Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Developing your mission statement
I asked whether any of the 30 entrepreneurs in the room had a positioning statement they cared to share with the class. Nobody did. So I went over my preferred template for these statements:
I do (this, or these things) so that (this market) can do (this).
In other words, you say what you do, and who you do it for. Then you offer a tantalizing clue why your product or service matters. Why you're better than the competition. Why you're special.
To show how simply this can work, I gave the class the positioning statement I often use: “I’m a writer, and I help entrepreneurs grow their businesses.”
Ten simple words. Yet they explain, in relaxed, conversational terms, what I do, who I do it for, and what benefit my clients can expect.
Easy, huh? Then I asked the class how long it took me to come up with that statement. “Two weeks?” ventured someone near the front of the room. “Six years,” I said.
I hope that makes my point that mission statements are complex beasts that take a lot of time to develop. Even if you come up with one in an afternoon, you should be constantly wrestling with it to find ways to make your introduction shorter, more conversational, more effective.
Then came the embarrassing part. I told the class that my previous statement had been, “I’m a consultant who helps entrepreneurs build their businesses.” Then I asked which descriptor the group liked better – “consultant” or “writer”? They voted two to one in favor of “consultant.”
So I told them why I dropped that from my mission statement. Yes, I do consulting. But so does everyone else. Consultants are a dime a dozen. And frankly, entrepreneurs’ first thought when they meet a consultant is usually, “What’s his hourly rate? Probably too much.”
When they meet a writer, however, the first question they usually ask is, “What do you write?” or “Who do you write for?” – questions more likely to create an interesting and productive conversation. Since writers are rarer than consultants, there’s also a novelty factor involved. Also, I know many entrepreneurs who have specifically gone looking for a writer, so (unlike “consultant”) it’s a term more likely to resonate favorably.
Consultants are commodities. Writers are specialists, with a bit of an aura.
We are all specialists. We all have auras. How can you cease being a commodity and enhance your positioning aura?
(Feel free to use my template to create your own positioning statement. And please let me know how it goes. You can email me or leave a comment.)