The importance of crafting a clear manifesto

The importance of crafting a clear manifesto

From Arlene | Posted by - December 12, 2012 at 9:00 pm

One of the first and most important things you can do when you have an idea you want to sell is craft a clear, succinct manifesto capturing the essence of your product and business philosophy. Drilling down to your idea's core and conveying its uniqueness in a few simple sentences can be a challenging and time-consuming task, but you'll pay later if you skip it.

It may sound self-evident to suggest that you need to identify WHAT you're selling before you embark, but you'd be surprised at how many entrepreneurs don't take the time to properly define what, exactly, they're selling. On Dragon's Den we see this again and again. Either they lack a clear vision of their product or the ability to clearly articulate their vision to others. That's a big problem, partly because vagueness doesn't tend to inspire confidence in investors, but also because if you can't properly express what you're selling, how can anyone else possibly be expected to figure it out? Taking the time to corral the unruly riot of ideas swirling around in your head will help keep you focused and give others a clear blueprint to follow.

By the way, it's not only those just starting out who fail to identify properly what they're selling. On The Big Decision, we often find that when companies that have been in business for a while start running into problems, those problems can be traced directly back to a failure to properly articulate their brand. In many cases, the owners are sure they know what they're selling since they've been living with the idea day in and day out for ages. But you'd be amazed at how many can't express the gist of their brand in a few simple sentences when asked to do it! That's why it's so important to release your idea from captivity in your brain and set it down in manifesto form. Only then will you be able to see whether it's viable, and to diagnose its flaws and tweak and refine it.

When I say that you have to articulate what you're selling, I'm not just speaking of the product--a new brand of baby wear, let's say, or an innovative bath gel. I'm also speaking of the philosophy behind your product: the overarching set of beliefs that drive your passion for it and inform and guide your thinking about all the business decisions you'll make.

Take, for instance, Lululemon Athletica. In a literal sense, the company sells yoga-inspired athletic apparel. But its manifesto, which you can read here makes it clear that Lululemon is also selling the idea of virtuous healthful living, mindfulness, and the power of self-improvement. And if you've never had Balzac's coffee but want to know what sets that coffee-drinking experience apart from others, you need simply click on and read "Our Philosophy" and "Our Founding Values". You'll know instantly.

All of which is to say that if I were thinking of launching a new business, I'd ask myself "Why am I in business? Who are my customers? What's the nature of my product and services? What image and values do I want my business to convey? What sets my product apart from others in the marketplace? What kind of service do I plan to provide?" And so on. I'd craft a manifesto, put it in a place where I could see it often, like an office bulletin board or the fridge, let its message seep into my consciousness, and continue to tweak what I'd written as my idea evolved. I wouldn't spend any money or ask anyone else to until I'd nailed my message.

Now I have a question for you. What companies do you think have mastered the art of the manifesto?

Now ask yourself a question, if you haven't done this for your own business, why not?

Tags: arlene dickinson, dickinson, blog, manifesto, business, essence, product, philosophy, articulate, brand, balzacs cafe

Stephen Jacura
December 12, 2012 at 10:14 pm


Great blog post, though I do not recall ever receiving the memo where "Mission Statement" was officially (or otherwise) changed to "Manifesto".

Zulubear ~ Annette Young
December 13, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Fantastic!! Thank you Arlene.

Pam Raithby-Rennie
December 13, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Well said. There is nothing more powerful than a company that can clearly articulate their business - which means not only the owner's ability to articulate but also everyone that works there. The key is finding language that is unique and meaningful. This also helps the customer to focus on what they are truly looking for as well.

lauri thomson ascott
December 13, 2012 at 5:16 pm

feeling my buisness, and the passion is the easy part.. this manifesto is a challange..putting those feelings into words is alittle more diffucult....i did not realize how much...thanx for the examples.....bring it on...i am looking forward to the challange....

Janine Lindboe
December 13, 2012 at 7:11 pm

I agree with Stephen about the Manifesto Memo.  It is a sexier word than Mission Statement, though!   I write for a living and find it very difficult to piece it all together. I'm even finding it difficult with a company name.   It's funny...I can brand a business, write " nowhere near the box " radio creative, yet, can't engage in my own name.  This is a journey that I won't soon forget.  I'll read this blog a few months from now and remember this state of mind.   I'm excited for the road ahead.

Dawn Severenuk
December 13, 2012 at 9:55 pm

@Lauri - good point. Maybe it also helps to think in terms of what your business isn't, or the people who wouldn't get as much out of your product and service as others might.

Stephen Jacura
December 14, 2012 at 6:41 pm

Our "Manifesto": Research, development and manufacture of biomechanical single-wall shelters, bivy's and tents for use in adverse environments. Biomechanical in that the shelter, bivy or tent does the work, rather than the sleeping bag, of keeping you warm and dry. Single-wall, but without the traditional problems associated. Adverse environments being desert heat, arctic cold, homeless, post apocalypse and everything else in between.

Cheryl Bowman
December 18, 2012 at 4:06 am

This is my biggest challenge, a challenge that I will solve before the start of 2013!  Usually it is when I speak with someone about my ideas that my passion for my business comes through. I still find it hard to calm my mind (and mouth) but I am able articulate what I am all about.  Maybe I should record the conversation, review it, and take the points that they get...because when we are finished, not only do they get it, but they are very excited about my business idea. 

Laura-Jean Bernhardson
December 19, 2012 at 9:54 pm

While I can talk about my business for hours, and I love it and have dedicated my life to it, the "elevator pitch" still escapes me.  I'm going to work on this RIGHT NOW and get something concise I can use anytime I need to get the point across quickly!

Laura-Jean Bernhardson
December 20, 2012 at 3:42 pm

After reading this article, I finally crafted an elevator pitch using an awesome writing tool I found online that made it pretty darn easy!  (See my blog post below.)  I'd love to hear from anyone who also managed to finally get their elevator pitch done after reading this article.

Shirley Weir
January 20, 2013 at 3:52 pm

We create tools for women to confidently navigate their way to & through menopause. We are master curators, and we work to save you time, money and frustration from the sea of overwhelm.

Our manifesto:

Allaboutyouvideo Judy Whale
January 23, 2013 at 11:21 pm

Yep! I agree! And finally just managed to do just that! Had too many hats on before, but have narrowed it down to just one passion that I can speak clearly and concisely about. :)
To answer your question, the first company I think of is Chapman's Ice Cream. You immediately know what they do, who they are and what their mission is. :)

Imran Selimkhanov
March 17, 2013 at 2:17 am

Being in to eCommerce, I always believed Etsy did one hell of a job being clear as to what their manifesto is.

Great Article! 

Tish Heath
April 6, 2013 at 6:50 pm

Maybe a helpful way of writing your manifesto could be to try to google search a company like yours, what words would you use that would get you exactly what you want, what words would you - (subtract)?

For example Udi's.  I would search: gluten free, delicious, retail, baked goods, healthy.

This is Udi's Manifesto: Our mission is to provide you with the best gluten-free food on the planet. We create delicious products that will fill your stomach and warm your soul. The flavor and texture of Udi’s Gluten Free breads, buns, bagels, muffins, cookies and granolas are so good our fans have been known to cry with joy!

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