Which wine would your brand be? (Feel free to sample a lot just to be sure)

If your brand were a vegetable, what would it be?

I know, sometimes brand strategy questions can seem esoteric and ridiculous. I mean, really, what the heck does asparagus tell me about how I can make smarter marketing decisions and attract more customers, sales and word of mouth?

But creating a brand analogy for ourselves can often help us make smarter decisions for our business. (Tweet!)

The only 2 questions on which I really ever probe clients in this vein are “If your brand were a person, place or fictional character, what would it be and why?” and “You are the (BLANK) of your industry” which usually ends up being something car-related. For example, we’re the “Porsche of our industry: fast, sexy and super expensive” or “We’re the Jetta of our industry: Fun, reliable, approachable and not too flashy.”

These exercises can really help you make sense of how your brand “stacks up” in a potential customer’s mind. As I talk about in my book, Branding Basics, you want to be intentional about where people slot you in their mental file drawers. Creating such analogies can help you wrap your head around determining the right tone, visual style and even brand voice for your efforts.

So here’s a fun Slice of Adventure for you today:

Given my love for all things wine, think about “Which wine would your brand be and why?”

Is your brand a peppery, spicy Zinfandel? Are you a crisp, clean Sauvignon Blanc? A bold Cabernet Sauvignon that can take on any hearty dish or complex meat with ease? A more exotic, quirky and harder to find varietal: a gentler yet berry-filled Carménère? Or perhaps a complex, eclectic blend such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape?

Maybe your brand is a rustic and traditional Chianti. Or an effervescent, bubbly, and high-style Champagne!

And don’t forget winemaker brands, either: Are you a mass market Mondavi or Yellowtail or a more affluent Silver Oak? Perhaps you’re even an exclusive, rare, luxury Chateau Lafite.

If you have a good grasp on who you are in relation to your competition, you can make much smarter decisions about content, voice, pricing and visual style so you attract the right people with the right message at the right time.

Creating a “brand analogy” helps you walk, talk and look exactly how you want (Tweet this!)

So now it’s your turn: think about your brand voice, personality, style, target audience and price point and tell us in the Comments below, which wine are you?

Why do you do what you do? Ideas to reconnect with your purpose + passion

Your business is an extension of you. It started with an idea and a hope and problem you were itching to solve. A vision of how you could improve someone’s life, work, relationships, self-esteem or home.

For a moment, forget about the features and functions. Forget about the “tricks.” Forget about the bonus materials or free reports or “Act by this date” price promotions or 6-week programs or loyalty cards or sales numbers or social media stats and think back to your idea, your story.

What did you want to put into the world to make it a better place than when you found it? What problems did you want to solve for people to make them feel joyful, empowered or efficient?

People connect with stories + people, with passion + purpose….not products, not services, not even brands. (Tweet this!)

Without a story, without standing for something, you are simply a transactional commodity. And when was the last time that ever rocked anyone’s world? There’s no loyalty there. That’s like saying you’re loyal to the DMV simply because they renew your driver’s license and registration every few years.

If you’re having trouble remembering your story or have lost sight of your purpose amidst the chaos of everyday entrepreneurship, here are some inspirations to help you find your mojo again:

Ask your best friend, mentor, or close confidante to remind you of what you told them when you said you wanted to (fill in the blank) and what got you jazzed about it. You know, those nights when, after a few too many G&T’s, your eyes lit up and you said, “If I could create this, people would love it!”

Create a simple “Value Proposition Hack

Revisit that old mission statement you once wrote long ago. You know: the one that was imperfect and raw and beautiful and captured every essence of hope you had when you first started.

Stay inspired by soaking up goodness from others who have found their stories and made magic in their worlds. And know that if they can do it, you can do it, too. Like Alexandra or Ali or Warren and Betsy.

Review Simon Sinek’s now famous TED talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action and find your own “Why?

Remember your “why?” Please share it below and make a public declaration in the Comments with a linkback to your site!

