One of the best ways to stay motivated and productive is by focusing on your “why.” For businesses, a mission is the “why” that helps employees and leaders keep moving forward. It’s also the secret sauce that makes your product or service one of a kind.
Since a business’ mission is so important, why are so many mission statements lacking? Wordy, vague, or convoluted mission statements can obscure the best and most important piece of information about your company: why you do what you do. Here’s our guide on how to make sure your mission statement is a great one.
What is a mission statement?
A mission statement is a short statement that you’ll often find on company websites, promotional materials, or even on the walls of an office. It’s a short, punchy statement that describes a company’s mission in just a few words. Some mission statements are full sentences, while others are a list of words or even just a brief phrase.
What’s a vision statement? Is it the same as a mission statement?
Vision statements and mission statements are often paired side by side, but they’re not the same. While a mission statement is all about your company’s current mission, a vision statement is all about your business goals for the future. It’s closely tied to your strategic plan. Think of it this way: what does your business hope to accomplish in the next 5-10 years? A vivid, succinct answer to this question would be a vision statement.
The three elements of a mission statement
The first step to creating a great mission statement is knowing what to include. There are three main elements of a mission statement:
- Who you’re speaking to: this can be either implicit or explicitly stated in the statement—for example, some mission statements might use “you” to refer to their intended audience rather than describing customers in the third person.
- What you offer: some mission statements answer this with an evocative description of a product or service, while others opt to state what they offer in more abstract terms, such as a reference to a feeling or identity. Beware of getting too abstract, which will make your statement vague.
- Why you offer it: most of all, what’s your angle? Your “why” is your unique selling point. It’s what drives your mission statement, and should come through in the copy as you’re describing your product or service.
Why does your business need a mission statement?
Mission statements are more that just a catchy phrase—they can also help empower employees, generate new business, and inspire you to lead according to your mission. It’s true that what you do matters more than what you say, but mission statements can help motivate you to live by them and draw others in.
Having a mission statement can also help you make decisions as you develop your brand. It can clarify how you’d like to present yourself to others as an organization, which you can then use to zero in on your brand identity.
How to write an empowering mission statement
Writing a good mission statement starts with a good brainstorming session. If you have employees, get them together to help articulate your company values. Not only will it help you uncover ideas you hadn’t though of, it can also be a great team-building exercise to bring people together.
Whether you’re with a team or on your own, here’s what to do if you don’t know where to start:
Start with a simple, bare bones statement about what you do. Then, go through and add the fewest words necessary to convey each of the three elements above. The evolution of your mission statement might go something like this:
Simple statement: We offer wedding photography.
Simple statement + who: We offer wedding photography for happy couples.
Simple statement + who + what: We offer creative wedding photography for happy couples.
Simple statement + who + what + why: We offer creative wedding photography to help happy couples make memories.
A few other tips:
If you offer a few different services and you’re not sure which one to feature, start with the most important thing you do. Then, think of the effect that has on your client. That effect is the core of what your company offers, and will help you identify your unique selling point.
You wouldn’t expect an ice cream parlour to have a mission statement that read, “We create dessert synergy via a streamlined waffle cone delivery mechanism.” Use the same language for your mission statement you use in your other marketing materials.
The good, the bad and the ugly: mission statement examples
If you need a little inspiration, here are some examples of great and not-so-great mission statements and how they work:
Descriptive mission statements:
Good: Rapt Studio
Rapt Studio is a design and strategy studio. Their mission statement reads,
“We’re a group of designers, strategists, and architects on a mission to design meaningful connections. We believe that design should remind us all that we belong to something larger—something that matters.”
Although it’s a bit longer than some, it’s a great mission statement because it tells the reader exactly who they are and what they value. This is a good content strategy for a design and consulting firm, since it articulates a complex service in a concise way.
On the other hand, Amazon’s mission statement has too much information:
“Amazon is guided by four principles: customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention, commitment to operational excellence, and long-term thinking. Amazon strives to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, Earth’s best employer, and Earth’s safest place to work. Customer reviews, 1-Click shopping, personalized recommendations, Prime, Fulfillment by Amazon, AWS, Kindle Direct Publishing, Kindle, Career Choice, Fire tablets, Fire TV, Amazon Echo, Alexa, Just Walk Out technology, Amazon Studios, and The Climate Pledge are some of the things pioneered by Amazon.”
Instead of clarifying, the jargon in this mission statement makes it unwieldy. The four principles are vague enough that they might be applied to any company, and readers are unlikely to be interested in each point on the laundry list of technologies they’ve developed.
Short mission statements:
Good: Kirrin Finch
Kirrin Finch is a clothing brand that sells upscale, androgynous clothing for women. Their mission statement:
“We’re on a mission to do good in this world.”
In a different context this one might be vague. What makes it work is the background image behind the text, with a picture featuring women walking forward in Kirrin Finch clothing. It’s a great example of how images and copy can work together to bring a mission statement to life.
Envoy is an automation tool for physical workspaces to handle hot desking, deliveries, and guests. Their mission statement is also short:
“We’re creating a world where workplaces work better.”
It’s catchy, but doesn’t give any indication as to what they actually do. A business like Envoy that sells a more complex product than clothing would benefit from a more descriptive mission statement. To their credit, they have some explanatory text below—but it’s still vague, only mentioning “smart tools” at the end of the third paragraph.
Funny mission statements:
Velocity is a brand content strategy firm with a great mission statement that weaves its company culture in:
“We’re an odd bunch of international misfits, huddling together for warmth in a cold, indifferent world that thinks it’s weird to actually love things like content marketing and technology markets and B2B companies and storytelling and stuff like that. If that sounds geeky to you, do NOT invite a Velocitoid to a dinner party. You have been warned. (For a peek at our odd-but-somehow-kinda-good culture, check out this Who We Are doc – it’s sweary though).”
Their self-deprecating approach in the mission statement tells the reader they’re passionate without actually saying it outright. The humour works here because it blends well with the narrative of the company culture, painting a picture of an office full of people that like to joke around with each other.
Moosejaw is an outdoor clothing company with some great copy, but their mission statement falls flat. The text reads:
“Who is Moosejaw? We are the most fun outdoor retailer in the world. Love the madness. We only do cool stuff. We are notable. We love our customers. We are engagingly engaged.”
The mission statement takes the form of a video, with the text superimposed across clips of people doing outdoor sports. There’s also the odd goofy clip: a robot dancing, a dog eating with human hands, and a scientist drinking from a test tube. The humour in the video suggests that the brand doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it contradicts the bold statements they make about being “the most fun,” “notable,” and “engagingly engaged.”
How to put your mission statement in front of clients and employees
Most of the time, you’ll find mission statements on company websites. However, most of the time, your clients and employees aren’t looking at your “About Us” page.
To put your mission statement in front of your employees, make sure to include it in recruiting and onboarding materials. You can also include it in your email signature, on internal sites such as Slack channels, or even on your office walls.
In order to get customers to see it, try putting it on your packaging, or including it on invoices and receipts. You could also add it to promotional material like coupons and flyers.
Sum up your brand with a great mission statement
A really great mission statement can help your employees and customers get a feel for what your business is all about. Your graphics, packaging, and other brand content may say it obliquely, but a mission statement is one place where it’s crystal clear. Don’t waste the chance to say exactly what you mean!