Vision vs Mission vs Strategy

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Have you ever had any of these experiences at your business?

  • You need to write a statement on company culture for new joiners, recruitment pages, or an awards application, but after 3 hours and 9 people nobody is sure how to describe who you are, what you do… and why you exist actually
  • You spend ages drafting and redrafting a brochure or short “about us” description but it gets more and more bland and clichéd… and then the CEO has a go at really nailing it down… and it turns out to be even more generic and meaningless (and full of spelling mistakes)
  • You do a root cause analysis on an operation problem or target-missing post mortem, and everyone violently agrees with each other that we need to be more clear about our mission and values… or is it our masterplan and vision… or is it our culture and targets… OK what we do agree with is that we need a 2 day retreat off-site to really hash this out with the executive time and 20 further carefully selected heads, remember to bring a lot of flipcharts and post-its…
animated gif of a panda beating up an office

Frustration or procrastination around defining your big value statements usually comes from nobody having an objective shared definition of what we are trying to say

What is common to these problems is that nobody actually has a shared reference what we mean by all these words:

vision … mission … positioning … strategy … roadmap … culture … goals …

And what about:

branding … logo … identity … slogan … tagline … assets … guidelines … style guide …

Without a shared definition of the words, nobody can make any progress about which comes first, which is dependent on another, and how to propose and confirm an officially agreed definition of the company’s wording.

Confucius Stone Figure Sculpture China Statue cc via http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/static/photo/1x/Confucius-Stone-Figure-Sculpture-China-Statue-1124611.jpg

A wise man said (and we paraphrase) unless you define and agree your terminology, you will just be faffing around endlessly

Confucius had it right when he said we need to begin with the “rectification of names”:

If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success

 – Chapter 13, The Analects Attributed to Confucius [Kongfuzi], 551-479 BCE by Lao-Tse [Lao Zi], Translated by James Legge (1815-1897)

In this article we’ve laid out our own definitions that we use when advising our fintech clients on marketing strategy and (higher/broader) business positioning.

Marketing vision, mission, strategy and more… let’s try to rectify the names!

What follows is a bit of a long read, but have a skim for any words which you’ve found ambiguous when your team discusses them, and bookmark this page if it helps you get to the point faster!

Vision

This is a statement of where you think the world – or a part of it – is at the moment, where it is going, and why this matters. This doesn’t have to be unique to you – it could be a world view shared by many others – a zeitgeist or a movement. This will help you define your allies and potential partners, and attract like-minded individuals to your cause. Both your Vision and Mission statements talk about the whole organisation, not just marketing or sales.

Mission

Your mission flows from your vision. It states what your purpose is, in relation to your vision, and what you are going to do to move the world in a better direction. Again, if other people know what your part of the bigger picture is, they know whether they want to join in, and how they could contribute. This should be as differentiating as possible, and include some kind of edge or specifics that point at your technology/innovation, philosophy, or resources that make your contribution appear realistic.

In an aligned organization everyone stays on target.

Brand

In the widest sense, your brand is what customers and prospective customers remember you as. This is a combination of visuals, name, and a load of attached psychological intangibles. Your creation and promotion of your brand is about creating a distinct and consistent memorability, identity and uniqueness, utility, trust, and perceived value… and thinking about how this will be shared (from your organisation to the world, and from individual to individual).

Positioning

A positioning statement goes into a bit more detail to describe how your organisation sits within the market and what you do that is special. You should also talk about your target audience and customers, especially where they sit on the adoption curve. In addition to organisational positioning, every solution you take to market needs to have its own specific positioning statement – in fact, that is the key point about what makes something a ‘product’ that is easy for customers to buy.

Tagline

The shortest possible summation of your positioning. This should be unique and differentiating. It does not have to be too clever or abstract. Getting this right is especially important where your brand name is not already well associated with what you do… which is the case for all except the best known brands in the world! The biggest brands can afford to choose a slogan such as “Just Do It” or “I’m Lovin’ It” because people already know who they are and what they do. It’s unlikely that you need to go in this abstract direction. Solutions (products / services) can have their own tagline to explain what they are and do.

Brand assets

The assets are the visible pieces of presenting your organisation (or solution) identity.

