Are you confused between a mission statement and a manifesto? They seem like the same thing, but used in completely different ways. Aren’t they just marketing terms that sound incredibly cool? It’s complicated, but I’m going to try and make it simple.
A lot of small businesses don’t take the time to create mission, vision, values, or manifesto statements. That doesn’t mean they don’t have them, it just means that they haven’t written them down.
A small business needs a mission statement to stay focused and provide a clear goal for the company. A vision statement is important because it focuses you (and any team members) on where the business is going. A manifesto is important because it can communicate the company’s values and beliefs to customers, clients and partners.
Mission Statement vs Manifesto Explained
First, let’s lay out the basics of each one.
A Mission Statement should tell you who your customer is and what you’re offering them. It’s more nuts and bolts than a manifesto. It says, “we understand where we are, who our customers are, and what we can offer to make their lives better.” And sometimes it also tells you when you will deliver it (e.g., every day). And often why they do what they do as an organization.
Vision statements are somewhat similar to mission statements in that they tell the story of where you think the organization is going from its current state to some future state. They often talk about where an organization wants to be in a few years (or even decades), but don’t always specify how or when the organization will get there. Like mission statements, vision statements don’t always include specifics on who the customers are and why they deserve/need help getting there (i.e., no one has to be in need).
Values statements are comparable to vision statements in that they describe your ideal state without saying anything about how or when you expect to get there or even if anyone really needs it (the customer). However, values statements tend to focus more on why your organization exists at all—what core values drive what you do? Values may point back toward the past and describe how things once were or influence how things should be done now or into the future—but values alone don’t explain why anyone needs this work done for them now or later because no one does; no one has been left behind by society—no one was ever a customer at all!
Mission is about what the business does, will do and for whom it will do it
A mission statement is a statement of purpose. The mission describes what the company does, will do and for whom. A manifesto is more about philosophy than business. It’s about the ideas and beliefs of the people who run the company now and have run it in the past. A mission statement looks to the future while a manifesto looks at the past, present and future as a continuum.
Mission statements are primarily concerned with what business a company is in, why it exists and what products or services it will provide. Mission statements are intended to be short but concise so that they’re easily understood by both employees and customers alike; they typically mention what’s important to customers — quality products at an affordable price — although they can also include other factors such as how employees should be treated or how profits are used.
Manifestos are concerned with why a company exists or came into being, including its philosophies or core principles which may guide management decisions today, tomorrow and in years to come. Manifestos are intended to be inspirational without worrying about whether everyone understands all of them; manifestos can also be vague because many people believe that defining these core philosophies leads directly to hypocrisy when companies fail to meet their own standards.
Values are about how the business does what it does
In a mission statement, the values of the company are represented as abstract beliefs. Values are more than that – they’re actions and behaviors. They represent how the business is run and how it behaves. They are what it stands for and its ethos.
Values should not be confused with goals or aspirations. Vision is about where a company wants to go, what it hopes to achieve, and where it sees itself in five years time. It’s about being a leader in the market or creating a new kind of product that hasn’t been seen before.
Values are about the here and now – they’re not aspirational statements but declarations of intent based on firmly held beliefs about how people should be treated and how business should be conducted in general.
Vision statements are about the when
A vision statement is aspirational. It’s about where a company wants to be in five years or ten years. It’s about becoming the market leader or creating a new product category.
A vision statement is not something that can be achieved overnight – it’s a long-term goal. It’s something that a company aspires to achieve but may never actually reach.
Vision statements are about the future of your organization (or business). The point of a vision statement is to establish where you want to go in order for you to get (and stay) there.
It’s a description of what your company will be like in the future—what it will look like, sound like, and feel like. Think of it as a promise to yourself and your employees: “This is where we’re going to be in 5 years if all goes well—so let’s do everything we can to make sure that happens!”
Of course, not just any old “future-y” thought will suffice as an effective vision statement.
In the same way that you need a map for traveling somewhere unfamiliar, you need an accurate picture of what you want your company to become in order for it actually happen.
Manifestos are about the values and beliefs that drive action – what you can count on them for
Manifestos are about the values and beliefs that drive action. The purpose of a manifesto is to create clarity, alignment, and commitment around what your customers can count on you for.
A manifesto is written down to let people know who they’re dealing with.
Manifestos are concrete and specific to an individual or organization’s stance on circumstances. Manifestos focus on behaviors. Manifestos provide sharable guiding principles that help teams collaborate effectively while preserving autonomy.
Mission statements corporate – Manifestos are entrepreneurial
While a mission statement is the proper and conventional way of establishing the purpose of an organization, a manifesto can be disruptive: it’s meant to defy the status quo and inspire change.
Mission statements are more about “The Company” (the who), while manifestos are more about “The Customer” (the what).
Manifestos are usually constructed with the audience in mind for persuasion purposes.
