A mission statement is a statement of intent. This is usually a few sentence-long passage of text that will tell customers, business partners and everyone else what your company does and more important why it does it.
A mission statement should focus on the purpose and the ‘why’ behind the business. In other words, it doesn’t just tell the world that you’re out to make a buck by reselling old clothes. It needs to be more aspirational, such as:
“Reusing old clothes in a way that is eco-friendly, affordable and highly fashionable. It’s cool to be conscientious!”
Something like this clearly states a ‘mission’ for the company: to make reusing old clothes desirable. And this in turn will help you to make your business considerably more appealing. It will inform everything from your branding, to the way you go about marketing. And most importantly, it will help you to build fans rather than just customers. Because people love to get behind movements and they are happy to spend money if they think it means something or lets them express themselves.
There are more benefits to this too and more ways to communicate your companies purpose.
Making Up Your Mind: What is Your Business About?
The first thing you need to do if you want to be able to sell your business effectively is to decide yourself what your business is and what it's about. First of all, then this means deciding what your business model is and being able to say this succinctly in one sentence. That should be 'we buy and sell books' or 'we offer consultation and advice for start-up telesales companies' - whatever it is you should be able to communicate in one line how you make your money and what you offer.
This is the nuts and bolts part – not the aspirational part.
But this is not the mission statement and this is where the difference lies between what your business does and what it is. Sure you sell pens, but is that all you want to do? Or do you want to some day make writers hip? Do you make food or do you want to make healthy eating convenient? A mission statement like this will make your business more than just a money making scheme and will show people that you have passion and vision. Think about what you want to achieve in the long term and what your values are and condense this into a sentence too.
To help come up with this, you can start with the nuts and bolts and work backwards. Or you can ask yourself what the reason you got started was. What was the motivation that made you want to launch this business? What is it that wakes you up in the morning? What gets you excited? Because that will get others excited too most likely!
Try the 5-whys technique and ask yourself ‘why’ five times.
Communicating What You Do
Being able to communicate effectively is one of the most important skills if you hope to be a success in business. Communication is crucial whether you are trying to sell a product or a service, whether you need to let someone down gently when things don't go to plan, or whether you're just communicating with your colleagues in order to coordinate your work on a project.
One of the very most important things to be able to communicate effectively though at all times is what your business is about and what it does. This sounds obvious, but you'd possibly be surprised to learn that people cannot always succinctly communicate the purpose of their business, or even sometimes the purpose of their projects or ideas. A business partner came to me with an idea for a product the other day, but when I asked her to explain it she really couldn't communicate what the idea was. Talk about lacking an elevator pitch! How can you get someone on board if you aren't able to even tell them what they're signing up for?
Even if you can succinctly tell people what your business is about though, you need to ask yourself whether you are selling yourself short. What your business does is not necessarily the same as what your business is about. Likewise, describing your business to someone is not the only way to communicate what it does or what you're trying to make - sometimes you communicate your business plans without even being aware of it.
How You Communicate Non-Verbally
There are also non-verbal ways to communicate what your business is about. For instance simply, the name of your company and your company logo are going to tell people a lot about what you do so you need to make sure that the impression these give is accurate. If you have a logo then it should fit with your mission statement as well as making sense within your industry. Don't use a battery as your logo if you sell fruit unless it somehow ties in. Apple uses an Apple as their logo sure, but this suggests a clean and crisp aesthetic which does hold true when you look at their products.
When you are just starting out though try to be on the nose with your brand and logo - the ideal is that when people see your branding they'll know instantly what you do and whether or not they're interested in your services. This helps with targeting and will make you stand out to the right customers.
Using an amalgamation of these ideas (the mission statement and the elevator pitch) you might want to consider creating a tag-line for your business. This will help people to understand more what your company does and is even when you aren't around to explain it to them which can help you get to the point a lot more quickly.
Likewise, your web design will communicate things about your company, as will the design you use for leaflets and everything else. An unwritten rule in design is that your design should 'communicate, not decorate'. In other words, every element you include in your graphic design should say something useful whether it's about your navigation or about your business - just make sure that it says what you want it to. Even your décor will be informed by your mission statement – so make sure you have settled on what this is. It’s absolutely fundamental to your success.