Vision, mission, and company culture - How mainstream is that, and what do these three have to do with marketing?

People are tired of reading those soulless statements, that hang on a wall and usually were created only to sound good. Nowadays, hearing the words mission and vision mostly makes everyone roll their eyes and focus their attention on something else. And you can’t blame them. Lots of companies got this wrong. Most of them only state what their business does and why they are cool [ * buzz words inserted mandatory * ], leaving their clients’ needs and the team behind. They lack emotional connection and they are definitely not “made to stick”.

Let’s take for example Wendy’s. Their mission is “to deliver superior quality products and services for our customers and communities through leadership, innovation and partnerships”. What do you understand from this? How will their business satisfy your needs? And just to be sure that everyone is on the same ground - Wendy’s is a hamburger restaurant chain.

So let’s step out of this superficial universe and go back to a world in which people come first. Having a well-defined culture, that underlines the team’s vision of the world can have a huge impact inside the company and outside of it. As Michael Skok states in Harvard Innovation Labs:

“Culture is like the operating system to run your apps”.

It is the foundation of all your efforts and what you project to the outside world. It will not only help you in hiring the most suitable colleagues but also in creating your own brand.

By spelling out your culture you are able to define your company’s mindset and market your product or service to its full capabilities. It will help you shape your team, your clients will understand what’s the overall goal of the business, and in difficult moments it will keep your focus on track.

[Ok, ok, but] is culture a priority for a startup?

Let’s analyse this question for a bit. Well, let’s just say that moving forward blindfolded it’s not such a good idea. Nowadays there are millions of startups. Thinking that your product is the only one in the market is like saying yes to your “startup’s death sentence”. The entrepreneurial world is evolving, and so is the startup world

Most startup owners think of culture as a “nice to have feature” channelising all their energy on marketing the product/service. But many times their marketing efforts fail. The most obvious reason is the wrong market fit. Yet another one, as important as the first, is the lack of authenticity. An important part of your startup’s success is to step out of the crowd and find out what sets you apart from similar businesses. And culture is what gives a business a unique trait. It is what makes your startup stick and customers emotionally connect with it. Company culture has a huge impact on your marketing efforts, customer churn, and employee retention.

So, what’s the thing with company culture?

Where should we start? In our previous articles, we discussed the importance of creating a Unique Selling Proposition and a Buyer Persona for your business. Now we will see how we can connect those two with the mission and vision statement.

For us, it was a pretty funny and rewarding process, in which we involved the whole team. During a two day workshop, we got to know our core values, working methods, and we defined how we can provide value to the world, as a team. It was enjoyable, but also overwhelming. That’s why we created a really awesome canvas, that will help you accelerate the process, without losing the human connection or the fun part. After all, your mission and your vision should only highlight your authentic self and your contribution to the world.

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If you want to take a closer look at the canvas, feel free to download it.

As Peter Thiel highlights in Zero to one:

”Company culture doesn’t exist apart from the company itself: no company has a culture; every company is a culture. A startup is a team of people on a mission, and a good culture is just what that looks like on the inside.”

So, let’s get a little bit creative while keeping our feet on the ground. First of all, we will define what mission and vision really mean.

What does “mission and vision statement” stand for?

The mission is the core purpose of the business. The reason why it came to life in the first place. It is the sum of actions that your team makes, in the present moment, in order to grow and deliver value to your customers.

Your mission should be inspirational enough for your team, to find purpose in it, and also pretty straightforward in order for your customers to understand how you can help them. At this point having a well-defined USP (Unique Selling Proposition) and knowing your Buyer Persona can facilitate the whole process.

The vision is the ideal future state. If the mission defines the present moment, the vision shifts the focus towards the future. Think about it as the world that you want to build together with your customers. How will your customer’s life change, in the long term, if he/she uses your product or service?

Your vision presents an idealistic state of being, but not a hallucination. You should pay attention to create a close link between the evolution of the market and the future of your business. Here a bit of research on your niche comes in handy.

Before moving further you can take a look at some examples of Mission & Vision statements:

Tesla

Mission: To accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy.
Vision: To create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition to electric vehicles.

TED

Mission: Spread ideas.
Vision: We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world.