Stuck in neutral? 4 ways to reboot your business and rekindle your fire

Ah, the first blushes of entrepreneurial love. The romance! The energy! But what happens when the passion fades and the reality of demanding customers/clients, overwhelming marketing options and painful tasks (QuickBooks, anyone?) creeps in? Suddenly, your business becomes a grind and you find yourself working harder for less reward, less return…and less joy. Your once appreciative and dreamy-eyed business starts angrily demanding more of your time and energy – but in return, rewards you with the wrong customers, a weak profit margin and just doesn’t take you salsa dancing or wine tasting anymore.

I’ve been where you are. I know what it feels like to have your business success lead you down the wrong path. How choices innocently pile up – each one seemingly rational – paving a perfect road to discontent.

So a few years ago, I took a step back. I sought the objective counsel of colleagues, a wise coach and a wondrous wordsmith and tweaked my business model and messaging – core brand elements. I started doing more of what I loved and ditched what wasn’t working. And you know what? My heart (and success) soared.

If your business (and heart) feel stuck in neutral, here are 4 ways to reboot  – and check out my big announcement at the end on how I can help…

  1. What do you hate doing? STOP IT! If your business offerings have kept piling on so you can simply cater to every single need under the sun, you need to take stock and simplify your business model. What activities bring you the most joy? Do you love teaching and strategic planning but hate detailed tactics? Then start doing more workshops or retainer projects  and don’t offer hourly project work. Do you love doing massage and energy work but hate giving facials? Then cut down your services list. This also translates into how you talk about yourself (i.e., maybe you’re no longer a “full-service spa” but a “body care studio”)
  2. Play with pricing or packaging to attract the right customers/clients: You may find that the people you are attracting pay little but demand a lot, offering little profit margin in the end. How about adding more value/quality to your offerings and increasing your prices to deter more budget-conscious folks and attract a more affluent market? Or offer a tiered set of products or services to give more cost-conscious folks a self-service option, while freeing up your time for deeper, higher-value work that you adore.
  3. Revisit your messaging: Take a good, hard look at your web copy, company descriptor or even job title. Are you saying you do everything for anybody? Are you too vague and not focused on clear, crisp benefits? Does it sound boring, even to you? This could either a) be attracting the wrong type of work or b) confusing the prospective people that you really want. Remember, when you try to create a brand that is all things to all people, you end up being nothing to no one. Detail out your ideal customer or client and only focus on content, services or products – and the appropriate messaging – to attract those people. Don’t worry about pleasing (or offending) anyone else but that target. Trust me, they’ll be fine without you.
  4. Audit your visual brand: OK, this one may require an investment to make some changes. Based on the people you really, really want to attract and the kind of work you really, really want to be doing, is your visual branding way off base? Do you need to modernize your colors, select bolder fonts or change out your imagery to better appeal to those people? I once consulted with someone trying to attract high-powered Alpha-male executives – and yet her website was all pastel colors and flowery script fonts. She was beating her head against the wall and wondering why those powerful male executives were not hiring her. She needed to update her look and feel to match her new offerings and target clients. Side benefit? Updating your visual look and feel might also get your heart racing with pride again about your business and give you a new opportunity for some word of mouth buzz.

With these tips, you can shift out of neutral and into overdrive again. In a good way, of course. Don’t drive yourself crazy. OK, I’ll stop with the driving metaphors….

Photo credit: Vincent O’Keeffe, Flickr

Has business boredom ever happened to you? What actions do you recommend to reignite your business – or your own personal passion? We’d love to hear so please leave a Comment below. Your wise words could help someone else!


My big summer risk revealed…want to join me?

I have a scary admission to make to you today, dear reader. (Deep breath)

I share this because I think it’s important for us to shake things up every now and then. To wake up those parts that lie dormant by virtue of routine or comfort.

And…I’m sharing this before I even know if it’s going to actually happen. Also important. The more shots we take on goal, the more chances we have to score…isn’t that what they always say? It’s not authentic to simply shout out to our tribe each red-hot, blazing success: we have to also celebrate the nail-biting attempts we make so that none of us has the delusion that it’s all so easy. That’s just irresponsible. And it’s a lie. (Tweet this!)

