Understanding Mission, Vision, Positioning and Elevator statements

Are you confused about the differences about purpose, mission, vision, positioning, or elevator statements? If so, you are not alone. Below, we will define and understand the differences of each statement.

Difference between Mission, Purpose, Vision, Positioning and Elevator statements

Here is the summary of differences between each statements (more details below);

Statement TypePrimary FocusAudience
PositioningCompetitive DifferentiationExecutives & Investors
MissionWhy Company ExistsEmployees
VisionWhat in X YearsEmployees
ElevatorExplain OfferingProspect

Now, lets look at each statement type in more detail.

Positioning Statment

A positioning statement explains what a company does and — most importantly — how it is different from competitors. It is focused externally.

Most popular and widely accepted template for positioning statement is by Geoffrey Moore — introduced in his book, Crossing the Chasm;

For (target customer)
Who (statement of need or opportunity)
the (product name) is a (product category)
that provides (statement of key benefit — that is, compelling reason to buy).
Unlike (primary competitive alternative),
Our product/solution (statement of primary differentiation).

Creating a good positioning statement involves;

  1. Placing the company within the context of external competitive environment it belongs to
  2. Competition must be the reference point
  3. Statement has to be brief
  4. Each part of the statement must be realistic and defendable

The hardest part of the template is the last sentence. This is because you have to identify how the company, product, or service is competitively (externally) differentiated.

Here is an example from Geoffrey Moore’s book (Crossing the Chasm, 3rd Edition, Define the Battle, Page 203) ;

HANA Software;

For [florist retailers]
Who want to better assist their [employees] to upsell and cross-sell customers during their purchasing transactions,
HANA is a database for online transaction processing
That supports applying analytics in real time to determine the very best offer to make.
Unlike database solutions from Oracle, the market leader,
HANA does not require melding and maintaining two separate environments for transaction processing and analytics.”

Note: Modified original statement based on the current positioning of HANA software. This is indicated by “[Text]”

Mission Statement (aka Purpose Statement)

Mission statements explain WHY the organization exists — they are aspiration and never fully achieved. Intention is to unify employees around the “how” or “what” to do — which are derived from this statement. While it used to be only internally focused — with the employees of the company, nowadays it is common to share it externally — for marketing purposes.

Unlike the positioning statement, Mission statements don’t address the issue of competitive differentiation. A mission statements focus is company’s value system whereas the Positioning statement is focusing on competitive differentiation.

Some examples of mission statements are;

  • Timberland’s Mission Statement – “Our mission is to equip people to make a difference in the world. We do this by creating outstanding products and by trying to make a difference in the communities in which we live and work. We demonstrate this philosophy across all facets of our company from our products to our employee involvement in our communities.”
  • Starbucks’s Mission Statement – “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time.”
  • Toyota’s Mission Statement – “Bringing the joy and freedom of movement to all.”

Elevator Statements (aka Elevator Pitch)

An elevator statement is also externally focused and is the shorter possible explanation of what a company or individual does. The term originates from a person’s ability to succinctly tell a stranger — in an elevator — what their company does. These are often used in cold emails, cold calls, or networking events.

Here is an example of an elevator statement;

  • “Our company sells software that help’s design better products. For example, Toyota uses our software to design cars that are more energy efficient. Boeing uses our software to design better places and more comfortable passenger seats.”

Vision Statements

A vision statement is externally focused and defines where the company is wanted to go. Unlike a positioning statement, it focuses on the desired future.

The vision statements often breakdown the mission statement into smaller milestones. Some companies call it goals or targets.

Here are some examples of vision statements:

  • Walmart in 1990 – “[ … ] Become a $125 billion company by year 2000.”
  • Toyota’s Vision Statement – “Toyota will lead the future mobility society, enriching lives around the world with the safest and most responsible ways of moving people. Through our commitment to quality, ceaseless innovation, and respect for the planet, we strive to exceed expectations and be rewarded with a smile. We will meet challenging goals by engaging the talent and passion of people who believe there is always a better way.”
  • Cisco’s Vision Statement – “To change the way world works, lives, plays, and learns.”

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