These marketing terms get kicked around alot and are often used interchangeably but mission, vision, value and position statements are not the same thing. Each is an important element in your overall marketing plan. Unfortunately they are often written by one person, approved by a committee and promptly forgotten.When that is the case, they aren’t very useful. But if they are created by your team, with good discussion all along the way, then they can be a powerful tool moving your company forward.
Sometimes referred to as the purpose, passion or for a non-profit it may be the cause. This should be a definition of what you are in business to do. It should talk in broad terms about who you serve, what you provide and how. Roundpeg’s mission is this: Giving small business owners control of their business through strategy, training and internet marketing tools.
- Who – Small business owners
- What – Control
- How – Strategy, training and internet marketing tools
As a small business owner it is common to run into an opportunity which doesn’t quite fit your core mission. I won’t ever suggest you turn down an opportunity because it doesn’t fit. A clear mission however will give you some criteria to use to decide if this is the right move for your business.
Your vision is not about what you provide, but what you will look like as a company sometime in the future. Usually the time frame is five or ten years from now. Will you be a Fortune 500 company or a family run business with close ties to your clients? There is no right answer other than the one you define for yourself. Vision statements often contain words like: industry leading, top in the field, profitable or well respected but they can also include warm, welcoming and informative.
As your company grows and changes, your vision of the future should change as well. Your vision should be the starting point as you think about making capital investments in assets such as buildings and equipment as well as increases in your staffing.
When I started Roundpeg, I expected to be a consulting firm, outsourcing most production work. Clearly that vision has changed over time. Today as we look forward we see a company growing to perhaps 10 – 12 people, still focused on small business clients, respected for the quality of our work and the contributions to the local community, home to several office cats and still answering phones on the first ring.
What is important to you as a company? While it is natural for values to be driven by you as the owner, if your employees don’t exhibit the same traits, then your company won’t either. To really clarify your values, brainstorm a list of characteristics which everyone in the company should share. When we went through the process of refining our values we had a long of words after our brainstorming session. We revised and revised and revised the list until we came up with just four phrases that sum up what is important to us.
To be effective values shouldn’t be just buzz words. With each value, there should be a short definition of what that value means to you. For example:
- Fun: There is always time for arts and crafts, cat videos and the occasional Popsicle break.
- Customer Focus: Responsive and accessible – Phones are always answered on the first ring.
- Honest Explanations: No bullshit answers. There is no place for marketing jargon in our world.
- Curious: Relentless pursuit of new and better solutions.
You will know if you have the right values if they are front and center as your hire people. Having well defined values give you criteria to use to evaluate potential employees. Candidates who don’t demonstrate those values won’t be a good fit for your team, no matter how qualified they are.
Building on the foundation you have laid with your mission, vision and values, your position statement looks at your customer and the solution you provide. The difference is in the details as you narrow your focus to help you establish a position which is really relevant to your ideal clients.
- Who is your customer? If you are still saying everyone or anyone in answer to that question, it will be impossible to write a compelling position statement. To start the process make a list of past customers with whom you enjoyed working. What characteristics do they share? The goal of your position statement should be to really connect with that ideal client. If your target is vague than your message will be as well.
- What problem do you solve? One way to approach this part of the statement is to think about what keeps your your customer awake at night. What are their most pressing problems? When you can articulate their problem, it’s easier to frame the solution.
- What makes you uniquely qualified to offer a solution? Too often, companies fall back on phases like “best,” “leading” or “high quality.” Seriously? Which of your competitors won’t claim that? Where is the unique element? This is the heart of your position statement, the thing which answers the question “Why you?”
With these four pieces in place you are ready to start working on brochures, web copy and other marketing tools. Just remember these statements are not carved in stone. As your business changes and grows, so will they.
Want to learn more? Download our position statement worksheet.