As a digital strategist for a content marketing agency, the first thing I look for on a new client’s website is their mission statement. Besides getting a read on a firm’s ethos, I’m also looking for a clearly stated unique value proposition (UVP) within the mission statement.
Why is this so important to my work? Two reasons.
- A well crafted mission statement indicates to me whether or not a company “gets it.” The success of the content strategies I craft with the collaboration of my clients hinges upon an unequivocal understanding of who they are, what they do and why anyone (the target audience) should care.
- In a semantic search world, search engines are increasingly able to connect the dots between what a consumer wants and what companies have the product or service to fulfill that want. A well crafted mission statement creates a strong identity that resonates through a firm’s content.
What Is a Mission Statement?
Too often the mission statements I read are in excess of 300 words and require an entire web page. Worse, the UVPs (if present) typically contain the following statements (followed by my first reaction after reading).
- … The lowest prices (Really? For how much longer? This has been proven time and time again to be an unsustainable business strategy.)
- … Best customer service (Prove it!)
- … Fastest shipping (Better than Amazon?)
- … A company that cares (Your competitors don’t?)
A mission statement clearly communicates what a company does and why it matters. Companies that fail to articulate this are in for a rough ride in the long haul.
The UVP is your opportunity to tell a client what makes your firm different from your competitors.
I am not referring here to a “content marketing mission statement,” as articulated by Joe Pulizzi and other content gurus. Here I speak of the fundamental statement of why an entity exists. This raison d’être is then weaved throughout every piece of brand and marketing collateral.
Great content that is ultimately shareable and relevant cannot be created without a mission statement that guides it.
How to Craft a Mission Statement
So how do I create a mission statement?
Mission statements are most essential and most maligned. They should be concise, succinct and tell the world, in three to four sentences MAX.
- Who are you?
- What do you do?
- Why should anyone care?
Sounds easy, right? Not so fast buster! The “why should anyone care” is heavy, heavy lifting. This third question addresses your firm’s UVP. Answering this question tells the world why you are different from your competitors. It also articulates your long term vision for the future.
So here are three questions to guide you as you rethink, re-craft, and re-deploy the most basic and essential of statements about your company. These questions should guide you to answering this: “Why should anyone care?”
- What are the opportunities that exist to address? Look back at the genesis of your business: What was the market opportunity we first served and filled? Does it still exist? What’s changed? Look at your competitors: How are they addressing the needs of your mutual clients? Can we do it better?
- What are we doing to address those needs? What exactly are we doing for our clients? How has it changed? What is uniquely inherent in the proposition we offer our clients? How/why did they choose us?
- What principles or beliefs guide our work? This question helps shape the context of how you address numbers one and two. The need/opportunity your firm addresses must fall within the company’s moral parameters.
Mission Statement in Action
Here’s an example of a very well crafted mission statement. Sunset Watch Villa is a luxury beachfront vacation rental home that competes with 300 other villas on the island of Virgin Gorda for a limited pool of well heeled Caribbean travelers.
“We are Sunset Watch Villa, a beachfront, three bedroom, vacation rental villa located on the secluded Nail Bay Beach on the island of Virgin Gorda, the British Virgin Islands. We offer a luxurious Caribbean sanctuary far removed from your daily grind. Come and reconnect with your family, spouse, partner, yourself, and nature in an idyllic island paradise. Create memories here.”
Notice the answers to the three basic questions:
- Who are we: “We are Sunset Watch Villa, a beachfront 3 bedroom vacation villa located on …”
- What we do: “We offer a luxurious Caribbean sanctuary …”
- Why does it matter: “Reconnect with your family, spouse, partner …”
- And the UVP: “Create memories here.”
Not only does their mission statement answer the three questions (and connect on an emotional basis), it also answers the fundamental question all businesses need to articulate: Why are we in business?
Sunset Watch might be an “affordable beachfront luxury villa” (its old tagline), but the business the owners are in is simply “memory creation.” This simple business statement, “create memories here,” guides all the content decisions for the website and management of the property itself. All expenditures and activities are devoted to creating or facilitating memories. Their blog is a de facto “FAQ,” with articles designed to answer questions and allay any fears that might distract from creating memories.
Brilliant, in my opinion.
So what does your firm’s mission statement say? Does it answer the three basic questions? Does it articulate your firm’s UVP? Take a fresh look with these thoughts in mind, and see if you need to do some new thinking and updating.