The most Important Question You Should Ask About Your Business

You know your business through and through, right? You understand your stakeholders, your products and services, your competitors and your marketplace. When someone asks you what you do, you’ve got that 30-second elevator pitch ready to go.

But do you know the answer to the most important question about your business?

What does your business stand for?

Consumers today have millions of options at their fingertips. The internet, mobile devices and social media have created a world of too many choices, of noise. Standing out as signal among the noise is difficult for any business, large or small.

Those that do stand out likely do so because of their reputation. One offline word-of-mouth impression drives five times more sales than one advertising impression and can drive and as much as 200 times more for high consideration categories according to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s 2016 impact study. Peter Storck, a WOMMA board member and SVP of Research at Crowdtap, helped to organized this study. Peter told me,

We’ve known since The Sixties, through academic and industry research, that a recommendation from a trusted friend or family member is the most powerful form of marketing. And in the last two years we’ve learned just how much more powerful it is. In the future, as consumers get bombarded with more and more ads, and as they increasingly use technology to skip, block and avoid those ads, authentic word of mouth, both online and off, is going to become more powerful than ever. All major brands will rely on it.

So what someone says about you to someone else is the key component of the economy we live in today.

And what drives your reputation? What you stand for.

How To Know What You Stand For

The answer to the question is known in strategy circles as your vision statement. I like to think of a vision statement as a one-sentence employee manual and sales pitch all in one. If written well, it tells your employees what’s important and how to behave. It tells prospective customers whether or not they can get on board supporting you.

My vision statement is that I help make the world a more collaborative place by connecting people to opportunities, ideas and other people. I do this by consulting with companies on marketing, sharing expertise and advice to small-business owners and the like. But the focus is about making us all more collaborative.

And therein lies the trick: Vision statements aren’t about you. They’re about your audience. “We aim to sell more recreational vehicles than our competition,” is not a vision statement. That’s a sales goal.

A good vision statement focuses on the world your audience wants to live in, one that you can help create, and hopefully one they will want to help create with you. Can you guess which of these vision statements belongs to PepsiCo, the corporate entity that owns Pepsi, Frito Lay and Tropicana?

a) We create refreshment to improve the lives of families everywhere
b) We continually improve all aspects of the world in which we operate creating a better tomorrow than today
c) We make every day fun

If you guessed B, you would be correct. Some might find that statement vague, but it gives employees a compass and potential corporate partners, clients and even customers some idea of what the company stands for.

The PepsiCo Foundation follows through on the breadth of that promise by supporting grant programs that fund community improvement, funding disaster relief efforts in various places around the world and funneling employee volunteerism. In fact, PepsiCo employees have completed projects around the world that improved and promoted rainwater harvesting, encouraged healthy eating habits in developing countries and supported sustainable agriculture projects.

So how do you know what you stand for? Ask yourself:

1) Why do we do this?
2) Who do we do it for?
3) How does our product or service help people?
4) How does our product or service help the world in general?

Those answers should lead you down a path of defining your point, purpose, vision and what you stand for.

Don’t underestimate the power of developing a sound vision statement. After all, if you can’t answer the big question – Why? – then what the hell are you doing?

If you need help defining your company’s vision statement, feel free to reach out. You can find me at JasonFalls.com or as @JasonFalls on most social networks.

 Jason Falls is the author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media (Que, 2011) and The Rebel’s Guide to email Marketing (Que, 2012) . He is a widely read digital marketing pundit. Jason focuses his personal time helping small businesses with digital marketing through his workshops and content at JasonFalls.com. By day, he leads the Conversation Research Institute and is a strategic adviser for Elasticity, a digital marketing agency.

Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons