Do you feel like your company is lacking a north star? An unchanging, unifying purpose that keeps employees and customers committed to you? You need a purpose statement! But before we start…
What is A Purpose Statement?
A purpose statement is a quick sentence or two that describes the biggest scope of change you want to create through your business. What do you want to improve in the long term to elevate people’s lives and change the world for the better?
There are some examples towards the end of the post.
A clear purpose gives you authenticity
In branding, what’s real begins with purposeMarty Neumeier, the Brand Flip
If you understand why your company exists, it will be much easier to figure out how to exist.
When you create your purpose statement, the unchanging desired impact of your company, it’s easier to experiment with different ways to get there. It’s especially important for a social enterprise to have a purpose statement, as it expresses what type impact you want to have on people. If crafted correctly, a purpose statement can inspire donors to contribute more, the right employees to apply, and customers to buy your products or services.
Sorting through the maze of statements
Purpose statement, mission statement, values statement, vision statement, HOW MANY STATEMENTS DO I NEED?
I felt this way too, at first. But the most important thing you need to know is that purpose comes first.
Here’s a quick overview of how purpose is different from all the other statements that you might have in a brand strategy:
Values: Values describe how people act at an organization. For example, one of Coke’s value’s is “having the courage to shape a better future”. Unlike purpose, They don’t set a guideline for what your desired impact is. You can create value statements by filling this in: “We value _______”
Vision: Your vision describes what an organization wants to be in a specific time span. The vision for emote.design in 2-3 years is to be “the place where social entrepreneurs come to grow their impact”. You can create vision statements by filling this in: “in a perfect world, our company will be __________”. A lot of people refer to purpose statements as vision statements, but a vision statement is a vision of your company. A purpose statement reflects the larger change you want to make on the world.
Mission Statement: The most commonly conflicted with purpose statements, mission statements describe what products or services your company sells and who these products/services are for. The mission statement for emote.design is “to provide accessible and valuable branding, marketing, and business development knowledge and consulting services that empower the growth of social enterprises”. It’s usually kind of a mouthful. The main difference between and mission and purpose statements are that mission statements are more grounded in what your companies do right now, and provide focus for you and your employees. Mission statements may change overtime. Purpose statements are more aspirational, evergreen (they shouldn’t change), and intend to create an emotional response.
I recommend to create your mission, vision, and values statements after you understand the aspirational identity of your customers, which I’ll touch on in Part 2 of this series.
Note: In another very confusing twist, most non-profits don’t have purpose statements, only mission statements. If you have a non-profit, it’s more likely that your mission statement matches your purpose statement, because non-profits were started with a foundation in purpose. They were created to solve a problem, not to sell a product. Don’t worry too much about what you call the statement. As long as people can connect to what you want to do for the world, you did it right
So, without further ado…
Steps to create a clear purpose statement
1. Dig into who founded your company, and why they did It.
Look into the history of your company. What were the reasons the company was started? Usually people start companies to fill a gap in the lives of others. What gap was being filled? What experience or feelings were people missing that the company provided?
Your answers to these questions will provide a good sense of “why” your company was founded.
2. Distill the change you want to create.
Purpose statements are about connecting with people who have a similar purpose.
For example, if I saw a company that had the purpose “We want to create an agriculture system that regenerates the planet and it’s people”, I would be very interested in donating, working with, or connecting with that company, because their purpose is a big part of my identity.
In step 1, you dug into the history and motivations for the founding of your company. In this step, it’s time to look forward and describe what change you want to create, and who it might affect. What’s the set of social ideals you’re working towards, and in what context?
Try to make it concise. Your purpose statement ideally is one sentence. The shorter, the better chance for emotionally resonating with the right people.
3. Avoid Being Vague (but don’t be too specific).
Don’t just make your purpose statement something like “we want to change the world”. That’s not going to deeply resonate with anyone because you’re not saying how you want to change the world. Let’s take this “change the world” vague purpose statement and make it more specific in different contexts:
Financial Health Company: “Make managing finances simple and clear in an increasingly complex world.”
Teacher Advocacy Non-Profit: “Create a world where teachers are treated as royalty”.
You see how the “changing the world” is implied? And each organization has a purpose statement that is unique to what they provide and who they provide it for?
Be careful of being too specific, however. Remember that your purpose statement shouldn’t change. It’s the rock that your company refers to when trying to figure out where to expand. It’s the inspiration that get’s people out of bed. If you’re too specific:
Too-specific purpose statement example: “Help teachers in Phoenix, Arizona, especially those in Title 1 schools, feel valued and fairly compensated”.
Now this organization is severely limited in how much they can grow with this purpose statement. I recommend against having a geographical area or other elements that limit your audience unless you’re sure you don’t want to grow beyond those limits.
4. Brainstorm and Test!
When creating your purpose statement, get all your potential ideas down onto paper before you select one. Take 5 minutes with your partners and top employees to brainstorm what your purpose statement could look like. Then, comb through and select your favorite 5. Then comb through again and select 3. Remember these characteristics of a good purpose statement:
- Alignment with what your company actually does.
- Using simple words and is under two sentences.
- It makes you smile and feel inspired.
- Addressing a big ideal that is difficult to actually reach, but is inspiring to work towards.
- A foundation in why your company was started.
After you have 3 that you really like, send them to your most engaged customers who you think share your purpose. They’ll be able to provide valuable insight to wether this statement resonates with their identity or not.
Examples of awesome purpose statements:
Here’s some ideas that should get your creative juices flowing:
Google: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
Tesla: To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
Shopify: Make commerce better for everyone, so businesses can focus on what they do best: building and selling their products.
Note that Shopify included the “why” in their purpose statement. You can experiment with this by writing down your purpose and ask yourself “why is this my purpose?”.
Ikea: To create a better everyday life for the many people.
Ikea illustrates “how” they achieve this purpose with their mission statement: “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.”
Now you see how the best brands use their purpose statements as a guide, and their mission statements as a means to reach their purpose.
Moving forward with purpose
Now that you have your purpose statement, you’re ready to dive into knowing your customers better. This statement will be your guide, and you should indoctrinate everyone in the company with it, and what it means.
Do you want assistance in creating an engaging purpose statement? Feel free to schedule a $50 strategy call with me. I’ll give you insights on how to make POP in the minds of your customers or donors. You’ll also learn how to use this purpose statement to the best potential in your marketing materials. You can schedule the call here.
I hope you enjoyed the article! Feel free respond with any questions or remarks :).