In the midst of choosing your business location, hiring staff, establishing your product and service offering and getting your name out into the marketplace, it’s likely you’ve skipped one of the most critical branding steps that could make all that hard work more impactful now, and for years to come—writing a mission statement.
In marketing terms, a mission statement is a short paragraph that describes what your business does, and why it exists. If that sounds like pointless marketing mumbo jumbo that could be crossed off your long list of more important things to do, you’re not alone. The reality is, many mission statements are ineffective. Usually, they’re the ones written in minutes with very little thought by their creators.
Writing a mission statement that actually adds value to your business (and isn’t that the whole idea?) requires some real effort, and thought. In about three sentences, an effective mission statement can communicate your business’s core values. Those values in turn transform the building in which you’re located, the people you employ, and the services and goods you offer into a meaningful business identity—that you, your employees, your community, your marketing message, and your customers can all embrace.
A good mission statement will set you apart from competitors so you’re not left to compete on price or discounts alone. Your mission statement will eventually help you shape a brand identity that carves out your rightful space in the marketplace—even as you evolve, change, and grow.
Here are a few simple tips to help kick-start the process of writing an effective mission statement that will shape your brand, and ultimately your business.
Reflect on your story. Every person has a story. Your business has one, too. Think about the events that led up to your decision to start your business. Was there a lack of something in the market? Did you feel like you could offer a more superior experience than your competitors? How, and why? All of these factors are unique brand values that deserve a mention in your mission statement.
With this “guiding light” of sorts, you can thoughtfully breathe life into these values to shape a brand experience that customers can recognize—from the look of your logo and invoices, to the music you play in your front office, to the way your staff answers the phone. Suppose you started an orthodontic practice because you felt there was a lack of providers prioritizing patient convenience, for example. Those values belong in your mission statement. They’re expressed through your brand offering, which might include the customer-friendly scheduling tools, and the option for weekend or nighttime appointment hours.
Need inspiration? Visit a Chipotle. Using brand elements like an open dining room layout, lighting, simplified menu and order process, the values in its mission statement are communicated through the brand story.
Chipotle tells its story with a fun, visual timeline on their website.
Identify what’s in it for them. Though a mission statement is technically about your company, it should include the all important customer appeal: What’s in it for them. Consider the customer-facing highlights within Trader Joe’s mission statement: “…To give customers the best food and beverage values…and the highest quality of customer satisfaction delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, fun, individual pride, and company spirit.” Visit a Trader Joe’s, and you’ll see first hand that the mission statement is alive and well—in the products it stocks, in the way its employees interact with customers, and how each store is designed. All of those unique elements ultimately shape the Trader Joe’s brand experience; the mission statement communicates the “why” behind them.
The inside of a Trader Joe’s in Austin, TX.
Say what you stand for. Is there a cause you’re passionate about, a particular customer segment you aim to serve, or specific ethics or values that drive your business decisions? These intangibles also contribute to an impactful mission statement that shapes your overarching brand. Whether customers share in your passions is unimportant. What is? That you communicate them into a powerful brand personality that sets your business apart.
Consider the active wear brand Patagonia. It sells outdoor apparel that could theoretically be found at any activewear retailer, but its mission statement makes it different: “To build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” If you’ve ever thumbed through a Patagonia catalog, the mission statement is made tangible across a host of brand elements including the paper on which the catalog is printed, and its imagery, copy, and content.
Patagonia’s commitment to environmental consciousness is evident all over their site, given the incredible graphics of the outdoors and a whole section dedicated to corporate responsibility.
When starting a business, a mission statement serves a critical purpose—especially for small businesses that are otherwise limited in marketing resources. By taking the time to write your business mission statement from the start, you’ll have a guiding light that ties the many elements of your business—including its people and products—into an identifiable sense of “place”—whether the customer is physically in your store, or interacting with your brand online.