What’s the Vision?

Vision is a hugely under-discussed part of marketing. Business begins with vision, and it’s carried through into everything you do.
As a marketer, it’s really difficult to work with companies who lack vision and it’s something that I look out for when I’m choosing a client to collaborate with. It tends to be present in businesses that have been built from the ground up. Those people who had passion and great ideas that were contagious and resulted in early success and lots of sales. People who were working towards something that resulted in success for their customer – a great service, a wonderful product, a philosophy or way of being that extended beyond the founder ending up on an island in the Bahamas.

Why don’t people talk about vision much?

Marketers nowadays can be reluctant to discuss vision with their clients, after all, it’s going in and taking apart the roots of the business. Plus, marketing is so measurable and technical now that it’s attracted a lot of practical people. Vision is, well, a bit wishy-washy! You can’t prove to a client that an improved vision has increased their web traffic, never mind sales, so why bother pitching? It’s a highly risky affair for little reward.

What does good vision look like?

Many large businesses have vision statements, and I think they’re useful to analyse because they really do sum up what a vision is rather well. Here are some examples from top businesses, see if you can guess which companies they represent…

  • “To make the best products on earth, and to leave the world better than we found it.”
  • “We see a world where everybody is an athlete — united in the joy of movement. Driven by our passion for sport and our instinct for innovation, we aim to bring inspiration to every athlete in the world and to make sport a daily habit..”
  • “To be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information.”
  • “To create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition to electric vehicles.”

In order of appearance, those are Apple, Nike, Disney and Tesla’s vision statements. So what makes these good vision statements? It’s big talk, big thinking. Aim to be the best in the world and make a serious difference or go home. We’re not in business to be an option or an SME that provides local schools with tech “solutions”. We’re changing lives. Even if that change is a small one, it can be monumental in a persons day. It’s the hopes and dreams of you AND your customers. Your vision should also leave no doubt about what it is that your company is and does. With a good vision statement, you can quickly and simply get your staff and customers on board. Go to any craft or art market and you’ll find plenty of entrepreneurs with excellent vision, but the startup phase is the easy part. Life happens, business happens and things can get in the way of your once great vision. Let’s explore some problems and then we’ll finish up the blog with some exercises that can help you work on nailing down your vision.

How do you know when your business lacks vision?

Ever done an interview with a freelancer or new staff member and had to explain at length what your company does and who you serve?

Find that people aren’t really excited about buying from you, working with you, or for you?

When you brief creatives – are they confused about the purpose of the business, are they writing convoluted content that sends a lot of mixed messages?

Do people who work for you take pride in that?

Frustrated that nobody really cares about this as much as you do?
When you approach creatives to work on projects for you, do you really have a lot for them to work with and get inspired by? Or do you ask them to look around and see what your competitors are doing? 🙅
Is everyone in the team saying different stuff about the company and do you get the feeling that they aren’t really sure what they’re supposed to be doing?
And one point I always make – if you’re struggling for content, if you aren’t sure what to blog about or post about on social media….


Strategy begins with vision.

What causes lack of vision?

Please bear in mind, not all businesses who fit the criteria I have outlined will have a lack of vision, so please take my content as you should take anything you read on the internet – with a pinch of salt.

Vision killer #1 – The business is huge.

Sure, the person who started this business had a lot of passion and vision, but they’ve sold out to an investor and no longer have anything legally to do with the company. Now the creative teams contain 10+ people, and they all have different incentives and motivations. They all have a different idea of ‘cool’ and are pulling the brand in different directions. Too many cooks can spoil the broth. A vision strategy session can bring some cohesion and leadership to the team to make sure everyone is on the same page, and working with the same vision in mind.

Vision killer #2 – The business owner is still there, but nobody else ‘gets it’.

