The significance of the mission statement in guiding marketing and business strategy is well worth considering. In many cases, missions are thrown together as lofty, flashy and unquantifiable statements that give no workable purpose for the organisation to pursue. Here I’ll discuss the benefits of a strong mission statement in guiding strategy and the pitfalls of ignoring the power of inside-out marketing.
A mission statement’s function is to set direction for the day-to-day operations of the business towards achieving the ultimate purpose of the organisation. It is the standard against which all business and marketing strategies for the organisation should be measured, and should guide decision making to ensure that the actions of the business are in line with that specified purpose. Because of this, it is vital that all staff have an understanding of the mission statement and are able to work within its boundaries so that the best outcomes for the business can be achieved.
So what are the features of a mission statement that makes all of this possible?
- It needs permeate the entire organisation, and be easy to understand and memorise for all staff so that they can all actively utilise it. It should therefore be succinct, clear and have been created with input from staff across all divisions of the organisation.
- It needs to define the areas of operation and the capabilities of the organisation. For example, aid organisations often define the type of aid they will provide (medical, education, financial) and the geographic location (country, continent) in their mission statements. This is an important consideration I will touch on further.
- A strong mission statement will provide a clear reference point and filter for decision making when the organisation inevitably comes up against challenges.
What happens when these boxes aren’t ticked? Without an effective mission statement, although the business can continue to operate and make money, the efficiency of the business to meet its overall long term goals is diminished. In my Uni study I came across experts Jonker and Meehan’s term ‘Mission Creep’. Essentially, mission creep occurs when the organisation expands its operations outside of its goals and core capabilities as set out in the mission statement. For example, a firm with a mission to provide legal services to businesses in Melbourne might be attracted to enter the Sydney market to realise new profit potential. However, this might stretch the capabilities of the organisation beyond what may be realistic in a new market, and may ultimately spell a costly disaster for the organisation. This is also common with non-profits such as aid organisations, where organisations stretch themselves to attract more funding to further their cause but do so without adequate knowledge, experience or systems in new locations that often have different and complex demands. This means that organisations are spread far too thin, and the resources of the organisation can no longer be effectively applied to meet long-term goals.
A good mission statement that is universally adopted, with capabilities clearly defined and that clearly outlines a course of action can mean that the business stays on track and operates efficiently. It makes it much easier to say “no” to opportunities that exist outside of the organisation’s mission, therefore alleviating mission creep. This enables the organisation to act from the inside out, and intentionally pursue strategies that not only deliver profit but are in line with the overall mission. This will in turn enhance the overall authenticity of communication messages, which is vital as modern consumers are becoming increasingly discerning of marketing. Whether in the non-profit or for-profit sectors, developing brands that consumers can trust is the absolute priority. This is easier to achieve when customers or donors can clearly see how your marketing messages link to the ultimate mission of your organisation. If you feel that your business is spreading its capabilities across too many opportunities, it may be worth checking in with your mission statement to see how well the current operations match the overall purpose of your organisation.