Missions are for business plans – Manifestos are for marketing plans
While a business plan will tell you the exact purpose of your company, how you plan to achieve that goal, and what is required from your team in order to accomplish it, a manifesto is more about who the company is as a function of its people, values and beliefs.
Manifestos are also distinct because they usually have an emotional component that’s missing from the mission statements in business plans.
A business plan can contain some emotional language in regards to market research—for example, explaining how consumers currently feel about a product before you enter their world.
But manifestos have this sort of emotional content throughout their entire existence. They bring out the passion behind what you do and where your values lie by inspiring people with emotionally-driven language that can get them to see things differently than they did before reading it.
Mission statements are formal – Manifestos are inspirational
Think of the mission statements that companies use to describe their goals. These documents are typically very formal and matter-of-fact, written for a specific purpose (often as a part of a business plan). They’re not meant to inspire, but rather to convey information in a dry manner.
On the other hand, a manifesto is more like a call to arms.
It’s usually written with the intent to inspire others and getting them involved in something bigger than themselves.
Manifestos are often associated with movements that strive to change society by challenging existing norms and beliefs. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t write your own personal manifesto; doing so might be just what you need before setting off on your next big adventure!
Mission statements are about doing – Manifestos are about being
A mission statement tells people what you do and why. It promises something to your customers. It describes how you will execute on a strategy, plan or vision.
A manifesto tells people who you are “being”. It strives to visibly and emotionally explain your business as a single human being, one that your customers can relate to and connect to as a friend.
Think of it this way: A mission statement can be used by any company in any industry because it’s focused on the execution or strategy (ie, my company has a specific purpose that clearly defines the products or services we sell). A manifesto is unique to each brand and its personality – just one more reason to create one!
In other words, you won’t be able to name a specific company by simply reading their mission statement.
Mission statements are about products – Manifestos are about promises
A mission statement is more about the company and the products they provide while a manifesto is more about branding and the brand promise.
Mission statements focus on the present, while manifestos strive for the future.
A mission statement describes what your company does now and how you do it, while the manifesto describes what you believe in and where you have to go next.
Unlike a mission statement, your manifesto will not be written in stone. It can change any time as your company grows and evolves.
Mission statements are about goals – Manifestos are about values
Mission statements are about goals. They’re about what you want to accomplish as an organization. In a mission statement, you clearly communicate your purpose and the direction you hope to take your company or organization.
Manifestos are about the values that drive those goals. A manifesto is meant to be a rallying cry, something that others can rally behind and support.
A manifesto isn’t just about what you hope to achieve; it’s about why you want to achieve it.
How to Write a Mission Statement or a Manifesto
Here’s some good news. You can go through this brainstorming process once, and have everything you need to create both a mission statement and a manifesto.
With all these details in hand, you’re ready to write your mission statement. Personally, I like to keep things simple. Your mission statement should use plain language that a 5-year-old can understand.
As you go through this process, give yourself some grace, and expect to go through several iterations that can take more than a few hours.
Answer these questions
- What do you do?
- How do you do it?
- Why do you do it?
- Who do you serve?
- Reflect on your happiest customers, what’s the biggest benefit, outcome or transformation that they experience?
Generate as many statements as you can, then write down your answers and group them into similar categories.
Be a Camera and Create a Storyboard
Another thing you can do is use images and drawings to represent how you serve your customer.
- Imagine that you are a camera following your ideal customer around. What do you see? If they are frustrated, what triggered the frustration? Be as vivid and descriptive as possible.
- Walk your ideal customer through their journey, take special note of their experiences and feelings along the way.
- How do they find you, what’s that experience like?
- As the narrator, what would you say to your customer as you watch them struggle?
Create a list of before and after “feelings” that best describe the experience of working with you.
If you haven’t noticed, the name of the game here is to tap into emotions and feelings that your ideal customer is experiencing before, during, and after finding your business.
Fill in the Blanks (for a mission statement)
If these look familiar, they should be. These simple fill in the blank mission statement templates are very similar to the templates you see for your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). After all, they are virtually the same thing.
Our mission is to ____(what)_____ for ___(who)______ by ___(how)______.
We help ___ (who) so they can ___ (what)
Write out a “Rant” for a Manifesto
While a mission statement is more matter-of-fact, a manifesto is an emotional document. In fact, a manifesto is a formalized rant that’s intended to show what your brand stands for and why.
How a Mission Statement and Manifesto Help Make You Profitable
Believe it or not, your mission statement and manifesto can make you profitable and keep you profitable — here’s how:
- You’ll stay focused on who you serve and why and avoid getting into projects that cost money and sidetrack your efforts.
- You’ll come up with innovative new products and services that stand out from the competition.
- You’ll save money on tools and projects that don’t provide value.
- Your employees and customers will be more engaged with your business. And, engaged employees and customers make profitable companies.
A Simple Way to Work ON Your Business and Not IN It
If you’ve been wanting to work on your business and not in it — take an hour each day to work on your mission statement and manifesto. It’s the perfect place to start.