Before you dive in, here’s an audio recording of this exact post if you prefer to listen than read.
You’re at a party—and, if you’re anything like me, hovering around the perimeter—observing social interactions unfold.
Then, the worst happens.
Your observing eye makes direct contact with the guy across the room.
He acknowledges your existence and begins walking your way. Small talk ensues.
“What do you do?” he asks.
You reel off your well-rehearsed elevator pitch. Easy peasy.
And then…the follow-up. Ugh.
“Very cool. And why did you get into that field?” he probes.
Shit, you think. I didn’t rehearse this one. Don’t fret, my friend—I’ve been there, too, and I’m here today to help you find your “why” and write your mission statement.
The “why” question
You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again. Sometimes it catches you off guard. (Especially in those awkward social situations.) At other times, you wonder it yourself. And even when you think you have it all figured out, the question will randomly pop into your head.
Why do I do what I do?
Here’s the thing: knowing your “why” makes it easier to find fulfillment in your work and stay on track towards your goals. So get it down on paper. Pin it to your wall. Make it your wallpaper. Sharpie it on your forehead. Do what you need to do.
But don’t just take my word for it. Take a cue from author, motivational speaker, and marketing consultant Simon Sinek. In his book, Start With Why, he explains:
“There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it. Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean your purpose, cause, or belief—WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care? People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.”
So there you have it. Knowing your “why” is important because it allows you to find and leverage inspiration in your work. It brings authenticity and humanity to your business.
You see, a robot can run a business without knowing why. It’s simply programmed to do what it does. But you’re not a robot. You connect with other people on a human level. You live and breath and add value to your business.
And when you see that value, it becomes easier for your customers to join in your mission.
Defining your “why”
Your elevator pitch presents the basics: who you are, what you do, and who you do it for.
Your “why” is your mission—the driving force behind everything you do in your business. Similar to your elevator pitch, your mission statement should encapsulate the product or service you offer, who you offer it for, and the problem it solves for those people.
Think of your mission statement as the bright star that guides you through the dark night. Your compass for making big business decisions.
In business—especially if you’re the face of your business—it’s easy to become overwhelmed by things like doubt and decision fatigue. You make thousands of decisions every day. When your vision gets cloudy, return to your mission statement to stay on course with your purpose.
Why you should write a mission statement
A well-crafted mission statement clearly states why your business exists in a way that resonates with your target audience. Depending on the nature of your business, it can be focused on either you or your company at large. Either way, your mission statement functions to:
1. Inspire your customers with a sense of purpose
For your business to survive and thrive, it needs to earn money. To earn money, your business needs customers. Customers are people. And people buy from people. So let your mission statement be human. Sprinkle in some of your brand’s personality and inspire others with a sense of shared purpose. By doing so, your customers will reward you with their loyalty (and their hard-earned dollars).
2. State what problem you solve for your customers
While earning money is definitely important for your business, it doesn’t have to be your mission. In fact, I advise against focusing your mission statement on money. Money solves a problem for you. But what problem do you solve for your customers? Focus on non-renewable resources (like time) versus renewable ones (like money).
3. Build influence by explaining how you benefit others
As Darren Rowse of ProBlogger recently discussed on his podcast, “great influencers use their influence for the benefit of other people.” This has a stark resemblance to my top copywriting rule: put the customer first. That said, keep the problem you solve for your people top of mind as you create your mission statement.
To summarize, an impactful mission statement inspires, solves a problem, and presents a benefit. Your mission statement also has the power to:
- Promote alignment: Whether you’re working with partners, employees, or vendors, having an aligned business strategy rolled up into a single statement makes it easier to accomplish your goals.
- Improve decision making: With a clear mission in place, you can quickly and confidently make business decisions that support your goals and purpose. When in doubt, turn to your mission statement.
- Strengthen your brand: Your brand identity is more than just a pretty logo. It encompasses what you do, why you do it, and how you do it differently from others. Fold this identity into your mission.
How to write your mission statement
Before you Sharpie in your mission statement, imagine your ideal business. Consider the “why,” “how,” and “what” of your ideal scenario by asking yourself these three questions:
1. Why do you do what you do?
This is the first step in defining your mission. Think back to Simon Sinek’s statement: “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.” Now consider your core values and find people who share them. Those people will become your biggest fans and willingly spread your message.
2. How do you do what you do?
Once you’ve articulated your “why,” spend some time exploring your “how.” How do you do what you do differently from others? Map out your process and pinpoint the areas that set you apart from your competition. This exercise might also reveal areas for improvement that you can address.
3. What do you do for your customers?
Your business exists to solve a problem or meet a need your customers have. Whether you solve a complex, global problem, such as bringing clean water to those in need, or you meet a simple, everyday need, such as serving fresh, hot coffee to groggy locals, it’s important to clearly articulate what you do and how it benefits people. If you already have your elevator pitch nailed down, this is a great time to pull it up.
Writing down answers to these questions will naturally lead you to your mission statement.
Okay, your turn. I can’t wait to read what you come up with. Drop your mission statement in the comments below!