First confession: I got rejected by a literary agent. One I adore. We hit it off like wildfire when our short consult turned into a 90 minute gabfest of laughter, sass and shared understanding.  We were both saddened by it. And she sent me the most heartfelt and useful rejection I’ve ever gotten in my life. Bright side: we bonded, and I’m convinced we will work together at some point. I’m sure of it in my bones.  The connection we made inspires me to want to make that happen.

But you have to pick your creative butt up off the floor and shake it off when these things happen. I have other irons in the fire this summer. “Passion scratches” to itch.

And so….

This June, I hope to take a five-week sabbatical from consulting and speaking. I’m applying to San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre’s Summer Acting Congress. I was thisclose to applying in 2006 and 2007, confident my company would support me in taking the time away (A lovely young opera singer co-worker took a similar artistic summer leave to attend a music program not once, but twice – with full top brass support). But it just wasn’t the right time personally.

Now, I’m working for myself. I’m back in the San Francisco Bay Area. My husband fully supports the idea of recharging my creative mojo. So the time is right. After last year’s book launch, I don’t have a new book in me just yet and so I need another artistic outlet of self-expression and storytelling.

Am I scared? Hell yes. Not only about possible rejection, but about the unknown. Health-wise, I’m also a little concerned about the grueling schedule. Since my brain injury a few years ago, fatigue and stamina are still issues and making my own schedule has been a savior. But I’ll be on someone’s else’s clock from 9-6 pm, Monday through Thursday – plus any outside rehearsal time. Can I handle it? Will overwhelm and anxiety creep in, tipping over the plates I’ve balanced so precisely to adapt to this new health realty?  Maybe. Who knows.

I told my husband, “What the hell? I’ll try and if it’s killing me, of course I’ll stop.”

Why am I doing this? For no reason other than to recharge, change my scenery, reframe my thinking and explore possibilities. Maybe it will just make me a better conference speaker. Maybe I’ll find new indie theatre projects. Maybe I’ll want to pursue directing. Or maybe, Scorsese will find me, fall madly in love with my acting and cast me in his next Leonardo flick.

Point is….you can’t find new opportunities to explore if you don’t ever leave your room. (Tweet this!)

So I invite you to join me. What makes you squirm? What mountain do you think to yourself, “Oh, please! I’d never be able to climb that. I’m just not that kind of person?” Can you find a way to stare down the fear, stand up straight and march forward? Maybe take that class, book that trip, reach out to that long estranged friend, start writing that book, or open that business you’ve always wanted. Need help or inspiration getting started? Check out my good friends’ Warren and Betsy Talbot’s killer program, Dream, Save, Do: An Action Plan for Dreamers

Photo credit: Alaskan Dude on Flickr

What big gut-wrenching, face-slapping, mojo-moving risk will YOU take? And just imagine, for a moment, what might you find on the other side?


If you want less heartburn when trying to attract new customers…

Here are the most common marketing challenges I’ve heard when clients call me….

“I spent $5,000 at a booth at this event and I got diddly squat for it.”

“I know there are people who need my product or service but they can’t seem to find me.”

 “People don’t really understand what I do. They end up asking me if I know anyone who offers the exact same thing I do. And I’m like, ‘Hello?! I’m RIGHT HERE!”

“Prospects don’t understand why we’re better than our competitors.”

“I get lots of website visitors but not many of them turn into sales.”

“I struggle with articulating exactly what value I can provide for people.”

“What the *$#@! are we supposed to say on our blog/Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest?

 “I get lots of calls but they are always from people who can’t afford my services.”

” We used to do x and now we do y, but people still associate us with our old brand.”

“I’m just launching a business/project/non-profit and don’t even have a website yet. I’ll work on the brand after I get things going.”

“I already have a business/project/non-profit but it seems to be stuck in neutral.”

Sound familiar?

I’ve talked about this in various forums as a marketing speaker and in media such as MSNBC and Entrepreneur Magazine. The solution to many of these challenges is a simple two word phrase that is easier said than executed:


See, you can’t build a strong house without a good foundation, you have to crawl before you can walk…insert your fave saying here. Point is, there are two scenarios in which the headache plays itself out:

  1. You already launched your business in scrappy, guerilla, entrepreneurially-action focused fashion and while you got everything going, it’s time to take a step back and clarify your brand story so you can “clean up” what you’ve got out there and make it work better together.
  2. You have not yet launched your business idea, but are going to spend time and money on a website, or social media, or marketing programs without a clear strategy or story to make those investments perform and pay off for you.

