What Is a Mission Statement? Basics and Examples for 2023
In a marketplace where prospective customers or clients have multiple brands or service providers to choose from, you need a way to stand out. One of the best ways to do so is by creating a mission statement. Mission statements not only spell out a company or organization’s core values but also provide a guiding, cohesive message for team members and prospective customers alike.
Mission statements provide a central focus for your goals, quickly let others know what you’re about, help solidify your brand’s values, and can yield competitive advantages. This article covers the ins and outs of mission statements, including:
- What is a mission statement?
- The importance of a mission statement
- What are the different parts of a mission statement?
- What to do after the mission statement is crafted? Where to put it?
- Questions that the mission statement should answer
- Best practices for creating a great mission statement
- 10 examples of mission statements from reputable companies
What is a mission statement?
Simply put, a mission statement is a formal summary of an organization’s or individual’s guiding principles. When you think about your guiding principles, values, and goals, you might find that it feels like you could write a whole book on the subject. Yet, the mission statement must somehow encapsulate the full essence of these goals into just one to three sentences—much in the same way movies or novels are summarized with single-sentence taglines.
While writing a sentence or two might seem easy at first glance, the sum total of what you want to express in such a short space can make writing a mission statement very challenging. It requires careful selection of the right verbs, adverbs, nouns, and adjectives that will spark in the reader the right sense of who you or your organization is and what you stand for.
It’s often easiest to craft a mission statement when first forming an organization or business. The act of crafting the statement itself can help you better clarify what your goals are and better communicate your values from the start. It makes it easier to develop details of a business plan, marketing strategy, and more once you’ve established your company’s purpose in a mission statement.
You might hear people use the terms “mission statement” and “vision statement” interchangeably. These are actually two distinct statements. Mission statements define the business and its objectives, while vision statements are more focused on where a company hopes to be in the future.
Mission statements need not be set in stone, however. As your company grows and evolves, its mission may change. It’s always a good idea to revisit the original mission statement regularly and adjust it as needed.
The importance of a mission statement
A mission statement provides a whole host of benefits to an individual or organization, so it should be approached with care. A mission statement is important for the following reasons:
- It provides a clear “guiding light” to team members by making it clear what the ultimate driving force is behind their work and creating a sense of unity. This can also help increase motivation and productivity.
- It explains WHY a business or organization exists, as opposed to describing what it does, who it serves, and how it functions. (Those other descriptions might be found in the business plan or other longer-form documents.)
- It provides a foundation for marketing efforts and clear guidelines for messaging. It makes it easier for these efforts to stay coherent and target the right audiences.
- It clears a path for connecting with prospective customers, clients, or future partnerships by spelling out what your organization is about. This can lead to brand loyalty due to customers feeling aligned with your organization’s purpose.
What are the different parts of a mission statement?
As mentioned, your company’s mission statement should be about one to three sentences in length. In total, it should be fewer than 100 words. Any longer, and it’s unlikely to be read or to leave an impact. People remember shorter, sharper statements, not entire paragraphs.
Some organizations have mission statements that are just a couple of words long, while others may have a full paragraph. The exact length of your statement should be whatever it needs to be to get the idea across that will resonate and be memorable.
Here, we outline important considerations and details to include in your mission statement.
Defining the owners of the mission statement
Defining mission statement owners comes in two parts: First, you should define who or what the “speaker” is of the mission statement. You don’t want your mission statement to appear disembodied, meaning it’s unclear to the reader who or what the mission applies to. Most often, this means including the name of the business or organization in the statement or alongside the statement.
The second part of defining the owners is to establish who in your organization is a contributor or responsible for crafting and updating the mission statement. If you’re a business of one, the default is, of course, yourself. But at a larger organization, this might be someone in the marketing department who collaborates with other stakeholders to keep the mission statement on brand.
Developing a unique selling proposition
Because prospective clients or customers have so many businesses or providers to choose from, it’s important to have a unique selling proposition to stand out. A unique selling proposition, or unique value proposition, describes what it is that you offer that’s distinct or superior to your competitors.
It’s not required that your value proposition be part of your mission statement—there may not be room in the statement, or it might distract from the main focus of the statement—but having your value proposition in mind can help inform your word choice.
This proposition should combine what your customers are seeking with what your business is best at. It should also be specific—this means avoiding generic statements like “our products are the best” and aiming for more targeted, assertive statements, such as “our jeans last longer than any other brand.”
