If you asked your employees what the company’s mission is right now, what would they say? More often than not, they will regurgitate a long, drawn-out paragraph full of inspirational jargon. But that leaves everyone wondering, what exactly does this mean? What is a mission statement and why is it so important?

A mission statement defines the “what,” the “who,” and the “why” of a company – generally in a punchy, purposeful and inspiring way. It serves as the roadmap for the brand promise, company core values, and vision statement. And it should, ultimately, act as a goal that every employee strives toward each day.

In this day and age, people want to interact with brands that care about consumers, the planet and their purpose in the world. To simply exist is not enough. Mission statements help define the brand and that, in turn, can drive more meaningful and profitable interactions with customers. This might sound daunting but when you reflect on the simple ‘what, who & why’ of your company, you can always find a more meaningful reason for existing. Let’s look at how to find the right mission statement by beginning with the basics.

What’s the point of the mission statement?

A mission statement should state why the company exists. Companies are founded to fill a niche, deliver a product or service, meet market demand, or create a new market with new demands.

So let’s start there! Why does your company exist? Let’s say you’re in the shoe manufacturing business. It’s apparent that your mission is to make shoes. Simple, right?

Our mission: To make shoes.

Ok, not all that inspiring, but at least it’s truthful, and a starting point. Now think about whom we deliver our products and services to. In this case, our shoe company focuses on athletic shoes for walking, running, training, hiking, and sport. Since we’ve narrowed the focus, we can be more specific with our mission.

Our mission: To make athletic shoes.

Well, we know exactly why the company exists now — to make athletic shoes. The next question that should immediately spring to mind is why our shoes are unique in the marketplace (or as we call it, your unique value proposition). The company has a broad demographic (everyone wears shoes), but this company has a unique design attribute that makes their shoes comfortable and lightweight. Also, their price is in the mid-range amongst all athletic shoes in the category. Because of the price point, they are not targeting high-performance athletes, but everyday people who value exercise and a healthy lifestyle. Now we know who we are in business to serve and what we’re delivering. Let’s update our mission.

Our Mission: To make comfortable athletic footwear for everyday athletes.

We’re getting warmer! Now let’s consider a few things that all companies go through in the course of their growth. Are we only ever going to sell shoes? Building brands is about building an idea around which consumer’s rally, a feeling that you share with your audience. Once we’ve found success in the athletic shoe market, we need to consider if we’re going to stop there. The next logical move would be to expand our focus and stretch our brand to complementary products. Ones that people who enjoy athletic shoes would also want to buy. It’s only natural to catapult off of our successes and pursue new opportunities, such as apparel and possibly even sporting goods. Maybe our mission is right for today, but does it give us the platform we need to think beyond today?

If your mission statement is about what you do today only, then you are missing an opportunity to make growth and change a part of your mission. Growth-oriented companies are constantly testing the waters of new markets and growing their offer to meet changing demographics and evolving markets. When we add this together, it’s apparent that our mission “to make comfortable athletic footwear for everyday athletes” is singular and lacks an inspirational quality or room for growth. Let’s think about how our current products and future products make our consumers feel: Inspired, athletic, fit, confident, strong, capable. These are powerful words that touch people at an emotional level, and we should focus on moving our brand to a space that inspires emotion in people. It’s how authentic brands differentiate from commodities and offer something special. Something difficult to replicate.

Let’s have one more go at the mission statement to make it more emotionally connected. One that will give us a broader platform for delivery now and in the future.

Our Mission: To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.

Now that says something important, doesn’t it? It doesn’t even mention shoes; instead, it focuses on the audience we connect with. When our employees, engineers, designers, product reps, executives, and customers think about our company, they think about something different. The possibilities our products offer, the people that use them, the people we want to be. This gives us a broad platform, and a strong focus — the 2 critical elements of a mission statement.

Oh, and our fictitious shoe company? Not so fictitious after all, Nike Inc. took its first shoe order in 1964, and the rest is an inspirational story of growth, change, and success in the athletic marketplace.

Here are 5 things to remember when crafting your mission statement:

  1. Start with the promise – What do you want every customer and non-customer to feel like they’re going to get?
  2. Keep it short – Keep peeling back the layers until you arrive at the very heart of your organization
  3. Get feedback! Nothing great happens in a vacuum. Solicit feedback and gauge the audience’s reaction.
  4. Make it memorable – Avoid jargon terms, and test yourself the day after you create, and a week later. If you can still remember it without reading it from somewhere, it passes the test.
  5. Spread the word – Make sure everyone in the organization knows what your mission is. Evangelize your brand’s mission and gain a loyal following!

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