If you are in either camp, I am passionate about helping you save misery, money….and migraines.

Please stop the hamster wheel of random execution that gets you no results except making vendors and agencies oodles of cash that you’ll then spend all over again when you need to undo everything. This is not hyperbole. I’ve seen it. It makes me angry. Very angry. I feel like Braveheart or something, trying to rally everyone into taking back their freedom.

I’m unveiling a brand new 4-week virtual course to help you stop this cycle, focus your efforts, and build a solid foundation that will ultimately make your marketing – and life – so much easier and more effective to boot. I’m here to guide you step by step into the bliss of brand clarity.

I invite you to consider the Red Slice Virtual Branding Bootcamp. Four weeks of resources, content, exercises, tough love and guidance on your brand and your message. This is not a DVD set you’ll never play. It’s roll up your sleeves, personal guided time with me for a fun, insightful and informative journey via phone and online so you can stay focused from the comfort of your desk/beachhouse/bed/igloo – I’m committed to making sure you source and shine your story the right way from the start – or clarify the one that’s not working for you.

Early bird rate is in effect until Friday, June 15 (that’s tomorrow). Spots are limited to 8 so I can offer custom feedback and guidance – and some are already gone. I would love to help your business boom so check out the detailed agenda and bonus goodies you get and then take action.  Yes, sessions will be recorded if you have to miss one.

Please register today. I’m so not about sleazy sales pitches or infomercially crap that gets your business nowhere. This is real, juicy, practical content. I’m committed to you. I’m ready for you to shine brightly. Now the bigger question: Are you?

Do you judge wines by their labels? An adventure task…

While we are all taught not to judge a book by its cover, let’s get real. I’ve bought books, magazines, scented lotions, household cleaners (how can you resist Method’s packaging?) and yes, wine based solely on how the label looks.

I’m a marketing groupie. I admit it. I’m a sucker for cute, clever or crisp packaging.

As a former wine writer and still-active wine lover, I know that some gems are hidden in the ugliest bottles and even price does not necessarily guarantee “bottled poetry” But I’ve fallen in love with cheeky, well-designed wine labels over the years which enticed me to buy and try the product.

Nothing conveys a brand personality – and hints at the quality and delight of the wine experience bottled inside – like a wine label. And there are many diverse ones out there, all trying to communicate why they are good, how they are different and to stand out from the hundreds of options out there.

Your business needs to ensure its “wine label” stands out from the crowd. Can prospects tell what kind of product, service, or quality you offer right off the bat? If you don’t think visual identity or your website quality and design matters (“I offer amazing products/services. That is enough to convey my brain.”)  – think again. One stat suggests that in less than 10 seconds, you have the opportunity to lose or gain a valuable customer – just based on your website’s layout and visual appearance.

Your Slice of Adventure, should you choose to accept it:

Peruse the racks at a local wine shop or the wine aisle of your favorite supermarket.  Pick three vastly different wines based on their labels – don’t look at the price!! Just from the label, colors, font, copy – even the shape and size of the bottle – ask yourself four questions:

1) For what occasion would this wine be a good fit?
2) How does the wine taste?
3) Who is the winery’s ideal customer? Age, personality, lifestyle?
4) How much does the wine cost?

You will soon see in action how our immediate responses to visual cues tell a whole story that words never could. This is how people are judging your business: by your website, storefront, signage, product design. This is a powerful lesson in making sure all of your communication channels convey the right clear, consistent message that you intend.

And enjoy your wine. You didn’t think I’d skip the actual taste/experience test, did you? That’s the fun part.

PS, I’m also in love with unique wine/winery names, especially saucy ones. Here are some for your amusement:

Bonking Frog
Fat Bastard Wine
Spoiled Dog Winery
Kung Fu Girl, Boom Boom and The Velvet Devil from Charles Smith Wines

Please report back your findings below in the Comments – and of course tell us if you recommend the wine! Any faves you already have that you can share? Please do…

4 things that selling tea in Chinatown can teach you about a successful website

Guest post by Seth Leonard who trains and mentors people who want to build dynamic, successful websites. 

