Third in a series.
Now that you have completed an initial draft of your executive summary, your next step in developing your photography marketing plan  is to craft a mission statement. The mission statement is the single most important piece of information about your company. It answers a deceptively simple question: What do you promise to be as a business?
Lighthouse in a Storm
Your photography business is only as good as the promises it keeps. And the first step to keeping promises as a business owner is to write them down — and keep them simple.
The most effective mission statements are brief but powerful. Some companies write lengthy ones, full of business speak and industry jargon, but that misses the point. You want a statement that you — and your employees, as your company grows — can commit to memory, and take to heart.
Your mission statement should be timeless — as applicable in five years as it is the day you write it. Don’t get caught up in your quarterly or even yearly goals in creating it.
As a business owner, a mission statement can serve as a lighthouse in the stormy seas of commerce. On your bad days, going back to your statement can remind you of why you started a business in the first place. On days when you are struggling with creative difficulties, your statement can remind you of what you enjoy shooting, or why you shoot it that way.
It also keeps you from going astray in your daily decisions. If you choose to donate to a cause, for example, does the cause mesh with your mission statement? If you raise your prices or change how you do business, is your decision consistent with your mission — your promise to customers?
Aspirational, But Attainable
Writing a good mission statement takes time and effort. Generally, each word is chosen specifically for its meaning. It should be something attainable, but never easy to achieve. It should be motivational and inspirational to those within your organization, and to your customers as well.
Generally, a mission statement should answer three questions:
- What are the needs or opportunities that we exist to address? What is our purpose?
- What are we doing to address those needs? What is the business of our organization?
- What principles or beliefs guide our work? What are our values?
Sample Mission Statements
Here are a few mission statements for photography businesses that I found online. I like some better than others, but I hope they’ll spur your thinking and encourage you to create your own:
Seize the Photo Photography provides expressive, artistic photographic services, tailored to each client, for those with a discerning taste for quality photography. We believe in creating dynamic, comfortable photography sessions that allow the client to relax and reveal his or her true personality. We also value individuality and understand that each client’s photographic style will be different, making us passionate about getting to know each person.
We promise to photograph you with passion and professionalism. We promise to be loving, warm, conscientious and energetic. Our hope is to have a personal connection with every client.
Firefly Studios 
Firefly Studios will provide top quality photographs at a fair and reasonable price for corporate and editorial clients for use in their annual reports, brochures and publications. All clients will receive the highest level of attention, devotion and commitment. We will conduct ourselves in a professional manner and represent our client’s best interests within the limits of our professional responsibilty. We will protect our client’s proprietary information and respect the privacy and property rights of our subjects.
As to photography: “I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.” (Diane Arbus). As to business: “Count no day lost in which you waited your turn, took only your share, and sought advantage over no one.” (Robert Brault).
Don’t Just Write It — Use It
After you have prepared your mission statement, the secret is to start using it. Post it somewhere you will see it every day. Put stickers on your monitors. Hang it above your door. Put it on a tag on your camera bag. Remind yourself of it and live it.
Let your clients know about it, too. If your mission statement is written well and used in advertising — business cards, flyers, letters, catalogs, Web site — it will attract clients.
And as an added bonus, the clients it attracts will be those you want to do business with, because they agree with your mission.
Next: setting goals