Marketing's True North - Align Your Marketing Around Your Mission

When we started Wistia in 2006, all of our marketing was centered around our video hosting product. We thought we were doing all the right things—demos over the phone, a PR firm, a “business-like” team page—so we didn’t understand why we had no money and only 5 employees.

Then one day our filmmaker friend Chris Lavigne came by the office. He looked around, and then he proposed an idea so obvious and perfect I can’t believe I was ever skeptical of it: since Wistia is a video hosting company, why not use video in your actual marketing?

I was a filmmaker myself before Wistia, but when Chris said this I was just confused. We already had a screencast of our product on our homepage. I didn’t understand what making more videos was supposed to add. We were marketing to other businesses, not putting together a reel, but Chris was our friend and he offered to make the video himself. So we agreed to let him do his thing.

The video he made was pretty unconventional, at least for the time, because it wasn’t about our product at all: it was about the Wistia team goofing around on an ordinary day in the office, working hard but having fun doing it. And to our surprise, people loved it. The video was a huge success, which taught us an unexpected lesson—that people would respond to what we made if it demonstrated the fact that we actually care, heart and soul, about what video can do.

This was one of the single most important shifts in mindset that had to happen in order for us to succeed. Hundreds of videos later, we’re profitable, with a much bigger team and customer base. And we owe it all to shutting up about our product and focusing on our mission of empowering everybody to get more out of video—what we now call mission-based marketing.

But it didn’t happen overnight. Here’s how we aligned our marketing to a mission, and how you can do the same thing with your team:

1. Write Down How You Want to Change the World

We burned through a lot of different missions before one of them stuck. Now, our mission is the compass we use to direct every single piece of content we produce. Everything supports that mission.

Our early iterations were way too focused on our product and company goals because we thought a mission was about summing up how you worked and what you wanted. What we finally did was write down the things we valued the most about working at Wistia. We shared these with our team, got feedback, and together crafted a final draft. And it’s only by bringing all these people together that you really can get what you need: a mission that’s bigger than you and your company.

So start marketing with a purpose:

  • Write down the things that you value most about your work
  • Share the values with your team and solicit feedback so they represent everyone
  • Use this pool of shared values to work toward a cohesive mission statement.

2. Ask Your Customers What They Want to Achieve

Imagine what your company looks like from your customer’s perspective. Essentially, you are a tool that they’re using to succeed at some bigger project, be it in business or life. Your tool is maybe just a small percentage—say 3%—of that project. The other 97% is what your marketing should be all about.

To figure out what that 97% is, email and call your customers. Set up a forum or subreddit and ask questions there. Send out surveys. If you reach out for ideas often, you’ll gradually build a customer-company culture where the lines of communication are more open, and you’ll see more ideas emerge organically.

Here are a few ways you can learn what your customers want to accomplish:

  • Use a Google Forms survey to collect mass responses. It’s a very basic tool, and free, but it works really well to distribute surveys and collect responses.
  • Set up a community if you don’t have one. You can use something as simple as a subreddit. You just need a place where you can talk informally with your users about the kinds of content they want.
  • Go back to basics and call your customers. Ask them directly what they want to accomplish, and you’ll find that people can be a lot more candid and talkative over the phone.

3. Adjust Your Team’s Risk-Taking Threshold

Mission-based marketing requires creativity, and creative ideas are fragile. Both extroverted and introverted people can get very shy when they have an idea for something that’s out of the box because they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing or being judged.

We start ideation meetings by writing “Don’t hold back” on a whiteboard, especially when people clearly have ideas but are hesitant to express them. Then, we’ll just throw out the craziest idea we can think of that still fulfills our mission, something just really outlandish. After the baseline is adjusted, everyone in the room feels a little freer to speak their mind. Case in point: this is how the announcement of our Enterprise plan turned into a full-fledged parade.

Create an open culture around creativity using the same method we did:

  • Divide meetings into ideation, decision-making, and execution so you can think of the craziest possible ideas without having to imagine how to do them.
  • Start ideation meetings by throwing off the baseline, then let the conversation guide you toward a solution that’s both creative and doable.
  • Write down without judgment every idea that your team generates. You can figure out which ones make sense later.

4. Make Your Content-Creation Process Transparent and Accessible

We work really hard to encourage a total content culture at Wistia. Everyone who works here is part of the mission, so everyone should be part of our mission-based marketing.

To open content creation up to everyone, we documented our process. Instead of just blazing through everything like we usually did, we slowed down. We got dry-erase markers, drew it out on a wall, and asked questions about each step to figure out how and why it was in there. When we had it down pat, we put it in a Google Doc and opened it up to the team. Then, we set up a Trello board just for content ideas and invited everyone to participate.

If you do this, you’re going to find that your idea board fills up incredibly fast. There’s only so much you can say about your product, but when you start to orient your content around your mission, the possibilities become endless.

Try out this method out with your team:

  • Map out your process in dry-erase so you can edit on the fly and display it in a central location.
  • Transcribe the complete process into a Google Doc so your whole team can see and use it.
  • Set up Trello boards to document the stages each project is in (ideation, drafting, revision, submitted, etc).

Live And Breathe Your Mission

Great marketing demonstrates how passionate you are about the mission you’re trying to help your customers achieve. It doesn’t matter if your company is in a “boring” field (I mean, we do video hosting for businesses!)—showing heart still matters. There’s a lot of companies out there that don’t think about this stuff at all, but this is really how you differentiate yourself from the pack.

Get your team together and write your mission down, then talk to your customers about it. Democratize and make transparent your team’s content-creation process, then unleash its creativity by encouraging crazy ideas.

What other steps have you taken to align your marketing around your company’s mission? Share them in the comments below.