I recently started exploring the diverse and tasty world of tea.

Luckily, I live in Berkeley, right across the water from San Francisco’s Chinatown, filled with tea shops.

So when I visited this amazing neighborhood in search of tea, I visited most of the shops. But I only chose to buy from one of them. Why? Because this shop did things differently. And you can employ the exact same tactics they used in their store with your website, turning your visitors into loyal fans and customers.

Starting with…

Provide An Entry Point

The shop I bought from, Vital Tea Leaf, offered free tea tastings. Now, this was important not because it got me to enter the store, which I was going to do anyway, but because it gave me an entry point for my experience within the store.

With each of the other shops I visited, all I could really do was smell the various jars of tea. Being a complete newbie, I didn’t know what I was smelling, or even what questions I should be asking the staff. I was intimidated and unsure where to start. So I left.

The free tastings at Vital, however, gave me somewhere to start. I didn’t need to come up with the right question, or demonstrate any knowledge. All I had to do was sit down and drink some tea. At the very least, I could talk about what I tasted.

You should be doing the same thing with your website: providing an entry point. Visitors are going to come to your site, unsure of what you offer, and unsure of where to start. Figure out how to demonstrate the value you provide in an easy, accessible way.

Then give them a reason to interact with you. Give them something to consume, to comment on, or ask you about. (Tweet this!) Figure out a way that makes it easy for them to enter into a conversation with you. 


Once I was seated at the tea tasting table, Royal (his real name), my host, worked to engage with me. He didn’t ask me what my favorite tea was, or even tell me what his favorite tea was. He asked about where I was from and we talked about Chinatown.

Royal was friendly and excited to talk to me, as well as the other people doing tastings. He would serve various teas and look on with curiosity as to how we would react. He wanted to hear our opinions. He gave us tips on brewing tea that later made me feel more knowledgeable and comfortable in making a purchasing decision.

Your website is about more than selling (when I say selling, it could be a product, service, or content you want people to see). Your website is about engaging with your audience, and giving them a reason to be there other than to buy. (Tweet this!) It’s about empowering them with the knowledge to make a decision about their next step.

People want an experience. They want to feel a part of something. Open your website up to your visitor. Be curious about them and hear what they have to say.

Give them a seat at the table, something to discuss, and then listen. Give them an experience. Engage.

Offer Social Proof

The free tastings at Vital meant that there were always people in the shop. Watching us laugh and nod our heads at the tasting counter only encouraged more people to join us. Just as it
was reassuring for me to see others interact with Royal before I sat down, my presence helped other people to join the group.

Sometimes it helps to think of your website as a party. You want to arrive when there are already guests there. And you want to see that those people are having a good time. It lets you know that you’re not making a mistake by being there.

One of the values of engaging with your website audience is that it shows others that there is a buzz going on. Visitors become more likely to add a comment after they see that a discussion has already started. They’re more likely to explore your site, knowing others have already found value in it.

So whether it’s displaying your comment count, Twitter follower numbers, or testimonials from past clients, find a way to offer some social proof that you’ve got something valuable to offer. (Tweet this!)

Don’t Be Pushy With Sales

Royal never once asked me if I’d like to buy any tea, even the ones I obviously liked. He probably could have at the end, and I wouldn’t have minded. And perhaps he lost some sales to others who started by looking for free tea, but who would have bought if he had asked.

What Royal did, however, was give me confidence in what I was buying. The more I knew, the more I tasted, and the more I trusted the source, the more likely I was to buy.

I walked in to Chinatown looking to buy. I just needed to find the right experience that would make me comfortable in doing so.

Your website audience is the same. They are looking for a solution. They wouldn’t be at your website if they weren’t. They want to invest in something. You just need to give them the confidence to do so. (Tweet this!)

Empower them. Give them an entry point. Engage with them. Offer some value, offer some social proof. And don’t be overly pushy.

After that, they’ll be more than happy to give you their attention, and maybe even their money.