Assets will include:

  • Logo in various versions
  • Definition of the spelling of your name in different contexts
  • Colour scheme
  • Tagline
  • Approved short form company description(s)
  • Reusable statements for other public relations purposes, e.g. blurb about company history and ownership, CEO biography

Looked at from the point of view of intellectual property, you need to fix exactly your brand name, logo(s), colours, and tagline in order to trademark them in the appropriate classes and jurisdictions.

screenshot of an example brand guidelines microsite

Does your team share a single source of truth for brand assets, default text, and guidelines? We recommend creating a CMS microsite purely for this purpose or using Confluence.

Brand guidelines (Style guide)

These are working documents which are controlled centrally and used consistently by everybody inside your organisation from day to day, as well as available for outside partners and press (usually in a different simplified version for third parties).

Typical contents include:

  • Logo files
  • Fonts and typography guidelines
  • Colour palettes and guidelines
  • Logo, font, and colour do’s and don’ts
  • Templates for documents such as slideshows and letterheads
  • A resource of pre-approved images depicting the company, solutions, customers, and usage
  • Guidelines relating to
    • Values
    • Company culture
    • Tone of voice
    • Terminology and spelling

Values

A list of ideas summarising the behaviours and ethics that you emphasise for your team, ways of working with partners and customers, and general world outlook. These do not have to be unique. However you should try to avoid truisms: it should be something practical where you might actually choose not to do something because that would be “inconsistent with our values”. Some of your values may relate to your vision and mission, for example if you prioritise and promote open source software.

Company culture

Your brand guidelines can include some ideas about how you describe your culture that flows from your values. This is very important for describing a fit/match for recruitment, and also explains the ‘why’ behind some of your tone of voice. Because your company culture should be consistent with your values, this may be a combined statement.

Tone of voice

Here you provide guidelines to encourage consistency and quality in communications in all media (spoken, written, video, even visuals). To begin with this just needs to be as clear and practical as possible. As time goes on, you should add to this resource to provide good and bad examples to show people what you mean.

Madness? Madness is not defining your resources and focusing them in the right way!

Strategy

The word ‘strategy’ comes from the Greek for military general: so the broadest meaning of strategy is HOW you intend to gather and direct your resources to succeed in your mission. You need to define your objectives, i.e. at a high level what things you want to succeed in doing. You need to break down your strategy in three levels:

  1. Business strategy
    Including a view of the current and future status of the overall business, the value proposition, and short / medium / long term priorities of activities and objectives.
  2. Marketing strategy
    Describe how marketing contributes to the business strategy and lay out in some length the resources and activities that will be involved.
  3. Go-to-market strategies e.g. for any one or any combination of:
    1. Regions
    2. Solutions
    3. Industries
    4. Groups of target customers (Account Based Marketing)

Aims

Broad statements of where you want to go, what you want to achieve in the long term. For a marketing strategy you can express how marketing contributes to the overall company mission. Statements such as “we want to be seen as the leading XYZ” are aims.

A goal can be easy or hard … what makes it a goal is that everyone can see and agree if you succeeded or failed.

Goals

Should be SMART – specific and measurable so that everyone can agree and objectively confirm whether the goal has been achieved, and while you are on the way, how close or far you are from achieving it. A goal is not a single number or metric: that is a target. A target is a contextualized value for one metric which you have chosen as one of your KPIs. The success criteria of a marketing goal can be expressed in a combination of qualitative and quantitative targets.

Value proposition

This describes in some depth how your organisation and its solutions add value. This should include market research about demand and trends, competitive research, and describe as clearly as possible what your main solutions are, how they are bought, and how they are delivered. Each distinct solution you offer should have its own value proposition.

In Arizona Dream (1993) Johnny Depp as Axel tries and fails to get the first “Hello” right as a Cadillac salesman. Without the right positioning, elevator pitch drilling, and consistency, your sales teams may be faring no better…

Elevator pitch

This is a core, approved script that all company employees can be drilled in, that provides a concise statement of BOTH your brand identity and positioning. Generally this applies to the organisation as a whole, but each category of solution or specific solution could have its own script too. Because the elevator pitch is conversational, it can include rhetorical questions, challenges, or calls to action. A good elevator pitch should succeed in communicating brand, values, and positioning, and then open up a conversation.

Channel strategy

This is the next level of detail from your overall marketing strategy statement. For a given list of marketing channels you establish which you are prioritizing (and de-prioritizing), and on a high level how you intend to exploit them for awareness, engagement, action, and community.

