Vision Statements: Why You Need One and How to Create One

Vision Statements: Why You Need One and How to Create One
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In The Marketing Plan Handbook, author Robert W. Bly explains how you can develop big-picture marketing plans for pennies on the dollar with his 12-step marketing plan. In this edited excerpt, Bly describes the importance of having a vision statement and how it can help you develop a marketing plan that helps you bring in more business.

There's a key aspect to the planning of marketing campaigns that differs depending on whether you're a corporate marketing manager or a small-business owner. The former has to please only their employer; the latter seeks to create a business that rewards them personally as well as financially, delivering both the in­come and the lifestyle they seek.

For a marketing manager who's not a business owner, the objective of a marketing plan is pretty much the same for every company they work for: to create and implement a campaign that maximizes return on marketing dollars (ROMD). In other words, to generate the maximum sales and profits for every dollar spent on marketing.

But for the business owner, there's an added dimension to the planning process: vision. By this, we mean creating a marketing plan that not only maximizes ROMD but also delivers the lifestyle the owner wants to get from their business.

To create a marketing plan that enables you to live this lifestyle, you need a clear vision of what your ideal lifestyle would be. For instance, I'm a workaholic who puts in 12-hour days and has a relatively large work output. But I have colleagues in the businesses I'm in—freelance copywriting and information products—for whom working only a few hours each day is paramount. Naturally, our businesses look wildly different, with our marketing plans tailored to achieving our goals and vision.

What Is Your Vision?

Your vision—or your “mission statement”—declares where your business is headed and what it will look like when it's arrived. A mission statement tells you what success (for you) looks like. How else will you know when you’ve achieved it? Your marketing plan refocuses everything you do in your business into a series of planned, coordinated actions that enables your business to deliver both the income and the lifestyle you seek from it.

To write a marketing plan for your business that enables you to achieve optimum reward both at work and at home, you need to visualize what you want in both venues. At work, do you want to be part of a team of bright, creative, enthusiastic professionals? Or do you dream of spending the day alone at your PC, in quiet and solitude, writing programs or balancing numbers on spreadsheets? At home, is it important that you are the envy of your friends and neighbors for your obvious wealth, living in the biggest, fanciest home on the block, or driving the most expensive cars? Do you desire with all your being to dine in five-star restaurants and join the best clubs? Or is your idea of happiness grilling franks and hamburgers with neighbors in your backyard? Think about your ideal day. What does it look like? How would you envision your tasks, your overall productivity?

Why is a vision important for a small business? Because it forces you to really know your ambitions for your business. A vision can't be vague. It declares the outcomes you expect and becomes a guiding light that will lead your business forward. So make sure your vision statement clearly states the outcomes you intend to create.

Here are a few examples of actual vision statements:

  • Microsoft (original): “A personal computer in every home running Microsoft software.”
  • eBay: “To provide a global trading platform where practically anyone can trade practically anything.”
  • North Point Church: “To create a church that unchurched people love to attend.”
  • Canadian Cancer Society: “Creating a world where no Canadian fears cancer.”
  • Amazon: “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover any­thing they might want to buy online.”
  • Milwaukee Public Library: “Every person’s gateway to an expanding world of information. Providing the best in library service, we guide Milwaukeeans in their pursuit of knowledge, enjoyment, and lifelong learning, ultimately enriching lives and our community as a whole.”
  • Bowling Inc.: “More people, bowling more often, having more fun.”

Write Your Vision Statement

It’s time to create your own vision statement. Don’t worry about trying to make it perfect. What’s important at this point is to begin the conversation with yourself about the business you’re trying to create. Do this no matter how long you’ve been in business.

Begin with a clean sheet of paper. Imagine your business three to five years in the future, and answer the following questions.

  • What service(s) do you perform? What products do you sell?
  • For whom? (What types of clients? If you have specific clients in mind, list them.)
  • Where is your business located? Do you work at home or in an office? Describe everything.
  • You’ve just met yourself on the job. What do you do in the business? Are you an owner or a hands-on employee? Do you render the actual service clients buy or hire employees to do that while you manage and master­mind your business? What is your life like? What about your life makes you happy?
  • How much do you and the business earn? (The amounts won’t be the same.)
  • Do you have employees? If so, how many? What do they do? What value do they add to the business? What skills and training do they have? Be as specific as possible.
  • What does this business look like when you sell it or turn it over to rela­tives?
  • What does this business do better than any other? What are you known for? What makes you unique or different from your competitors? What is your unique selling proposition (see sidebar)?
  • How do you feel about this business? What inspires you about this busi­ness?
  • What are the four or five keywords you use when describing your business to others? What are the words your clients use when describing what you do for them to others?

Now, pull out the strongest words in your descriptions. Look for those words that trigger emotions for you. What jumps out for you? What words generate anticipation and passion when you read them on the paper? These words inspire you, and they belong in your vision statement. Your words should reference the type of client you serve, the service you provide, and the geographic coverage of your service. Now go write your vision statement.

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