Powerful Mission Statements Avoid These 5 Traps

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“Create a mission statement people want to stand behind. Give the brand a clear voice that is specific, inspiring, and offers value.” – Jess Dewell

“Provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.” – Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA)

Did BBBSA’s mission compel you to sit up a bit straighter?

THIS is a persuasive mission statement because it inspires you to cheer for and champion the organization’s cause.

A mission statement is a succinct declaration of your purpose, primary objectives and unique value proposition. Crafting your mission may be one of the hardest things to do, yet taking all the time necessary to cultivate the words around a concept strengthens every area of business.

Mission statements are especially important for entrepreneurs because they don’t have the clout of big brands. Consequently, small businesses have to be specific about why they exist and what sets them apart in order to stand out from a disorderly crowd.

Let’s look at the vision statement of BBBSA: “All children achieve success in life.”

Do you see the difference?

A mission statement is action-driven while a vision statement is aspiration-driven. While the former highlights the unique intention of an organization in the short-term, the latter indicates a long-term viewpoint: what an organization ultimately hopes to accomplish in the world. But both must remain true to the person or company’s fundamental values and customer requirements at all times.

Powerful Mission Statement
Powerful Mission Statement

Now that you have a high level understanding of the difference between mission and vision statements, it is important to recognize why a mission statement is a crucial weapon in your business arsenal. A mission full of impact, which:

  • Clarifies why your business exists;
  • Sets the direction for your business;
  • Provides you with a framework for selecting opportunities that align with your vision and values;
  • Establishes your brand identity;
  • Stimulates your employees to work towards shared objectives; and
  • Attracts your ideal customer.

Sadly, most companies waste this powerful opportunity to empower their employees and excite their customers by crafting a tedious declaration that does not: (a): differentiate their brand; (b): communicate their distinct value; OR (c): motivate their audience to act.

Now explore these concepts in more detail – specifically, does your business (or personal) mission statement stuck in one of these five mission statement traps?

1. It is too generic.

“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.” – Ernest Hemingway

“We provide high quality customer service at affordable prices.”

Do we see you rolling your eyes?

This is a generic mission statement that could befit innumerable businesses and benefit none.

It doesn’t explain what the company does, make one eager to learn more OR stand out. At all.

Few mistakes ruin your mission more than being nonspecific. It is better to NOT have a mission statement than have one that is forgettable.

2. It is full of jargon.

“If you can’t describe it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” – Albert Einstein

We found this example on Forbes: “We will be the supreme total quality, customer-oriented supplier to our industry of all our industry-related products while facilitating extraordinary growth and sustainable profitability at cutting-edge standards.”

Did you spit out your drink yet?

If a generic mission has your audience rolling their eyes, a jargon-laden statement – punctuated by long-winded words – will have people turning their backs on you. 

Using big phrases that mean little or nothing to the audience will hurt you in two primary ways:

  • You will come off as pompous and belittling; and
  • You will seem unclear about your purpose.

Save the jargon for technical manuals. Your mission statement should be simple, sweet and striking.

3. It is verbose.

“The longer the explanation, the bigger the lie.”Chinese Proverb

If your mission statement has more than thirty words, better put on your “editor cap” and distill your message to one or two concise sentences.

A verbose statement signals a lack of focus or clarity. Your mission should revolve around one core idea that unites your employees, clients and other stakeholders. Such harmony helps drive your business forward with purpose and passion. 

Of course, there are some noteworthy exceptions, especially among recognizable brands. Starbucks, for instance, utilizes bullet points to highlight each of their values.

As a general rule, however, it is better to err on the side of pithiness.

4. It has no personality.

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Seuss

Let’s go back to the mission statement of BBBSA.

Specific adjectives such as “strong, enduring, one-on-one relationship” suggest a brand that is caring, compassionate and committed to the betterment of distressed children.

The organization could rewrite the text to say: “We connect troubled children with experienced mentors.”

See how taking away the implicit personality of the mission statement hinders its impact?

A classic mission covertly communicates the personality of a brand and can often hide minor flaws! (Zappo’s WOW philosophy is another legendary example.)

5. It doesn’t instigate action.

“Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

A mission statement falls flat when it is NOT audience-centric.

For instance, Hershey’s was panned for one of its earlier mission statements: “Undisputed Marketplace Leadership.”

While there are several flaws in this confusing mission, the most obvious blunder is their self-centered tone. Hershey’s audience doesn’t give two hoots about the company’s “undisputed leadership”! Customers want to know what this brand can do for THEM, which this proclamation fails to address.

A mission statement that speaks to your audience’s prerequisites, pain points and principles will spur them to support, savor and share your services.

Conclusion:

“Integrate the uniqueness of your business and showcase what it stands for, how people benefit, and what you care about. Show your sparkle!”  Jess Dewell

Communication continues to evolve with the development of technology and how people use technology. That means that how the business communicates what it does also must evolve. No matter how a business describes itself, four necessary elements must appear in a mission:

  1. Value
  2. Inspiration
  3. Plausibility
  4. Specificity

Now go ahead and craft a cogent, creative, credible and convincing mission that rouses your audience to align themselves with your values and promote your business with pride!

Have you come across any mission-related mistake that is not in this list? If so please share them and thank you for engaging with us!