What, specifically, makes your product or service unique and valuable to customers?
Defining a goal or objective
What is your organization aiming to do? Why does your company exist? Mission statements should also include a clear goal or objective. A goal is a specific result your organization is striving toward. Failing to include a goal in your mission statement reduces its impact and makes your objectives unclear.
A mission statement’s goal or objective often starts with a verb—an action word indicating what you plan on doing. Examples of mission statement goals or objectives include:
- To inspire growth
- To accelerate digital transformation
- To connect people across the globe
- To create innovative solutions
- To build future-forward infrastructure
What is your organization’s driving goal?
Defining what customers the business services
Knowing your target audience is vital. Who are the customers your business plans to serve? What are those customers looking for? How can your business meet customer needs that other businesses are overlooking?
For example, if your target audience is IT departments, you may want to emphasize security, innovation, and compatibility. If your target audience is professional women, you may want to emphasize opportunity and support.
What’s important to the customers you plan on serving?
Explaining the WHY of the mission statement
The ultimate goal of a mission statement is to describe WHY your organization exists. The answer to WHY might simply be your goal statement itself, or there could be more to it than that.
Why does the nonprofit organization Feeding America exist? “To advance change in America by ensuring equitable access to nutritious food for all ...”
Why does Nike continue to operate? “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.”
Why did you decide to launch your business? Why does your organization exist?
What to do after the mission statement is crafted? Where to put it?
Mission statements can be used in a variety of settings. Basically, anywhere that you want to emphasize what your organization stands for is a potential place to put your mission statement. Just make sure you don’t overdo it by repeating it everywhere. It should fit in naturally.
Examples of where to use your mission statement include:
- On your website: You may put it on the front page of your website, on your about page, or both.
- In the office: Consider putting your mission statement up on the walls in your office space as both a reminder to yourself and team members of what your goals are.
- In marketing materials: Mission statements often inform the direction of marketing initiatives. Consider including your statement in flyers, posters, infographics, or other marketing materials.
- In email signatures: Shorter mission statements work well in email signatures and can be a great way to increase brand awareness.
- In press releases: Any time your company releases information to the press, it can be a great opportunity to include your mission statement. That way, your goals and objectives accompany any stories about your organization.
Questions that the mission statement should answer
Have you ever visited a website and spent a considerable amount of time clicking around trying to figure out what the company is about, what they’re selling, who they are, and why they exist? Often, this confusion results from poorly rendered mission statements and other marketing copy.
Be aware of becoming so invested in using catchy verbs and adjectives that you neglect clarity. The following sections provide a sort of template of important questions about your organization that you can answer in your mission statement.
What is our business?
What does your business do? If you say you “innovate,” this could mean any number of things. Be more specific: What products do you sell or what services do you offer, and to whom?
Do you provide innovative software-as-a-service (SaaS) for accounts payable departments? Or do you have a team of designers innovating shoe designs for the next generation of elite athletes?
Why are we creating our business?
This question has been described a bit already, but it bears repeating: Your mission statement should explain why your business exists in the first place. Why are you in operation, and what do you have to offer?
Who are we creating this business for?
Who you serve is important, as well. For example, if you’re a software development company, are you primarily providing software to individual users or organizations? Are you serving other businesses or creating products to simplify life tasks for everyday consumers?
Best practices for creating a great mission statement
Developing a good mission statement can take time. Here, we outline some best practices for getting started and revising your statement into a rallying cry you can truly stand by.
Identify an evergreen mission
An evergreen mission is one that will still apply equally well a year or five years from now as it does today. If your mission changes too frequently, it can make your organization appear unfocused and cause confusion among your workers and customers. Focus on timelessness in your word choice and mission goals.
Keep it concise
As mentioned, most mission statements are just one to three sentences in length. Sometimes, it’s helpful not to worry about length at first, then to pare things down in a series of revisions.
During the revision process, look for redundancies in your statement and remove them. See if there are phrases you can eliminate because they’re already implied. Evaluate each word and ask yourself if the statement changes if that word is deleted. Look for opportunities to replace a longer phrase with a single, more precise word.
Stand for something specific
Your mission statement should make it clear that you stand for something specific. A good test of this is to ask yourself if your statement would apply equally well to any other similar organization. If the answer is yes, you may need to work on it some more. How can you make it clear what you stand for and write a statement that could only apply to your organization?
