By answering three simple questions, you can clarify an overall vision that will help keep you on track for years to come. That vision, set down in words, is usually called a mission statement or a vision statement.
Mission Statements vs. Vision Statements
Mission statements and vision statements are often easily confused because they serve somewhat similar purposes and are often used together. Many companies call their combined mission/vision statements simply a “mission statement,” and for simplicity’s sake, that’s what I’ll do here.
But very quickly, we’ll go ahead and take a quick look at the two separated out.
Mission Statement: It defines the purpose of your business, who your customers are, and how you will serve them.
Vision Statement: It defines the ideal vision of the business and the future; it is also meant to inspire.
Why Have a Mission Statement?
- A mission statement keeps you focused on your goals.
- A mission statement acts as a barometer when making decisions large and small.
- A mission statement can quickly tell others what you’re about. It can also help guide your overall marketing strategy.
Writing Your Mission Statement – 3 Simple Questions
If you research how to write a mission statement on the web, you are likely to come across many different ways. And when you check out some successful companies’ mission statements, you’ll also find a seemingly large variety of types. And so it can get fairly confusing.
To make it easier, we’ve boiled writing a basic mission statement down to answering three simple questions:
1. Purpose: What is the purpose of your blog/site/company? In other words, what problems/challenges do you address? Why do you exist? Who do you serve?
2. Products/Services: How do you fulfill your purpose? What products or services do you offer?
3. Guiding Principles: What are your guiding principles? What do you value?
Example – Web Service Provider for Small Businesses
A lot of the words above probably look fairly general and vague. That’s because they are. And so to help make them more concrete, we’ll run through an example. For our example, we’ll pretend we are a web service provider for small businesses called ABC Web Services.
1. What is the purpose of your blog/site/company? In other words, what problems/challenges do you address? Why do you exist? Who do you serve?
We exist to help small businesses take advantage of web technologies in order to compete online and succeed in the modern marketplace.
2. How do you fulfill your purpose? What products or services do you offer?
We provide design, content, SEO, social media solutions, and on-going education about the latest web technologies. We do this through individualized, personalized service.
3. What are your guiding principles? What do you value?
Respect, understanding, and caring (through individualized, personalized service).
Sample Mission Statement Written Out:
ABC Web Solutions helps small businesses take advantage of web technologies in order to compete online and succeed in the modern marketplace. We help small businesses with web design, content creation, search engine optimization (SEO), and social media. We understand that each and every business is different, and so we offer personal attention, recommendations, and solutions to every single one of our clients.
(Note: the “education” part above would be part of the “recommendations” part in the finalized mission statement.)
The Mission Statement in Action
OK, so now you have a mission statement. But how does it really help?
Well, let’s just back up a little and look at the Why Have a Mission Statement? section. Let’s look at how each of these sections might play out in real life.
1. It keeps you focused on your goals.
Your goal is to help small businesses take advantage of web technologies. This can guide your research and also your education materials. When you see something that a big company is using that might work for one of your small clients, don’t just take note of it, educate them about it. Guide them through the maze of business on the web. Also, don’t get caught up in trying to attract everyone and their brother to your site. Keep your eye on the prize – small business owners. Spend time trying to attract your target market. Go where they are. Hang out where they hang out.
2. It acts as a barometer when making decisions large and small.
You’re thinking about offering a certain link package for any client who wants to buy it. So you take your idea to you mission statement. You know this link package is something that will only really help an established site. Most if not all of your clients will have no idea about whether or not this package would help their site.
With that in mind, you see that just offering the package to everyone and anyone with the caveat “Buyer Beware” is not living up to your mission statement. You said you were about personal, individualized service, as well as education.
Even though you might be able to make more money in the short term, you decide not to offer the link package to everyone, and instead, pick out the four or five clients that it might actually help and recommend it to them.
3. It can quickly tell others what you’re about, and it helps with marketing strategy.
You know that having a USP (unique selling point) is essential for your marketing efforts. It will be the main message that you will want to communicate to potential clients at every turn: on your site, in your marketing, in your education materials, and even in your social media interactions.
So you need to answer the questions What makes you different? and Why should someone buy from you and not your competition?
When you go to your mission statement, your answer is right there: We understand that each and every business is different, and so we offer personal attention, recommendations, and solutions to every single one of our clients.
You just cut that down a little to make it more USP-friendly, and your main marketing message is set. When trying to decide on subsequent marketing messages, just come back to your mission statement again and make sure it falls under that main umbrella.
Can You Answer 3 Simple Questions?
It doesn’t matter if you’re an individual blogger or the president of a large company, you should be able to answer these three simple questions (What’s your purpose? How do you fulfill it? What guides you?). Once you do, review your mission statement every day for the first few weeks to make sure it’s clearly ingrained in your mind. After that, review it every few months to act both as a refresher and also to see if it needs to be changed. If you start out headed to Seattle and then decide you wanted to go to San Diego, you’d better make sure you change your GPS.
If you’d like to check out mission statements of some of the world’s more well-known companies, you can find them here.