When you think of premier brands, like Apple, Mercedes Benz, and others, there is something distinctive about their products, service, or social responsibility that inspires us. Apple has turned heads with astonishing product innovation that changed our lives. Long before computers and robots built cars, Mercedes was known for delivering products with every part engineered for perfect fit. There’s good chance you’ve been inspired by more than global and national brands. Perhaps you have an insurance agent who stays connected with you with a personal touch or a dry cleaner that makes an extra effort to fix a stain or loose button. The result is always the same. We return to businesses that inspire us to purchase their offerings again and again. And in turn, those businesses enjoy customer loyalty and stellar profit performance.
There are two ways you can influence other’s behavior: inspiration and manipulation. Manipulation is the more popular mode of influence. In business, manipulation can be positive and have a shared benefit like discounts, incentives, and bonuses. Or, it can have negative and self-serving benefits like deceptions, threats, or unfair punishment. The problem with manipulation, even the positive kind, is that results are only achieved while customers feel a “real” reward is in place. If a business discontinues a discount or promotion, customers will look elsewhere. If the discount is held in place too long, the customer can come to expect it. Businesses that use pricing as a competitive tool often struggle to sustain profitability.
Inspiration, on the other hand, happens when someone addresses a deep-seated, personal need that that goes beyond the benefits of a product. Examples of these needs are affirmation, justice, beauty, or prestige. The important distinction from manipulation is that inspiration is rooted in the values of people, and not products or prices. Inspiration often leads to an emotional connection that can be between customers and employees, customers and business owners, or employees and business owners. Inspiration is the root of all employee and customer loyalty.
One of the most satisfying aspects of my practice is helping people discover their ability to inspire. Please comment if you have an example of how a business has inspired you.