Digitalya

Mission: Digital product developement, for innovative businesses, based on Less in More Methodology.
Vision: Digital answers to unspoken questions.

Getting your business ready for a healthy growth is like preparing for a marathon. You have to take into consideration some key resources that will help you keep your energy level up and promote the real image of your brand. Think about your mission and vision statement as the starting line of your race. What do you need to do to be fully prepared to start the journey?

How to write a mission statement

When you start to work on defining your mission statement you should constantly have the present moment in mind and three more elements: the team, the customer, and your product or service.

1.1 Who we are

The “Who we are” area’s purpose is to define your business’s mindset and get you connected with your team. Here you should identify the common values that your team shares and the behaviours that endorse them.

If you don’t have your company’s core values defined yet you can find a really cool process for defining them in the book Traction by Gino Wickman. You can also take a look at Digitalya’s core values, just as an example.

For a better understanding of our canvas let’s take an example. Let’s say our company is named Color-it and you have a product that suggests what color palette to use for your designs, according to criteria like the brand’s personality, the emotion you want to promote and different design trends.

Because you put a great accent on the people on your team and their interests your values are: “friendship comes first”, “constant innovation” and ”in love with art”. Some of the activities that keep them alive are: “buddy coffee once per week”, “attending tech & design conferences” and “attending art exhibitions”.

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1.2 What do we do?

After you’ve defined your values, it is important to state what your company does, and what’s unique about it. A well defined USP goes hand in hand with a good market segmentation, so take your time to identify what you do best.

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1.3. For whom?

In order to have a clear picture of how your business works you must identify who will benefit from it, and where’s your target market. Here you can take some characteristics from your Buyer Persona. This can also help you in identifying your product-market fit.

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1.4. Why do we do it?

After having the first three steps cleared out, the fourth one comes into play - the most important one in helping you define your mission. As we mentioned in the beginning, the mission represents your purpose of existence. Thinking about why you started the business in the first place will unblur the picture and help you figure out your purpose.

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1.5. Why do you exist? Creating your mission statement.

The last step is probably the hardest one. Take your time to analyse the first four, in order to come up with your mission statement. Think about your team, your product, your customer and ask yourself “why does my business exist in the first place?” . Write your ideas and then create a single statement. Keep in mind that you will also use it in your marketing efforts, so make it sound catchy.

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How to write a vision statement

Now, that you’ve identified your mission or the reason of existence, in the present moment, let’s move a little bit further and try to figure out what impact you could have on your niche, industry, and why not, the whole world. Keep the future in mind.

2.1 Who we are

The first step is to identify how will your customer’s life improve if he/she uses your product/service. What change will it bring to his/her life.

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2.2. What do we do?

Getting your customers to emotionally connect with your brand is the only thing that keeps them not to run away to your competition. That’s why thinking about what emotions you would like to trigger in your customer’s heart is what defines your brand.

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2.3. For whom?

The third step is about identifying your niche, industry or area that you would like to have an impact on, when you start to scale your business. More than this, you should think about what would be the result of more people using your product/service.

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2.4. Why do we do it?

We came back to this important question, that sums up the first three steps. When you defined your mission you thought about the moment that you’ve decided to start your business. Now you should think about how would the world look like if everything works as you planned.

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2.5. Why do you exist? Creating your mission statement.

And we got close to the end. Are you still with me? If yes, give yourself permission to dream. What does your business aim to become? Where would your business be if everything went accordingly? How would the people that used your product/service or came in contact with it change? Think about the impact that your business will have in ten years. Write down your ideas, make them pretty and give them a meaning.

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Congrats! You just created your mission and vision statement. If you want to see the whole picture and analyse the process you can download the example.

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The road was long but filled with goodies. The mission and vision statement that you’ve just defined should be present in your every action from now on. The way you promote yourself, the way you talk to your clients and potential clients, the way your team sees the world, should be impacted by them. So make sure that you will promote them inside and outside the company.

The first iteration might not be the final one. Ask for feedback from your team, talk to your customers, ask them what they think and then make a difference by using them.

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Mission & Vision
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Marketing for startups.
Less is more Methodology.
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