Key Elements of Successful Mission Statements

Date: September 09, 2008

Do you have a mission statement on your Web site and promotional materials? Does it tell readers anything specific and memorable about your business? A good mission statement will make the focus of your business clear to both you and your customers. Here are four key questions that no mission statement should fail to answer.

Who do you serve?
Your mission statement probably has a line about providing quality service for your customers, but may not say exactly who those customers are. Defining your customers is a key step in making your mission statement more effective. Let's say that you run a test prep and tutoring service. It's not enough to say that you help students on your Web site. Do you offer services for elementary students through high school students? What about students preparing for college? Or graduate, law and business school students? If you target a certain customer base, then mention them specifically in the mission statement.

On the other hand, if you run a business that could ostensibly serve any member of the general public, you can still perk up your mission statement by including a few well-chosen adjectives to describe your customers. For example, a semi-upscale sandwich shop could include the following statement: "serving gourmet tastes on a budget." This simple phrase would encourage people who were both cost and quality minded to check out your offerings. The more specific the call to customers in your mission statement, the better it will work as a marketing tool.

How large is your target audience?
Besides defining the characteristics of your customers, you should also include the size of your customer base. Is your business there to serve the most discerning tastes in Beverly Hills or the masses of the greater Los Angeles area? Perhaps your business is part of a national franchise, providing quality service from coast to coast. Or maybe the Internet has given you the bragging rights of serving an international community. Including this information in the mission statement will not only give potential customers an idea of where you fit in with their needs, but will bring the customers you hope to attract into clearer focus for you and your staff.

What is the scope of your services?
Think about the smallest service your business provides, all the way up to the very largest. Your mission statement should express your general range. Going back to the example of a tutoring company, perhaps the business can help students prepare for a specific test, guide them through a tough semester or be a reliable resource through their whole academic career. Pinpointing the range of what you have to give may even help you define gaps in your current offerings and see places for expansion.

What effect does your business have on customers?
Customers want to know what your business can do for them, so this information is key to your mission statement. How are you making their lives easier, more enjoyable or more efficient? What need are you serving that no one else can do as well? The tutoring company serves a wide range of needs: helping students pass big exams, taking away academic anxiety, assisting students with getting into the colleges of their dreams. Consider the strongest and most unique ways you can impact your customers for inclusion in the statement.

As your business changes, so should your mission statement. Read it over every six months to a year and make sure it reflects the changes and growth your business has undergone. Taking a step away from the day-to-day minutiae of running your business every once in awhile to better define your big-picture mission should prove to be an inspiring exercise that will remind you why you got into business in the first place.

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