I can probably count on one hand the number of great company mission statements I've seen in my over two decades in marketing. While most business owners have been told that they need to have a mission statement, not everyone has been instructed on how to create one that's useful and meaningful.
By definition, a mission statement communicates the fundamental purpose and values of a business or organization. In simpler terms, your mission statement should make it clear why your company exists. It guides decision making and keeps your business on track over the long term when micro- and macro-environmental factors can make it easy to veer off course. For example, marketing messages, brand image and new product development must complement the mission statement. Discord may lead to reduced results or worse -- failure.
Even corporate marketing executives have trouble understanding what makes a mission statement useful. Take for instance the following mission statement which belongs to the management company behind a popular airport in the U.S. (Note: The city name has been replaced with "City-Name."): "Our Mission: Provide safe, secure, customer friendly, affordable transportation services, and facilities that promote the City-Name Experience."
What's wrong with this mission statement? It demonstrates several of the most common mistakes that make a mission statement, well, stink. Here are the five primary reasons why mission statements fail, and how you can avoid them.
Reason 1: Generalization
Insert the name of your local airport into the real airport mission statement above. Does the mission statement work? This mission statement stinks because it could apply to just about any airport in the world. Yours should be specific. A mission statement must be tailored to your company -- otherwise it's useless.
Related: Mission Statement Worksheet
Reason 2: Fluff
There is no room for corporate rhetoric in a mission statement. The airport mission statement example is filled with buzz words that are vague and meaningless. Get to the point. If your employees can't relate to your mission statement, then it won't mean much to your customers, either.
Reason 3: Confusion
Did it take dozens of people and meetings to develop your mission statement? Sometimes simplicity is the key to clearly communicating the root of what your business is about. If your mission isn't obvious from the start, then you should consider going back to the drawing board, because you're not ready to put it into an official statement yet.
Related: The 3 C's of Communication
Reason 4: Boredom
Ask 10 strangers if your mission statement makes sense and gets them excited. If not, it probably stinks. I'd guess the majority of those strangers would say the airport mission statement example does not get them excited, because it doesn't say anything. Make sure your mission statement tells a story and sparks an interest among your customers.
Reason 5: Overspending on marketing
Do your employees give you a blank look, roll their eyes and grumble to each other when they hear words like "mission statement"? Do they react similarly when they receive your expensive, colorful handouts with the mission statement printed on them? If you have to spend a large amount of money hyping your mission statement and trying to get employees to buy into it, then your mission statement is most likely doomed to failure. A good mission statement should be able to speak for itself without frilly marketing.
Bottom line, your business's mission statement is the nucleus of your company and, by extension, its marketing communications. If you and your employees can't clearly communicate your purpose for being in business and what makes your company unique and meaningful, then you most likely won't be able to create effective marketing strategies and communications. Start at the beginning by developing a solid mission statement that defines your company.