This type of client probably started their business 10 or 20 years ago and is still working within the company, but they’ve never been able to get their team fully engaged. They’re the owner, they make the most money and so the team may be feeling a little disenfranchised and like it’s not their ‘baby’, so why care? They’ll only be there for 2 years anyway. The brand or meaning behind the business gets lost in the past, and the staff can’t really take any ownership of driving the company forward – in some cases partially because the owner is being overly conservative about the details. By brainstorming ideas together, the team can work with the founders to create something that everyone feels a part of and expand on your wonderful legacy.

Vision killer #3 – A startup full of youngsters.

I was once a young, underpaid person in a start-up with a job title that was way too big for me, with a 28-year-old senior manager. And then I myself was a senior manager aged 26 in a startup, in completely over my head. Startups can’t really afford to hire experienced people who really know what they’re doing, so they often hire scrappy young folk who are willing to put in the extra hours, learn on the job and get their hands dirty. Fine. But the important stuff – the vision, the strategy – those things need to be done by someone who knows what they’re doing. And that isn’t always the company founders. By employing a more experienced consultant, you can train up your current staff and not have to pay a full-time wage for a senior.

Vision killer #4 – the business exists as an investment alone.

So you’re already pretty rich, and you wanted to get mega-rich, so you invested in a (or many) business(es). There’s nothing wrong with this in itself, but the business will lack vision because for the founder, it never really existed. The original vision was to expand your wealth in a high-risk high-return kind of way, maybe your aim is to sell the business as soon as possible. Good for you, but not very sexy for your customers. Vision in this case needs to be created in another way. Take a step back from the creative and allow people to really get excited about this vision on your behalf.

Vision killer #5 – Bad work culture

Read Daniel Pinks ‘Drive’ and I am sure you too will be convinced that the autonomy of our work is the biggest motivating factor. I’ve seen a couple of exciting ventures take a nosedive because of one senior person who insists on controlling every aspect of the vision – managing and criticising the hell out of everyone involved in the project. They’ve been burned in the past and it’s hard for them to let go and realise that delegation is vital. But their behaviour has the same effect as going to a restaurant and standing behind your chef as he cooks, questioning every ingredient he puts in and in the end, rearranging the whole meal to be how you want it. The result would be a dish that’s only a little better than what you can cook at home yourself.

Companies with poor senior management sink, and it can be really hard to work out why everything is tanking – why is every freelancer you hire underachieving? Why is every staff member miserable and uninspired? Why are there so many arguments? Should everything be this difficult? In these circumstances, the vision may be there but it’s not a team effort, it’s inflicted upon the team and nobody can generate their own ideas of how to implement it. No matter how strong the vision is, your employees probably want it to fail. It’s bad juju.

The solution for this problem is to encourage this senior person to appreciate that they aren’t a web developer, designer, customer experience expert, UX designer, artist, copywriter and accountant all in one go. They’re great at what they do, and it will be much less stressful for everybody if the team has plenty of autonomy and trust in the way they work. Then they can feel like the vision really does belong to everyone. We’re all working towards the same goal.

How to fix your companies vision and get fired up. 🔥

To fix vision issues, you could pay a fancy consultant a lot of money to listen to you talk and then compose a document with your vision and mission statement, which you email to your team or attach in your briefs but nobody ever reads.

Or you could get many members of your team involved, from the key stakeholders to the people at the bottom of the organisational chart who usually have the most interaction with your customers and will see first-hand what people are actually saying about you. Do they think the information that is being passed onto the customers is inspiring and clear? Is your messaging corporate b****** or is it non-existent? What ideas can you generate together as a team? Can C-suite and senior management relinquish some of their control and let junior team members feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves and not just filling their two years until they move on to the next job?

Think about things long term. When you’re at where you need to be how will the business look…

Talking points 👇

  • Who will you serve?
  • What will the press say about you?
  • What will your product be like?
  • How will you change your customers lives?
  • How will you change society, or the planet?
  • What will inspire you to get out of bed and go to work in the morning?
  • Why are you in business?
  • Why will your customer buy from you?

You can do this with note-taking, collage, post-it notes, sculpture, expressive dance …whatever you need to do to free up your mind.