Thanks Seth! Do you have any real world purchasing experiences that have led you to think differently about your website?  Tweet me @redslice or share with us on Facebook.

Your assignment: Wake up and smell the coffee

Today, I’m giving you a homework assignment.

Many clients look at me sideways when I ask, “What are your brand differentiators?” They are not sure why they are better, smarter, faster, cheaper, hipper than their competition. Or they struggle because “Well, I offer coaching services just like ten billion other coaches. Nothing I can say or do makes that different.”

Ah, but yes you can.

Sometimes our differences are not in the “what’ we sell, but “how” we sell it – the experience we offer. That is the root of brand strategy.  Sure, you want to offer unique products or services. And if you want to avoid competing solely on price, you better ensure your quality appeals to your target audience as well.

Continue reading “Your assignment: Wake up and smell the coffee”

How this small biz vodka + sausage + great story hooked us

I LOVE when I see small businesses doing things right.

On a recent wine-tasting trip to Woodinville, Washington, we were leaving one small winery (many of the wineries there occupy warehouse park space so it’s fun to hit like 12 in an hour) to head to lunch when a sign caught our eye:

Project V Distillery & Sausage Co.

What? Huh? Distillery and sausage company? “Oh, we have to check this out!” we said. Intrigued, we locked the car back up again and went to investigate.

We were greeted by a charming, cozy, rustic store full of antiques and cool signs. Instantly, the woman behind the counter smiled and welcomed us. Another kind gentleman asked if this was our first time there and offered to give us a backroom tour and tell us about the place. He turned out to be one of the investment partners.

Project V is fairly new and produces, among other products, Single Silo Vodka, handcrafted from Washington Winter Wheat which is grown on a family farm. As their marketing materials say, “It is a labor of love and it makes damn fine booze.” Damn, yes, this is smooth vodka.

Our kind guide walked us into the back where we joined a few other partied milling about and sipping. He showed us the distillation stills that they built, educated us on the distillation process and the fact that a vodka which is over-distilled too many times actually means it loses some of its flavor. He also gave us some tasting samples. One was a chai tea vodka and as strange as that sounds, it was delicious.

“What about the sausage?” we asked. The place is still so new that the sausage is not yet sold there yet, but the farm is raising pigs on the leftover wheat from the distillation process and hoped to offer those products soon.

The brand vibe was pure, natural, almost Old West with it’s sepia-hued labels and dusty floorboards. They emphasized family farming, craftsmanship and even a joyful love for the work that they do. This definitely stands out from the hip and trendy vibe you feel with Grey Goose or Stoli.

The point here is that Project V has a story to tell.  They start with education to show you why their product is different and better, wrap it with passion, love and pride, and tie it up in a bow of natural, hardworking craftsmandship. You feel like every bottle was distilled just for you. This brand was further exhibited in the kind welcome we got, the knowledgeable staff and the hospitality we experienced even though we’d just “popped in.”

Effective branding and storytelling does lead to sales and word of mouth. We ended up buying a bottle, and here I am spreading the word about this unique little find. Oh, and they’re on Twitter: @ProjectVDistill

That’s how good small business branding is done, ladies and gents. And this is a story none of the big guys would be effectivly able to pull off so elegantly and believably.

How do you use your small size to communicate a unique and effective brand story? Please share in the Comments for some Link Love back to your site!


Why do I need a mission and vision statement?

It’s funny how entrepreneurs and employees alike get caught up in the tactical details of their business on a daily basis, but when faced with the ultimate question – why do you do what you do – they seem to freeze up. My theory is that a lot of the meaning behind the company mission is so “feelings-based” that we often find it hard to articulate it in the right words.

I help clients copywrite their mission and vision statements only after we think though the Brand Strategy. Why? The mission and vision become much more clear as you move through the branding process. As you think about your company’s reason for being, your goals, the image you want to project, and the people you serve, you begin expanding your definition of what you want your company to be. I find just talking to a business owner and asking, “Why did you start this business?” can yield the seeds of a mission or vision statement. They use certain words or phrases over and over again. As you think through the Brand Strategy, certain themes that consistently emerge will be strong clues to your mission and vision.

