Mission statements at their very essence set out the market position of your business. They are what defines your business and what sets you apart from your competition. They shouldn’t be taken lightly, or even dismissed as irrelevant. As your business grows, your mission statement will help guide you and inform the path you follow.
If you’ve yet to create a mission statement, or it’s been a while since you last looked at it, let’s walk through defining your market position and the process of building one so that you can start to reap the rewards of having a well-crafted mission statement.
To best describe the subject of positioning, when it comes to your market and in the mind of your consumer, think of the scene from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland when Alice asks the Cheshire Cat which route to choose. He says:
“If you don’t care where you’re going, it doesn’t make a difference which path you take.”
Without direction or focus, a business or organisation often acts like a multi-headed creature – speaking from many mouths, saying nothing, and going nowhere. So, where do you begin building your mission statement?
Five Essential Questions
A well-crafted mission statement defines your company’s direction. We help our clients build their mission statements using five essential questions:
- What do you do?
- Why do you do it?
- What makes you special?
- What do your customers value?
- What’s your geographical area?
At face value, these questions seem simple and easy to answer. However, they can be among the most difficult a company will ever have to answer. Successful businesses are continuously raising and answering these questions.
Asking these basic questions is a sign of strength, not uncertainty. Yet, it is surprising how few companies exist where management is in total agreement on these basics or where the answers have been actively identified.
Often organisations start with a clear mission held within the mind of its founder. But over time, as the company grows and changes, through offering new products or services, entering new markets and having different employees, the mission fades. As a company grows, the mission statement becomes more and more valuable.
A clear mission statement acts as an ‘invisible hand’ that guides people in the organisation so they can work independently, and yet collectively, towards overall organisational goals. It is a touchstone for every aspect of organisational behaviour. In expressing values that everyone in the organisation understands and shares, it means everyone in the organisation is striving for the same goals, working to the same principles and securing the organisation’s reputation.
Follow the right path
By creating a clear, defensible, distinct mission statement and supporting key messages to guide you and others along the way, you will be setting your communications program on the right path. In most organisations this takes introspection, selling and consensus-building. An organisation can only succeed in living up to its values if its people understand, support and maintain them.
Remember the purpose is creating clarity, consistency and continuity in the way the organisation speaks to its market. This makes all forms of communication less complex and easier to manage. Getting there takes patience, discipline, negotiation and above all an ‘outside-in’ perspective. Because of that, an external marketing specialist can be of value in managing the project.
Developing a mission statement will undoubtedly take time and energy. It will also cost you money. But the benefits to be derived from the proper execution of the process will be invaluable.
Paul Mackman is the Managing Director at Mackman, and Vice Chair of the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Eastern Board.
If you would like one of the specialists at Mackman to provide a comment or write an opinion piece for your publication, give us a call on 01787 388038, or email firstname.lastname@example.org