers and investors – to know what precisely the company produces or provides. Whether it is designing web graphics or offering financial advice, you need to dictate clearly what the firm's purpose is.
Take this concise mission statement from biotech firm Genentech as an example: "To develop drugs to address significant unmet medical needs". It is abundantly clear to everyone that the primary goal of the entire company is to manufacture pharmaceutical products, and to apply them to medical issues that have previously been left unaddressed.
2. Explain Why Your Company Exists
Understanding why your company opened its doors is the first step in eliciting an emotional response to your business. Not only is it a prudent reminder to you as a leader, but also an opportunity for everyone else to understand your motivation.
Of course, every for-profit company aims to make money, but there also needs to be a bigger goal - goods that meet demand, or services that satisfy the market - to generate revenue.
PayPal, for example, realised the need for a secure online payment system, pledging to "build the internet's most convenient, secure, cost-effective payment solution"; now everyone knows why they are in business.
3. Understand How Your Business Achieves Its Mission
Most experts agree that this is the hardest part of creating a company mission statement. Typically, when you explain how your business achieves its overall targets, you need more than a few words or a couple of sentences. However, there is a way to circumvent this hurdle: identify your core values.
As you brainstorm and perfect your mission statement, you need to take a step back and consider the method in which you want to conduct your business. For instance, this might mean offering the best customer service in your industry, fostering innovation in your products, or adopting sustainable production means.
4. Outline Your Company's Characteristics
Every business has a brand - a myriad of unique traits that separates you from your competitors. These characteristics are also how consumers will identify your brand. While it might seem necessary to focus on your startup's style and culture, the best way to showcase your characteristics in a mission statement is through its tone.
Compare these two coffee giants, for instance. Starbucks, a brand that is heavily associated with social responsibility, endeavours to "inspire and nurture the human spirit - one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time". That's a pretty grandiose mission for a business that sells lattes and muffins, but it works, because it is in line with the company's progressive approach to social justice issues.
Meanwhile, Costa Coffee's mission statement - "to save the world from mediocre coffee" - suggests that they are more interested in the quality of their product (although "save the world" can be interpreted as a subtle nod to Costa's sustainability commitments).
Both organisations sell the same thing, yet their mission statements are different - a perfect example of how your tone can define what your company, rather than your product, is all about.
5. Mention Your Company's Goals
Your mission should include at least one of your priority business goals, or, rather, the most important thing you are trying to achieve. Think of your statement as pointing out the endgame of your goods or services.
Consider Google's mission statement, which is to "organise the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful", or Trip Advisor's pledge to "help people around the world plan and have the perfect trip."
Google's goal is to make it easier and useful to access to information. Trip Advisor aims to make travelling simpler to plan and execute. Simple, right? These are laudable and concrete objectives that form strong mission statements.
6. Skip the Buzzwords
When it comes to mission statements, a common pitfall of startups and small businesses is to overuse buzzwords, fluff and industry jargon that turns off industry insiders and causes outsiders to become confused.
Take this example of a fictitious auto company: "To ensure that every driver is safe by synergistically customising torque steel parts and designing effective bedding in brake pads, which will make our company the best in the world."
Did you get any of that? Firstly, road safety is a high priority for every auto manufacturer, so this isn't unique. Secondly, aside from mechanics and car enthusiasts, nobody knows what "torque steel" and "bedding in brake pads" are. Thirdly, grandiose claims and impossible-to-achieve promises of being "the best in the world" will never get you anywhere. This type of language minimises your odds of being granted the funding you need to grow your business.
Instead, keep it broad and straightforward. Like Walmart ("We save people money so they can live better"), you should write what you know, communicate the truth, and use words that everyone can understand.
7. Collaborate with Employees
If you are having difficulty in establishing a mission statement, it can be a prudent move to collaborate with all your employees. One staff member might have a different vantage point of the business, while another worker may see a particular product or service in a different way to everybody else.
Whatever the case may be, two heads are better than one. Whether your employees have just joined the firm, or they have been with the organisation since day one, everyone can bring something to the table.
8. Visualise the Mission Statement
The only way to gauge how effective your mission statement is going to be is to test it out. From printing it in brochures to placing it on your website, you need to showcase it to an audience. It might be a work in progress, but the point of this experiment is to determine what type of reaction it elicits.
Ultimately, you want the public to like, understand and be excited by it; a positive reaction suggests that people are asking intelligent questions. An adverse response is just as important, though; it means that people still want to know more about you, but that your mission statement requires tweaking.
9. Implement DISC
If all else fails, then use the DISC acronym to keep you on track:
- Define: Explain your existence.
- Inspire: Aspire to bring your vision to real life.
- Specific: Use easily understood and relevant terminology.
- Concise: Highlight your commitment to your goal in as few words as possible.
For such a short sentence, mission statements require much work. It's not advised to jot one down on the back of a cocktail napkin at three in the morning when you're half asleep; you'll need to plot, brainstorm and experiment to arrive at the right one.
It's worth the effort, however. Too many companies fail to understand the importance of a good mission statement; they undersell their potential, repel investors, or overpromise on things that they can't possibly deliver. Instead, take the time to do it right, and don't try to revolutionise your entire industry in one sentence.
How did you arrive at your company's mission statement? Let us know in the comments below!