Every company has an origin story, the core reason it was founded — and that reason can be used to relate to customers.
“People care about why you do what you do, not what you do or how you do it,” says Guido Bartolacci, New Breed’s Head of Demand Generation. “If you start with why, you have a much better chance of building a solid company that has a foundation surrounded by something everyone at the company is driving toward.”
That “why” gives people something to connect with and helps build your brand.
The goal of starting a company can’t be merely to make money or be the best because to achieve either of those goals you need to be offering value in a way that wasn’t available before.
“Money is an output of why a company exists,” Guido says. “A lot of people get into business, get into entrepreneurship to make money, but they won’t be able to do that unless they have a solid reason why they’re there in the first place.”
If you want to create a product that’s the best at what it does, there’s probably a reason why the current “best” isn’t good enough. That shortcoming is the inspiration for your company. So, you created a product to solve a challenge the current market leader failed to address.
A strong product by itself can’t guarantee long-term success. Your product can be replicated by your competitors, and if that’s all your company has going for it, then your customers will leave when a newer or cheaper solution comes along.
But, if you build a community of evangelists who believe in your company’s reason for existence, they’ll stay loyal to you. That reason for existence is ideally to solve an existing need within the market, and it shouldn’t have anything to do with revenue.
A mission statement can help you explicitly summarize that “why.” Here are five questions to ask when defining your mission statement:
1. What Need Exists in the Market That You’re Trying to Solve?
In order to find product-market fit and grow as a company, you need to solve a challenge people have. Don’t leave prospects wondering how your solution will help them — tell them what pain points your product or service solves so they understand how you can make their lives better.
2. What Are Your Core Values?
“What are the things we care about more than anything else?” Guido asks.
Your company’s core values guide the way you do what you do. They’re the North Star of your company culture. Principles like innovation, integrity, sustainability and user experience can all be driving forces in your workplace.
What principles do you aspire to and how do those manifest in your company? Sharing the values you care about can help attract customers who care about the same thing. You can forge relationships from mutual ideologies.
3. How Do Your People Support Your Mission?
Where do your employees fit into your larger goal as a company? Do you want a team of people who embody your company values in and out of the office? Would you rather have highly-skilled employees who are dedicated to doing their tasks but don’t invest in the greater picture?
“How does everyone at your company support [your company vision]?” Guido says. “There are some people delivering what you do, but there are other people who make your company what it is.”
Also, does everyone within your company need to be fully bought in? Are you OK with having employees who see their job as nothing more than a paycheck?
“At a certain scale, you will have people who might not be fully bought in to the mission,” Guido says. “I still think you need to have a core set of people that fundamentally believe. I would also argue that you need to be strong enough to part ways with people who may be core to the company as it exists today but aren’t fully bought into the mission.”
4. What Are You Willing to Sacrifice (for Your Core Values)?
If people within your company don’t live up to the values you ascribe to, are you willing to part ways with employees? Would you risk losing customers by standing up for what you believe in?
“I think normally ‘what are you willing to sacrifice?’ is going to come down to revenue,” Guido says. “We’re going to part with this revenue, this safety, this security, in order to try to do something different, bold or in a new way.”
Understanding what you’re willing to sacrifice for your values can also help you understand whether a principle is actually core to your business. For example, if you’re not willing to invest money in environmentally-friendly practices that minimize your company’s carbon footprint, then sustainability isn’t that central to your company.
5. How Does the Way You Operate Align with Your Mission?
Do you practice what you preach? When an outsider visits your company, will they see your values in action?
“In our case, we pride ourselves on being very technically proficient and data-driven. So how are we going to hire people that align with that and deliver that in our service?” Guido says.
Additionally, will your mission impact who you do business with?
“Every business needs to work with other businesses to achieve its goal,” Guido says. “Are you going to align yourselves with other companies that align with your values and support your growth in that way?”
Your mission statement is the culmination of the answers to these questions. Then you communicate that vision through your brand.
Your mission statement provides your audience with a vision, and your brand gives them something to connect with. Those elements can be just as vital to long-term customer loyalty and retention as your product or service. But in order for your mission statement to help your company, it needs to be more than just words.
Your brand needs to embody your company’s mission so your vision is present in every interaction a person has with your business.
Quinn is a writer and copyeditor whose work ranges from journalism to travel writing to inbound marketing content.