Mission Statements Don’t Work, Get Something That Does

I was recently at a rather large expo, and I decided to keep track of the many different mission statements I came across. I also kept track of the responses we got at our booth with our mission statement. Out of all the data, there was one glaring trend.

Mission statements are so common place and so exaggerated that no one even listens to them.

What can we do about this? Let’s start by breaking down what a mission statement is supposed to do.

Ideally, mission statements should do the following:

  1. Explain your company and your purpose Mission statements are designed to help your customer understand what your business is about. They are supposed to help align the customer with your beliefs as a company.
  2. Intrigue and excite people One of the primary original purposes of a mission statement was to get people excited about your company. Companies often make big claims like “we’re here to save your life” in order to arouse their customers interest. These days, sweeping generalizations like that are all the rage. They also get ignored by most seasoned customers.
  3. Distinguish you from the competition When done correctly, a mission statement will tell people why you are a bit different (better, of course) than the rest of the competition. If done incorrectly, you may come off as arrogant.
  4. Help people remember who you are In a market filled with hundreds of companies doing hundreds of similar things, it can be very difficult to remember any single person or small business. Your mission statement, along with all of your other materials, should be designed to help people remember who you are. If you accomplish this well, then your mission statement was successful. There’s an excellent article on Guy Kawasaki’s blog about this: 9 Best Story Lines for Marketing

What went wrong, and how to fix it:

  1. Mission statements are too long If you want anyone to listen until the end of your statement, it needs to be short and sweet.
  2. Mission statements are too complicated With everyone telling small businesses how to write a mission statement (me too, evidently), they have become filled with gibberish as each writer tries to satisfy every condition of a successful mission statement. Your mission statement should be focused to the point, which brings us to the next bullet.
  3. Mission statements are too much about companies and not enough about customers Many companies have mission statements that get into company heritage and history—can you think of anything more boring? The entire point of your mission statement needs to be about your customer. What are they going to get from you. Repeat after me: “My mission is about my customer.”
  4. Less mission, more mantra Company mission statements are generally just a paragraph of exaggeration that is brought out in front of customers, only to disappear before getting back to the office. Your small business needs to live and breath your mission. Everything you do and say should reinforce your mission. If you don’t live by your mission, people will know immediately that you’re not being sincere. In a world of sensationalism, you need your mission to be as sincere and trustworthy as possible.

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Reader Comments

Jul. 17. 2007 9:22 PM

In my experience mission statements are used much more as an internal device, providing focus for employess, rather than something to “align customers with your beliefs as a company”. Even more far-fetched is the idea that mission statements are meant to “intrigue and excite people” or help them remember who you are. What you are talking about is a slogan. Mission statements are meant to communicate what the ultimate goal of the company is to the employees, managers, and investors who each make up a part of it, that way they are all (hopefully) moving in the same direction. You very rarely see mission statements on ad materials, or other customer/client oriented materials, and that is for a good reason.

Jul. 18. 2007 2:02 PM


I think you’ve actually hit on one of the bigger problems with mission statements: confusion.

They are constantly being mixed up with internal positioning statements, slogans, mantras, etc… In reality, we see a lot of mission statements on ad materials at SmallFuel. Part of the aim with this article was to help turn them into something more effective.

Have you ever read the book ‘Made to Stick’ by Chip and Dan Heath? If you haven’t, I recommend it. One of the things they talk about is how to make your internal statements (be it mission or positioning) stick in the minds of your managers and employees.

I think that despite this article being primarily written for marketing pieces, a lot of the tips still apply to internally used statements. If your companies mission doesn’t intrigue and excite your employees, then you are in for a rough ride.

Thanks for your comments,

- Mason

Andra Simla
Feb. 27. 2014 10:25 AM

Companies need to understand that nowadays, everything is about the customer. We don’t care if you have a luxurious office, we need to know why we should pick your company and what benefits we will have

Mar. 7. 2014 8:18 AM

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Apr. 16. 2014 3:16 PM

In business everything has to be spotless. Every sentence has to has the right amount of punctuation, a certain flow and a few marketing tricks

Apr. 17. 2014 8:30 AM

Find something that sets you apart from your competition and present is as something people will remember!

Jackson Andrew
May. 16. 2014 6:12 PM

It is good to have your advice in making a mission statement for any marketing purpose. You are so true that a mission statement must be bit different from other competitors just to make them remember who you are. I think if the mission statement is long and complicated; it loses its affects. scientific editing service Thanks.

Nov. 12. 2014 8:57 AM

I think mission statements can have a very big impact if you do them right. It has to be something short and to the point and something catchy as well….something that will stick in people’s minds.

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