A lot of SME business owners feel they have their firm well positioned, but aren’t sure how that positioning fits with the whole mission, vision, values thing.
Others are confident they’ve defined a clear mission with heaps of personality. But still feel that they haven’t quite got there with their positioning.
And the danger is, if you’re not clear on both, your prospects won’t be confident that you’re the right fit for them. So they won’t buy from you.
Here’s a bit more on why that is, and what to do about it.
Misuse of language warning
I have to admit to being lazy here.
I am lumping together mission, vision and values on the one side (the HR folk are going to hate me for this, especially my mate Sally B…). And bundling up niche, focus and positioning on the other.
Naughty perhaps, but useful to get my point across. Apologies to all marketing purists.
So that’s two sides to consider. Get them both right, and good stuff happens. Here’s why.
Your prospects need to understand you to buy you
I believe that for your customers and clients to consider you as their next supplier, they need to understand you – and understand what you’re best at. That’s your positioning.
But to actually choose you (and sign that lovely contract), then need to connect with you – and connect with what you care about. That’s your mission.
When you get the two sides working together – Mission + Positioning – your clients get the full story, and you get the right client
Get your mission and positioning sorted
I’ve written a fair bit on positioning, so won’t repeat it here. If you’re new to it then get to grips with the basics in this post before carrying on.
So, on to your mission. Your why.
The difference between mission and positioning
I’m going to use myself as an example.
My positioning is that I am a new business consultant. I work with small B2B firms to help them acquire more of the right new clients. I work with firms in Hampshire and bordering counties.
So far so good.
My mission is that I’m here to help people – that were in the position that I was in 11 and 3/4 years ago – to get more of the right new clients.
The position I was in (11 and 3/4 years ago) was of having responsibility for new business, but not knowing where to start with actually getting a regular stream of real, suitable new clients in through the door.
And that was despite already having a solid background in (and I thought, a reasonable grasp of) marketing. Worrying, eh?
So, I carry out my mission to help these people by writing articles and giving workshops that freely share the knowledge and experience I’ve acquired. I try and give them those ‘Aah!’ moments, when things click and you feel that bit more empowered with the knowledge or tools to get your job done.
I do it because I remember how useful this type of bite-sized information could have been to me, in my situation. I can empathise, understand and help people to get better at it.
I then do paid consultancy work and training in order to earn the living that supports me to keep on helping those people. Importantly – if I didn’t need to work financially, I would still want to be doing what I do.
My values and beliefs support my mission.
Knowing my values and beliefs means that I can look for more of those clients that fit with them, and so fit with me.
The better the fit, the stronger and more valuable the relationship – from both sides.
Here are my values.
- My new business philosophy is one of helping, not selling.
- I believe that if you offer support and give value to others, good things will happen in business (as well as in life). So I work with firms that are interested in, open to, or feel comfortable with this approach.
- I believe that not all clients are the right clients, so you should only aim to work with the ones that are. Then you can pass on the ones that don’t fit to other people whom you know could help them better than you can. Then everyone’s happy.
- I like to help firms that are determined to improve, keen to learn, have an open mind, and are already prepared to put in the time and effort to make the changes needed.
You know something?
It’s taken me over a year to be able to write that down as clearly as that (hope it was clear to you). I certainly didn’t have a mission when I began.
Which leads me nicely on to my next point.
When to start with your mission
Some people say you have to get your mission sorted, right from the start. I don’t – and didn’t.
I believe that for most businesses, trying to articulate a mission is a really difficult task and can leave them struggling in vain to move forward rather than getting on with what they do best – looking after their customers.
Some companies are born of a vision, or a mission – so it’s easier for them to pin it down, because that is how they got into business in the first place.
For B2C, think Lush Handmade Cosmetics or The Body Shop (way back when). Think Innocent Smoothies.
For B2B, I think of Win Without Pitching. The founder Blair Enns, trained me back in 2004, so I am a little biased. He started with a mission over 15 years ago to help creative agencies (branding, graphic design, comms & marketing etc.) win their work without having to pitch – because he believes pitching is a fundamentally unsound way for a creative business to secure a new client. (So do I, for that matter).
Another more local and smaller-scale favourite of mine is Ann Stebbing. She photographs dogs and their people, because she loves dogs and cameras. Perfect – positioning and mission in one. (Oh, and if you’ve got a dog and want it truthfully and beautifully photographed, don’t go anywhere else. I think her work is superb.)
How to create your mission
Most businesses do not have a mission from the start.
And therein lies the challenge. Because it is quite possible that you do what you do for a whole bunch of reasons that are unrelated to the missiony thing. Maybe:
- You fell into it after school / college / University and never left
- It’s what you know and you’ve always done it
- It just pays the bills
- You don’t know what else you would do
- Uncle Harold would be really cross (or even worse, disappointed) if you left the family business
I can’t solve your mission for you – at least not in a short(ish) article like this. (Although you could always hire me to help.)
But I can get you started.
Nine questions to get you thinking about your mission
- If you had a very famous client, what would you want them to say (unprompted) about your company on national television?
- Which clients have you had the best ever relationship with, and why?
- Where and how have you made the most difference to a client, supplier or business contact?
- What makes you really excited and talkative when you are working or talking about work? (Could just be me that gets like that).
- When do you forget that you are working (but you still are) and get completely into a state of flow?
- Which part of your work, or your firm’s work, would you do 100% of the time, if you could? Why is that?
- Why aren’t you working for your closest competitor instead of running your own business or bringing in clients for your current firm?
- If you had all the money you needed, what work would you do to keep your brain engaged?
- Why aren’t you doing a different job?
If these questions aren’t helping, then another great starting point is to think about mission from the perspective of starting with your why. Why do you do what you do? Why are you in business?
Well-known TED contributor Simon Sinek can get you started far better than I can on this topic. His TED talk is brilliant and will help you with finding your why.
Mission – or career change?
If none of these questions were any help, and Simon’s TED talk left you cold, it’s worth considering that you could be in the wrong line of work and your own mission is perhaps to be found elsewhere.
So, to stick with my values of trying to be helpful, here’s a link to a lovely career coach that I know (Felicity Dwyer at Heart of Work), based in Hampshire. She’s particularly interested in people considering career changes around those middle of life years. (Remember those?).