Who are you? What do you do? And why would buyers be interested in your product or service?

These are straightforward but essential questions that businesses should be able to answer at a moment's notice.

Knowing what you do and the benefits you provide are important elements in establishing a strong marketing and sales presence, and a competitive advantage.

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You'd be surprised, however, at how many companies struggle to clearly articulate why they exist and how they make the lives of consumers more convenient, better, easier, more fun, or whatever their selling points are.

Instead, too many companies bury their raison d'être in marketing speak, which only confuses consumers.

Consumers are time-strapped and multi-tasking. They don't have the time or patience to root around to learn what a company does and what benefits they'd derive by using its products or services. Most consumers want to quickly "get" what a company does; otherwise, they will quickly move on to the next supplier.

From the outside looking in, you would think that being able to tell the world what you do would be easy. When you're so close the action, however, it can be difficult to get perspective on why consumers really need or should do business with you.

It's like being in the eye of the hurricane, and not recognizing there is a major weather system doing large amounts of damage.

So how do companies come up with mission statements that do an effective job of telling the world what they do?

My biggest piece of advice is to get some outside help. It could be a consultant, family, friends or customers. The key is to gain access to people who have a perspective and point of view that may be different from how you see your business.

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For many companies, it can be a challenge to have someone from the "outside" tell you want they think you do. After all, they don't know your company as intimately as you do so, how could their take be accurate or relevant?

It is not uncommon for some entrepreneurs to be offended or brush off what other people have to say.

The reality, however, is that outsiders can offer great perspectives because they aren't biased by direct involvement in the business. They can provide a new take on things because they have the benefit of not thinking about the business all the time.

It's not unlike the adage "A doctor who treats himself has a fool for a patient." It is nearly impossible for a company to create a mission statement without some help from people who can bring something new or different to the table.

At the end of the day, a clear and well-articulated mission statement is the foundation for lots of other things a company does – marketing, sales, communications, social media, etc.

Without it, it is hard to go out there and proclaim to the world that you have a strong role and corporate mandate.

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Special to The Globe and Mail

Mark Evans is the principal with ME Consulting, a communications and marketing strategic consultancy that works with startups and fast-growing companies to create compelling and effective messaging to drive their sales and marketing activities. Mark has worked with four startups – Blanketware, b5Media, PlanetEye and Sysomos. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshmarketing and meshwest conferences.

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