One of the most crucial elements of running a business is telling your story to the rest of the world. It's not just about who you are and what you do, but also about what motivates your business decisions and trajectory. In many ways, your mission is the purpose of your business's continued existence.
In its bare essentials, a mission statement is a two or three-line description of what you want to offer to your audience. Many people confuse that with a vision statement, which is a description of what you want to achieve with your business. Combine them and you'll have a more descriptive and reassuring statement for your readers. For example, the Department of Health of the Australian Government has this on their website:
"Our vision is better health and well-being for all Australians, now and for future generations. We aim to achieve our vision through evidence-based policy, well targeted programs and best practice regulation."
This is a combination of their vision and mission statements. The department envisions better health for all Australians, and to realise that vision they put together various public programs, backed by research and reviews.
Why you should have a mission statement
A strong mission statement instills confidence in those trying to decide whether to do business with you. More importantly, though, a mission statement is a guideline for business decisions. Many people who look at your about page and read through your mission statement are looking for clues about who you are and how you will respond at critical business junctures. That's why a mission statement can be a subtle way to share your values and philosophy.
Use your mission statement to attract the right audience to your business. For example, at Zoho we have multiple statements all relating back to a single core mission: To build a unique and powerful suite of software that can run your entire business. Because we're talking about software that needs continuous improvement in a constantly evolving technological space, we also talk about a range of our values and processes to inform our audience why we do things a certain way. This helps us reach audiences who care about the same things as we do: promoting regional economies, protecting personal user privacy, giving back to our local communities, and doing our part to educate and provide opportunities to talented individuals regardless of their backgrounds and formal qualifications.
Documentation is the key
A mission statement can be a strong asset to your company. To get the most of it, document it in various ways and distribute it widely so that it resonates with the audience you're trying to attract. There are many ways to communicate your mission including your websites, blogs, press releases, third-party guest appearances, printed brochures, advertisements, and more. Consider your mission statement an integral part of your content repository. Create variations of your core statement so you have a range of messages that can fit in with your marketing activities.
Creating your mission statement
Your mission statement is about you and your business, but it's also about your audience. What do you offer them that they don't have already, and will make their lives better? When you sit down to write your mission statement, ask yourself three main questions:
• What does your business do?
• Why do you do that?
• How do you do it?
You'll likely come up with a paragraph or two for each question. Write it all down and then start condensing it. It's important to get all your thoughts down first before you start cutting out what's unnecessary. This way, you can always reuse that message in other forms such as in a blog post or even in an interview. Crafting the perfect mission statement can take a while. Take time to get it right; even if it's only a couple of lines tucked away in your website, it tells people what they should expect from you.
Crafting the perfect mission statement
Keep it simple
A mission statement is not an investor pitch. You're not trying to garner immediate returns from your statement, but instead trying to establish yourself as an approachable brand. Stick to the basics in terms of technicalities and word choice. Your statement should be accessible to people of all ages and language capabilities. A mission statement is not a place to showcase your flair, but it is a place to show your brand's voice. Let it shine.
Aim to inspire
Your mission statement should be exciting to read. It doesn't have to be as thrilling as a page-turner, but it should engage your reader and make them want to keep reading. Inspire readers with your story. Of course, this is easier said than done. If you think think there's nothing noble or inspiring about coloured fizzy water, you can't write a statement like this: “To refresh the world…To inspire moments of optimism and happiness…To create value and make a difference.” Coca Cola's team had to look for the exciting aspect of their beverage to create that statement. As we said before, it takes time. Don't rush.
The easiest way to convince readers that you're the best at what you do is to communicate genuinely. Don't put on airs. Instead, tell your audience what excites you about your business and why you'd buy from yourself.
Don't be boring
Your mission statement can be dull when you're genuine but don't inspire. For example, "Establish Starbucks as the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world while maintaining our uncompromising principles while we grow,” is a perfectly fine statement. It checks all the boxes and does a good job of telling us about the company and its priorities. However, it's not, shall we say, 'refreshing'. Reading that statement doesn't make you want Starbucks coffee, whereas Coca Cola's statement better connects with its audience.
Websites from the early '90s had mission and vision statements clearly distinguished on the header. Things have changed so much that no one seems to spend time on it nowadays. But its importance remains, especially to new prospects who want to learn about your business and to regular customers who are looking for reassurance. Many businesses who realise this include their mission statements in their about page. We love this approach because it crafts a visual narrative and is more engaging than a block of text. We'd suggest the same. Look through some great 'about' pages to understand how they structure their messaging. We also have a handy guide with references and a checklist to help you write your own mission statement.