 The mission and vision not only help you keep the end in mind at all times, they will also inspire your customers –and your employees. Yes, we know your primary goal is to make money, but customers and employees want to connect with your business on a deeper level. They want to know their buying choices and work efforts are relevant to a higher goal. This motivates people and helps them form loyal connections.

So what is a Mission statement?

Your mission statement is a precise definition of what your organization does on a daily basis and what you want to accomplish. It should describe the business you’re in and provide a definition of why the organization exists. Try and keep this to one or two sentences in length. Some example mission statements:

  •  “Make flying good again” (Virgin America)
  • “Our mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” (Starbucks)
  • “The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit.” (Southwest Airlines)
  •  “To provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States” (ASPCA)
  • Women for Women International provides women survivors of war, civil strife and other conflicts with the tools and resources to move from crisis and poverty to stability and self-sufficiency, thereby promoting viable civil societies. We’re changing the world one woman at a time” (Women for Women International)

Small businesses can create a mission statement so inspiring they may not require a vision statement. But if you have a loftier goal in mind for the future of your company, then a vision statement is a great way to frame that.

Articulating the Vision

Rebecca Rodskog of Future Leader Now helps organizations create cultures where people can thrive and do their best work. As an experienced change management consultant and personal development professional, Rebecca is often tasked with crafting vision and mission statements for complex projects, so companies don’t lose sight of the end goal. She also creates mission and vision statements for individuals. Rebecca advises clients who are creating a vision statement to ask themselves: “What is your ideal preferred future?” and be sure to:

–          Draw on the beliefs, mission, and environment of the organization.

–          Describe what you want to see in the future.

–          Be positive and inspiring.

–          Don’t assume the system will have the same framework as it does today.

–          Be open to dramatic modifications to current organization, methodology, teaching techniques, facilities, etc.

Ask yourself:

  • Where will my company be in the long term? Will it be the premier provider of a particular product or service? Will it be in the top ten international players in a particular market?
  • What is the ultimate “to-be” state for my company?

You may not require an actual vision “statement”, as long as you can paint a clear, compelling picture that drives the business forward. These could be ideals or lofty goals that rally the internal troops and help customers connect with you. Below you’ll find sample vision statements from several companies.  You’ll note these contain ambitious visions that go beyond day-to-day operations and the specific market spaces in which these organizations play today. They paint a picture of an ideal future if the business does well:

Women for Women International envisions a world where no one is abused, poor, illiterate, or marginalized; where members of communities have full and equal participation in the processes that ensure their health, well-being and economic independence; and where everyone has the freedom to define the scope of their life, their future, and strive to achieve their full potential. (Women for Women International)

I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.  (President John F. Kennedy, 1961)

Coca Cola’s vision statement is actually a multi-part credo:

  • People: Be a great place to work where people are inspired to be the best they can be.
  • Portfolio: Bring to the world a portfolio of quality beverage brands that anticipate and satisfy people’s desires and needs.
  • Partners: Nurture a winning network of customers and suppliers, together we create mutual, enduring value.
  • Planet: Be a responsible citizen that makes a difference by helping build and support sustainable communities.
  • Profit: Maximize long-term return to shareowners while being mindful of our overall responsibilities.
  • Productivity: Be a highly effective, lean and fast-moving organization.

In summary, your mission is what drives you on a day-to-day basis.  It’s the reason your product or service is in existence, and it defines the “why” behind the thing you’re creating. Your vision is the end state: what you ultimately want your company to become and the impact you want to have on your customers and the world.

Your mission and vision create the framework and inspiration your organization and its employees need to be successful. An old Japanese proverb eloquently states the important symbiotic relationship between vision and action: Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare. 

*This post was adapted from my book, Branding Basics for Small Business. Check out the juicy 2nd edition with new case studies, fresh advice on everything from content marketing to networking and expert insights from the likes of Alexandra Franzen, Mike Michalowicz, Ann Handley, Sarah Von Bargen and more!

Want step-by-step guidance to craft your mission and vision statement, as well as your entire brand and marketing plan? Then check out Momentum PRO, a self-guided and stress-free course that will guide you, step-by-step, through everything you need to promote your work and build your fan base with more ease, joy and impact.