In 2011, Wistia was in its fifth year. They were a ragtag company with only 5 employees and very little money.
Today, four years on, they're a growing team of 50 people.
So, what were they doing wrong in those first 5 years?
Nothing. They were doing everything that you're supposed to do. They were showcasing their product, doing good PR, and working hard. They just weren’t making any progress toward growth.
Then in stepped their friend Chris Lavigne, who looked around and presented them with a brand new idea: use video in their marketing.
Chris Savage, CEO of Wistia, was skeptical at first. You see, Wistia's business is video hosting for companies. As far as he was concerned, they were already doing video marketing. They had a video on their landing page that described the product. That's video marketing, right?
Chris reluctantly agreed to let Chris Lavigne make a video for them, and what happened totally changed the trajectory of Wistia's business.
The video featured Team Wistia on an average work day in their office. Their names float around their heads in fun block letters so you can see who everyone is. They are working, but also enjoying themselves – chatting, laughing, playing a bit of ping-pong. They look like all-around fun, kind, cool people.
But they never said a single word about the product.
What happened next was a huge shock to everyone--the video was a huge success. People loved it.
That's when Chris came to a realization: when it comes to marketing, they had to be their own best customer. Rather than just pay lip service to video marketing, they had to live it and make it their mission. Ben's video worked because it showed the power of video and the passion of the team, not because it droned through its product features.
On a lark, Wistia decided to try something new. They quit focusing their marketing on their product, and began to center on their mission.
Marketing to a Mission
Taken at face value, this might not seem like marketing at all. Counterintuitive almost. The whole point of marketing is to sell your product, isn’t it?
Chris wrote about his experience transitioning into what he termed "mission-based marketing," and why it has worked so well for Wistia. Instead of creating content that focuses on selling your product, mission-based marketing revolves around creating content that furthers your mission.
For example, Ikea is not only selling you furniture, they are also selling you the idea that your everyday life can be better. Nike is not only selling athletic wear, they are also selling the idea that you can be a great athlete.
Wistia's mission is to ‘empower everybody to get more out of video’. Once they found that mission, they only created content that served it.
They post blogs, create video, and host conferences, all on this mission. Recent articles on how to use video during your next presentation, how to maximize your play rate from an uploaded video, and how to effectively use music in your video all follow the vein of mission-based marketing. They are helping everybody get more out of video.
This diverse collection of content has accrued a community of like-minded people who also feel passionately about film and now have access to an abundance of filmmaking tools.
Mission-Based Companies are Everywhere
Wistia aren’t alone in marketing to a mission. Several of the most innovative companies also gear their content to further their mission.
Southwest Airlines is the most successful airline company in the US. They have a simple mission: "We are THE low-fare airline." No decision within the airline can interfere with this mission because it would interfere with the experience promised to their customers.
Southwest Airlines isn't selling flights, they are selling the experience of travelling as affordably as possible, making them the most accessible travel company to the widest range of people. Marketing their mission has enabled them to remain the most popular airline.
Patagonia is another great example of a company that puts its mission at the heart of its existence. They center their mission on the protection of the environment, the most relevant and accessible issue for our generation. Their site features information on healthy environmental habits and global environmental news. They are also transparent about how their clothing is made in an effort to keep up with their mission.
They even went as far as to tell customers not to buy their products if it went against their mission. The Patagonia "Don't Buy This Jacket" campaign told consumers don't buy this jacket if you don't need it, because over-consumption plays a role in destroying the environment.
Mission Statements Are About Values and Ideas
Chris realized that marketing to your product only appeals to those who are ready to buy at that moment, while mission based marketing can appeal to anyone who supports your mission. And he learned that marketing to a mission significantly widens your audience.
At some point each of these companies – Wistia, Southwest, Patagonia – learned to stop thinking about themselves and started caring about the problems that their customers and the world around them are facing. Developing a concise mission statement manifests ideas that customers can identify with and feel passionate about.
Whether your mission involves global or external issues like the environment or transparency, or it simply involves supplementing the broader world of your product (the world of film, for Wistia), the bottom line is that your customers will be drawn to the product only once, but the ideas will continue to speak to them in their daily lives.
3 Steps to Your Own Mission
Chris suggests three ways you can take advantage of mission-based marketing:
1. Define it
You will only really understand your mission when you see it in black and white. If its just in your head it will be too vague, and too much about your company. Write it down and then chip away at it until it represents your core ideals.
2. Establish a pipeline
Start to focus on what you can do for your audience. What content can you produce that will really help them? These ideas need to fit in with your overarching mission, but also be actionable so your audience can us them. Anything and everything is a good idea as long as it speaks to your mission and your audience can act on it.
3. Ask your audience
Get feedback. You are talking to your audience, and you want them to talk to you as well. See what their issues are, and how you can help them.