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Marketing to a Mission

A few years ago, one of the many things that kept me up at night was the fear that we would run out of great ideas for content. Every time we released something new, I would get that feeling in the pit of my stomach that we had just given away our last, best idea. The pressure continued to grow: there were only so many different spins we could come up with to make interesting content about our core product, video hosting.

One of the biggest challenges we face as marketers is producing new ideas time and time again. Where will we find enough topics to cover? What will we do if our product is inherently boring? How can we all continue to create content that excites and resonates with our audiences (and makes the internet a more useful place for everyone)?

Product-based marketing puts some pretty serious limits on the topics you can cover. However, there's a wealth of content that you can produce when you start thinking about mission-based marketing.

What is mission-based marketing?

Mission-based marketing focuses on creating content that furthers your mission, instead of making content that sells your product.

Mission-based marketing is not new. Large B2C companies like Red Bull and Nike have been relying on mission-based marketing forever. Nike is not just selling shoes, they are selling the idea that anyone can be an amazing athlete. Historically, they've relied on advertising to disseminate their messages, but more recently, those ads have been morphing into content.

Our mission at Wistia is to empower everybody to get more out of video. Our product helps further this mission, but it only solves a small percentage of our larger goals.

Once we started marketing around our mission, our content strategy quickly changed. We could make videos, write blog posts, or host conferences about a much more diverse range of topics.

The power of passionate content

Ultimately, mission-based marketing ends up attracting people who care about your mission and have a slew of related problems to solve. Some of those problems will be solved by your product (as they will find out), but many others will be solved by the content ecosystem you create. Here are a few of the reasons mission-based marketing is so awesome:

It's way easier to come up with ideas for content.

Anything that furthers your mission is now fair game. That means that there's no limit to the number of topics you can cover. GoPro can take any piece of content their customers make and connect it with their mission of helping you live your life to the fullest and capture it.

For us, this means we can teach people about topics like lighting, cameras, email, SEO, looking good on camera, makeup, and beyond.

Boring products can have interesting missions.

Lots of companies sell boring products. There's nothing inherently sexy about accounting software, razor blades, office furniture, or, honestly, most of what we all sell. But if we can look beyond the tangible goods and talk about why we make the things we do, the story tends to become much more compelling.

Here's an example from a company you probably have never heard of (or maybe you have, because we do like to talk about them a lot!): HR software company BambooHR. Their tools are very valuable, but like video hosting, they're not that interesting. What's a lot more exciting is BambooHR's mission: to help employees lead more enjoyable lives both inside and outside the workplace.

With this mission in mind, the above blog posts are a natural fit, and certainly more interesting to read about than more efficient spreadsheets!

You naturally widen your audience.

Back when we were making content about video hosting, it appealed to a pretty limited audience:

This video about how hosting works is useful if you're interested in our product. It does a good job of explaining what we do, but it doesn't help us build an audience. However, when we make videos about broader marketing or production topics, that content has much wider appeal.

For example, last year we made this video about different DSLR lenses and how to use them creatively in an office environment:

This video performed well with our existing audience, and it connected us with some publications we'd never been in touch with before, like PetaPixel and FullyM. Thus, we got our name in front of people who might never have heard of Wistia otherwise, all while teaching a lesson that was much more fun to create!

How do you define your mission?

It's easy to take advantage of mission-based marketing right now. Here are some steps you can take to get started:

1. Write down your mission.

What are you trying to help your audience do? If you haven't already written down your mission, you should. This won't just benefit your content strategy: it'll help make your whole company stronger. I wish we had tried to do this earlier, as our initial "missions" were always focused on company goals. Over time, we realized that the interesting part of growing a business and a content strategy was having a mission larger than ourselves that we could all help affect.

2. Establish an idea pipeline.

What content can you create to help your audience achieve their goals? The list should be large, if your mission is broad enough, but the ideas should be focused enough to have real impact for the audience that sees them. Our idea pipeline grows so quickly now that we'll never be able to create all of the content on it. This is a good thing. For example, we keep an ever-evolving Trello board of ideas:

3. Ask your audience what other problems they have.

Chances are, your customers have lots of problems that you can help solve with content before you can solve them with your product. We want everyone to be able to get better at using video. Our video hosting product might help with 3% of that goal, but our content should help with the other 97%.

The easiest way to learn what those other problems are is to ask your audience what's holding them back. Email and call your customers. Ask questions in a community. Send out a survey. Keep the lines of communication open!

It's easier with a mission

I've always loved watching movie trailers. I love reading insightful blog posts. I love going to great conferences. There can be real substance in great marketing messages.

Great product marketing is extremely valuable, but its appeal is limited to people who are ready to buy. There are only so many analogies we can use to sell our products in interesting ways—while there are an unlimited number of things we can do to sell our missions.

Can you think of any companies with strong marketing around a mission? Have you written down your company's mission yet? How did you get there?

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