There are few things in the world more existentially intimidating than looking at a blank piece of paper (or, in today’s world, a blinking cursor in an untouched document), and the feeling is only exacerbated when you’re trying to plan the future of your business.
Somehow, madly, impossibly, you’re supposed to make it from that humblest of beginnings to a confident and thought-out strategy for everything from financial viability to promotional efforts.
So you start with the assembly-line practicalities— those, at least, you can simply grind away. But then they’re over, and you realise that your body of work is lacking a heart. You need that core identity, that mission statement, that saturates a good business brand like dye in wool.
Here’s how I recommend you go about crafting yours.
Identify Your Goals Beyond Money
Imagine a scenario in which your financial success were completely and irrevocably assured— whatever you did with your business, it would continue to make you all the money you needed.
Now ask yourself: if you had that kind of security, what would you want to achieve through your business? What would you want your legacy to be, personally and professionally?
Perhaps it is the quality of your company that you would care about, making your grandest aspiration something to do with your professional reputation. You might want to be recognised as having the best customer service around, or the greatest degree of creativity.
For example, Home Depot’s stated goal, illustrated below, is “to provide the highest level of service, the broadest selection of products and the most competitive prices”.
Or maybe you’d look to do something external, something bold; change the world, or at least your industry. As an ecommerce expert, I’ve seen a fair number of companies state some lofty aspirations. Take Shopify’s quest to “Make commerce better for everyone” as an example:
Are these marketing ploys? To some extent, of course — but there isn’t really any issue with that. These goals genuinely reflect their companies, and if you have a goal you believe in, there’s nothing wrong with shouting it to the world.
Consider What Language Resonates With Your Audience
It isn’t just your mission that counts; it’s also how you express it. Since a good mission statement will typically end up on websites, plastered across office walls, and etched into the brains of numerous staff members, it’s very important that it be worded well.
When you see a mission statement something like this — “Our goal is to exceed excellence and go beyond achievement in pushing the envelope for performance in a delivery-focused environment.” — you are led to wonder who thought that generic buzzwords were the way to go. (I made that up, but there are dreadful mission statement generators out there!)
On the opposite end of the spectrum, one look at the language used by slick sales-focused luxury brands shows how effective tone can be. The manner in which Jaguar talks about its automotive business is evocative, punchy, and incredibly confident:
Do your existing or prospective customers appreciate plain language, or something closer to purple prose? Will they admire wild boldness or down-to-earth practicality? Something succinct, or a page-long plan? Put yourself in their shoes and think about what kind of statement would make a company more endearing.
The internet doesn’t forget, and ill-advised mission statements lurk in the depths, waiting to be dragged up years down the line by people with axes to grind (or those who simply despise mission statements altogether). Word your mission statement so it will never be something you are asked to apologise for or ashamed to look back on.
Set a Precedent of Authenticity
“Just be yourself”… who among us hasn’t been told that at some point or another? Yet when it comes to business, we readily assume strange, subdued, detached personas. We sand down our interesting edges, deny our idiosyncratic foibles, and feign levels of acceptable blandness.
Your mission statement gives you a chance to set a meaningful precedent— to draw a line in the sand, not just for your customers, but for yourself as well. You can infuse it with your personality so it will always serve as a reminder of who you were when it all began.
I’m a big fan of Nakd bars, and Natural Balance Foods (the company behind them) seems to have a really fun attitude; their use of informal language (yummy, good-for-you munchies) and spotty formatting makes it clear that they’re approachable and likely uninterested in blue-sky thinking or other jargon terms.
Leave Room To Grow
In the spirit of authenticity, why not start out with a statement that both looks into the future and acknowledges where you are now? That way, you can tweak the latter element as you make progress, and chart the changes on your website and/or social media channels; prospective customers will then be able to see where you are and how far you’ve come.
If you’re a small company looking to find a place in the market, don’t hide it— don’t claim or even imply that you’re larger than you are. People will think more of you for being honest. Every business has a journey, and you can let people in on yours, which will also leave them more inclined to support you.
Setting out the past, present and future of your business in a mission statement is tricky, but if you approach it in the right way, it will also be a lot of fun. Remember that you can revise it down the line, and pick something that shows people what makes your business unique. Good luck!
Victoria Greene is an ecommerce marketing expert and freelance writer who loves it when businesses aspire to great things.
You can read more of her work on her blog Victoria Ecommerce. Or connect with her on social media: