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Get your basics right: mission, vision, values

Whenever I create a strategic marketing plan for clients, I always start with these three areas: 

  1. Mission
  2. Vision
  3. Values / Culture.

This often surprises people. They’re not sure why marketing needs to worry about that stuff.

However, if we don’t have these three things agreed upon and articulated, then ineffective marketing happens. 

Mission, vision, values – why do you need to get these right

There are three key reasons why getting your mission, vision, and values right is a strategic marketing essential:

  1. They direct every single piece of marketing your organisation does. They’re the guiding light that you have to move towards.

  2. They set the parameters that you and everyone who works for your organisation must work within. This lets you easily see if people are performing well or need some help.

  3. When you have these, marketing is easy. It’s obvious what you should and shouldn’t do, how you should and shouldn’t do it. You spend less time thinking and going down the wrong path.

How to create a strong mission statement

A good mission statement is powerful. It’s inspiring. It creates focus. It is the platform from which all marketing is planned and decided. 

I’m a geek, so for me, the best mission statement ever is the Star Trek one. Let’s deconstruct it:

‘Space: The final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship, Enterprise. Its 5-year mission: To explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilisations. To boldly go where no one has gone before.’

As a mission, it is incredibly clear: 

  • Which market are you operating in? Space
  • What’s your key product offering? The Starship Enterprise
  • For how long is this mission? 5 years
  • What do you need to do? Explore strange new worlds. Seek out new life and new civilisations. Boldly go where no one has gone before.
  • Summary version: to boldly go where no one has gone before.

So, let’s imagine the Starship Enterprise chugging along, and it comes across a planet visited last year by another starship.

kirk bones star trek

Here’s a conversation:

Bones: Captain, are we going to stop at this planet that has already been visited?

Captain Kirk: What’s our mission, Bones? Our mission is ‘to boldly go where no-one has gone before’. What do you think that means, Bones?

Bones: Ah, it means we carry on past as it doesn’t meet our mission parameters.

Your organisation’s mission needs to provide this guidance. It has to really get to the nub of what you are about – your reason for existing.

A good starting point is to complete this sentence: “This business/organisation exists to… “

What does a good vision look like?

Your vision paints the picture of what you want the future to be. It needs to inspire you and the people involved in your organisation.

Many people get hung up on a time frame but, frankly, choose one that works for you. I’ve worked with businesses that have set three-year visions, five years, ten-year ones… Choose the timescale that best suits your organisation.

The mistakes people make when it comes to visions are:

  • Talking about the financial picture first, e.g. we want to be worth £5m within 3 years
  • Not linking it to the Mission
  • They are focussing internally on the future they want rather than the impact it has externally.

What do I mean by this internal/external focus?

So, years ago, I worked at a large bank whose mission statement at the time was: to maximise shareholder value. The vision talked about profitability and market share. 

For some employees, this was good enough. They enjoyed their work and had staff share options, and it was okay but pretty irrelevant. 

It was pretty unmotivating for other employees to know the entire organisation was geared around making a few shareholders richer.

They were internally focussed

Let’s look at the ‘story’ of one of the ‘challenger’ banks that has grown in the UK in the last few years: 

‘We’re an award-winning, fully licensed and regulated bank built to give people a fairer, smarter and more human alternative to the banks of the past.’

That’s a clear mission statement combined with a vision – to give people a fairer, more innovative and more human alternative to the banks of the past. And it is externally focused on what they aim to do for their customers and society.

When it comes to your organisation’s vision, think about the impact you want to have on your customers and society as a whole. That impact is the start of your vision. So when you set your marketing strategy and goals, you need to check that everything you’re doing will help you move closer to making that vision a reality.

You can then get into what this means internally. It might mean growth. It might mean recognition. It might mean being ready to sell.

An example of a good vision is:

We want businesses to be stronger and more resilient, able to weather uncertainty. This leads to happier business owners and their team members, who feel calm and in control. As one of the companies providing a solution for them, we’ll see turnover and profit increase by XXXXXX within 5 years; and we’ll share this with our staff.

How we do things around here – your values

Values are the way you work. This is why I sometimes refer to it as your organisation’s culture or ‘how we do things around here’.

These values guide internal and external activity. So, for example, if you have a value of ‘respect’, that means treating colleagues, contacts, staff with respect, and your clients – that can extend to respectful marketing rather than deceitful or manipulative.

When I was building The Marketing Spaces, I spent a long time defining its values. I enlisted the help of a coach, Jacqui McGinn, as she specialises in heart-led development. 

We discussed how I’d had some bruising experiences at the hands of so-called ‘values led’ people and companies. How we’ve both met people who have felt tricked and disappointed by ‘experts’ and ‘gurus’. 

We then focussed on how I wanted members of The Marketing Spaces to feel, what I wanted to give to them. This then formed our values of Space, Structure and Respect

These values feed into how we think and act at The Marketing Spaces. We ask questions like:

  • Is this a respectful way to address people in an email?
  • Are we giving them space to think?
  • Are we sharing structures and approaches that they can learn and use repeatedly?

We constantly pull back to our values.

What are your values? You can begin by considering how you want to treat others. How do you want them to feel? What do you want them to say about their experience with your organisation? 

 

Conclusion

Mission, vision, and values are crucial foundations for building a successful business, creating effective marketing strategies, and helping you create what you really want and need to.

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