Make your mission inspirational
Readers of your statement should feel something after they read it. You might try testing out different versions of your mission statement and asking people for their responses. Do they feel inspired? If not, evaluate your word choice and see if you can replace some generic text with a more inspirational copy.
Make multiple drafts
No good mission statement is written perfectly in a first draft. Expect to revise your statement multiple times. You might even write different versions of the statement and work on them in parallel, eventually deciding which one works best.
Get feedback from team members and stakeholders
Getting feedback during the drafting of your mission statement will be priceless. It’s far too easy to get lost in your own writing and lose sight of how your message reads to others. Ask friends, team members, and other stakeholders for feedback. Give them several versions of your mission statement and ask them to vote on their favorite.
Know the mission statement can evolve
While changing your mission statement too often can make your organization appear unfocused, you should regularly revisit your mission statement to make sure it still aligns with your goals and values. It might be good to change or adjust your statement from time to time as your business’s goals and priorities evolve.
10 examples of mission statements from reputable companies
As you work on drafting your mission statement, it can be helpful to check out examples of other companies’ mission statements. Here are some mission statements from popular companies and why they work well.
This famous coffeehouse chain’s mission statement is: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.”
This mission statement makes Starbucks sound welcoming (“nurture”), personal (“one person”), and local (“one neighborhood”). A welcoming attitude is what customers look for in a coffeehouse—a place where they feel valued and cared for, where they’re welcomed and belong, and where they can gather while they sip.
Global search engine and cloud computing company Google’s mission statement is: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
This statement clearly spells out what the company does. Note the choice of the words “accessible” and “useful,” which have a more positive connotation and are more specific than similar words, such as “available,” “searchable,” “good,” or “helpful.”
The mission statement for the multinational e-commerce and cloud computing conglomerate is: “To offer our customers the lowest possible prices, the best available selection, and the utmost convenience.”
This statement answers all sorts of questions about WHY Amazon exists. Who do they serve? Customers. What do they offer? Not just low prices, great selection, and convenience, but the lowest possible prices, best available selection, and utmost convenience.
Popular retail chain Target’s mission statement is: “To help all families discover the joy of everyday life.”
Note that this statement is actually missing context. Without context, it’s difficult to tell what it is that Target does and why. But big-name companies like Target can get away with this since most people are already familiar with the basics of what they offer. Instead, this statement offers a concise indication of their values. They are targeting families and selling everyday joy.
The multinational technology corporation’s mission statement is: “To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”
Here again, the company is using their existing reputation to get away with not actually saying what they do in their statement. Achieving more can mean so many things. What they do get across in this statement is that their target audience is literally everybody and every entity in existence.
The mission of this social media giant is: “To give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.”
They essentially lay it all out—they are about community building and connecting with family, friends, and the larger world. Note the choice of the phrase “give people the power.” People like being given their own power as opposed to feeling externally controlled, especially in a social media environment.
Patagonia sells outdoor clothing and gear with a huge emphasis on sustainability and social responsibility, which they encapsulate in their most current mission statement: “We’re in business to save our home planet.” This certainly answers the question of WHY Patagonia exists, although it does rely on a pre-existing understanding of what the company does, as well.
The world-famous Swedish designer of ready-to-assemble furniture has the following mission statement: “To offer a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.”
This is another example of a statement that clearly lays out what the company does (“home furnishing products”), what their value proposition is (“wide range of well-designed, functional … at prices so low …”), and who they serve (“as many people as possible”).
Famous provider of consumer electronics, computer software, and online services, Apple’s mission statement is: “To bring the best personal computing experience to students, educators, creative professionals, and consumers around the world through its innovative hardware, software, and internet offerings.”
Here, they perfectly encapsulate their value proposition, what they offer, why they exist, and who they serve.
The American electric vehicle and clean energy company have the mission statement: “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”
This statement puts the company’s values and goals front and center. They’re working toward sustainable energy and strive to be a leader in the field.
Solidify your brand’s values with a mission statement
Mission statements are important for organizations of all shapes and sizes. They help clearly communicate who you are, what you do, and WHY your organization exists in the first place. They also offer insights into your goals and values, which keeps team members motivated and aligned in their goals and engenders brand loyalty in customers.
Writing a mission statement also sets a new business up for reaching its full potential by clarifying objectives. The very act of creating a mission statement can help you review your goals and values and put you in the right frame of mind for developing a marketing strategy and crafting a business plan.