Market research

You need to provide at least statements of hypotheses or estimates, if not concretely researched numbers for:

  • Market demand
  • Market trends
  • Categories of solution
  • Categories of buyer (see Targeting below)
  • Competitors, their offerings, SWOT
  • Directly competing solutions, pricing, delivery, reputation
Screenshot from LinkedIn showing various ad targeting criteria

LinkedIn and other social media are literally built with one purpose in mind: targeted advertising for businesses! Did you know you can target specific job titles and specific companies in your LinkedIn campaigns?

Targeting

Dimensions of targeting include:

  • Audience / interests (useful for content marketing and social media)
  • Individual attributes, e.g. location, seniority, department, job title
  • Organisational attributes, e.g. market, industry, size, needs
  • Buying cycle (useful for defining the purpose of particular marketing campaigns)

Targets can be customers, non-commercial decision makers (e.g. government), influencers, partners, and the wider public.

The most effective way to summarize your priority targets is in the form of personas.

Buying cycle

Including (but not limited to) the sales process, the buying cycle is your description of how your customer gets the solution you offer – i.e. moves all the way from unawareness of who you are… to the happy owner of the end results you provide. This is often known as “contact to cash”. This helps integrate marketing strategy with a whole lifecycle: positioning and demand assumptions, awareness, lead capture, lead qualification, pricing and pre sales information, sales conversion, delivery, customer satisfaction, and repeat business. Defining stages of your buying cycle helps a lot with defining metrics and targets for sales funnel and conversion rates.

 

Saucission Sec - Photo by Alex Guillaume on Unsplash

If you don’t set a marketing budget and authorization criteria, you doom yourself to “salami slicing” and this will cost you more while preventing your team from being either strategic or entrepreuneurial

Marketing resource plan

One or more overviews of how to capture a marketing budget, including considerations of human resources and tools.

There are several ways to approach creating a marketing budget:

  1. Doctrinal
    Establish a business plan single figure for the total amount given to marketing, which could be expressed as a percentage of trailing or target sales, and then the marketing resource plan expresses ideas for how to deliver the most value within that amount.
  2. Sales driven
    Create an agreed calculation about the cost of generating new and repeat business, then work backwards from the sales targets/projections to arrive at the total required marketing budget.
  3. Reactive – aka “salami slicing”
    Avoid setting an overall budget and assess every marketing campaign and resource idea case by case on its own merits. This allows you to be much more responsive to new ideas as they arise, but typically disempowers your marketing managers/partners, diminishes the ability to plan, and ends up costing you more in total than setting a top-down budget.

 

Example marketing quarterly roadmap. We recommend the planning tool Roadmunk

Marketing plan outline

Your marketing plan outline, or roadmap, gives you a 12-18 month medium term view of the major ongoing and project-based (e.g. campaigns) activities you are planning to undertake. It should include key milestones/dates such as product launches, events, and goal deadlines. The overview may include swimlanes for organisational vs solution marketing, plus regions or other GTM focuses.

Marketing action plan

This is the next level of detail from your outline, which says in broad terms for any item in a particular swimlane what is involved in executing it. Action plans can be quite templated (e.g. Large, Medium, Small) since this helps you budget your overall marketing activities and assess how much (and how much concurrent) marketing activity you can take on. You should make budgetary / prioritization decisions at this level of detail rather than attempting to plan out in full detail how to execute a particular campaign. To help with prioritization, action plans should have a description of at least the why if not some expected outcomes.

Marketing campaign plan

The most detailed level of planning for one particular project that you have decided to execute. This plan expresses dependencies, lead times, execution times, and sequence of multiple types of activity, that is designed by a marketing delivery manager (or project manager) and then delivered to budget and on time. A considerable resource cost of any campaign is the research and planning stage itself: therefore it is best to avoid diving into this level of pre-planning until you definitely decided to green-light a project.

 

Get the right advice, get your strategy right, save time and costs wherever you are working on sales and marketing

If you work through the headings in a clearly defined way, at the start of your business, and then at key ‘refresh’ points as your business develops, you will be able to avoid the trap of wasted time in inconsistency and reinventing the wheel, in the many different places you are working on marketing / sales training, messaging, and collateral. The further you go in your business, the more important it is to have statements of vision, mission, strategy etc that are clear and consistently understood by everybody in the organization.

Armed with this groundwork, all successive marketing work, both internally and with agency partners, becomes clearer, faster, and more strategic. Investing in strategy means marketing work is aligned with commercial objectives and has a greater chance of delivering returns on investment.

If you would like help formulating your own organizational vision/mission statements, (re)branding projects, or marketing strategy and planning, please contact Adastra to arrange a free initial meeting.

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