Mission, vision, aims and objectives

A strategic marketing plan aims to address four questions in relation to an organisation:

  • Where are we now?
  • Where would we like to be?
  • How do we get there? and
  • Are we on course to meet that target

So a strategic marketing plan should:

  • Define the ‘mission’ of the business
  • Audit the existing market
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses
  • Set objectives
  • Develop a core strategy which takes account of target segments through variations in the marketing mix
  • Set timescales and describe control measures

Regarding the first of these actions; defining the business mission, I have come across several organisations who seem confused as to what their mission is.  In many cases they confuse the business mission with their commercial vision.

Ackoff defined the mission of a business as, “A broadly defined, enduring statement that distinguishes a business from others of that type i.e. It must last over time, be specific to the organisation and be a source of differentiation.

Many business mission statements I have read are too generic or they do not accurately define the business and more importantly, its culture and values.

A business mission statement is about the present situation; the ‘here and now’.  A vision statement should represent the future i.e. where you want the business to go not where it is now.

A vision statement is usually short, often a single sentence or phrase.  For example Samsung’s current vision statement, which runs until 2020, is ‘Inspire the world, create the future’.  Lloyd’s Banking group’s vision is ‘To be the best bank for the future’.

Mission statements are usually, but not always longer, running to a couple of paragraphs or a page of bullet points.  A mission statement should:

  • Describe the customer group to be served.
  • Refer to the customer needs to be satisfied.
  • Describe the process through which those needs are to be satisfied.

Google’s mission statement is: “To organise the world’s information and make it universally acceptable and usable”

For many years, Canon Photocopiers mission statement was ‘Beat Xerox’.

Often a mission statement gives wider intent than the physical actions of a company.  For example, Apple’s mission statement makes no mention of the manufacture and sale of computers, phones and digital music players.  It is to “solve customer’s information problems”.

An effective mission statement should:

  • Show a solid understanding of the business.
  • Show the strong personal conviction of the business leader and their motivation.  For example, Disney’s mission statement is to ‘make people happy’ reflecting the motivation of its founder Walt Disney.
  • Create the strategic intent of winning throughout the organisation.  It should build common purpose.
  • Enable success:
    • by giving managers the authority to make strategic decisions without micro-management by senior managers.
    • Senior managers role is to reflect the interests of stakeholders through policy development and monitoring those policies.

An appropriate and accurate mission statement is key to marketing planning.  It defines which opportunities and threats are to be addressed and it defines the boundaries which new opportunities must be set within.

Where a mission statement is either too long, or short, to easily communicate, a marketing plan will often include an elevator pitch.  This is a short description of what a business is about.  It is written with a journey in an elevator.  You get on at the ground floor with another passenger and by the time you get out at your destination you have described your business to that other passenger.

Once you have properly defined your businesses vision and mission, it is time to set aims and objectives.

Aims relate to the long-term and to the business vision.  Samsung’s vision statement related to the decade between 2010 and 2020.  If these aims are met, the organisation will achieve its vision.

Objectives relate to the current business mission.  They are for the shorter-term and should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound).  Often they are set annually and they should be reviewed regularly.

In the sitcom ‘Only Fools and Horses’ one of the character Del Boy’s catchphrases is an example of a very poor business objective:

  • It is not specific.  It does not say how the Trotters are to become millionaires and it usually refers to the latest money-making wheeze or scam.
  • There is a time limit but is it realistic? As Del Boy is usually operating on the margins of bankruptcy, how achievable is it that he will earn a lot of money quickly?
  • There is no indication as to how this target will be monitored e.g. is there any measurement of income on a weekly or monthly basis, measurement of increases in sales or growth in the customer base?

The vision statement, mission statement, aims and SMART objectives are the framework around which a successful marketing strategy, and a successful business are built.