Inspiration Is the Root of Commitment

I’m going to continue another day or two on this idea of commitment. Forgive me if you find it tedious, but it’s a really big, really important topic and I think it will lead somewhere helpful – I started with the Evolution of Commitment and A Convenient Truth.

Getting people to commit to spending money with your firm, and perhaps equally as important commit to returning to spend money, commit to passing your message and telling your story, and commit to referring your products and services, has become more complex in this everything is free, information overload world we find ourselves in.

Today I want to explore another prime driver of commitment – Inspiration. While we will go out of our way for an experience that’s convenient, we will mortgage our assets for an experience that inspires. Inspiration is so thoroughly lacking in most of our daily lives that when we find it, be it in a person, innovation, or organization, we get committed to keeping it.

It would be very easy to cite a company like Apple as a great example of an organization that inspires loyalty and commitment, but that’s just too easy. I’d like to share a couple examples that to me feel more personal in nature.

Seth Godin in quite possibly the most popular marketing blogger and author of the day. His readers are committed to helping him succeed. When Seth mentioned my new book in a blog post about referrals, several hundred people ran out and bought the book. Mind you this was not a review, it was a one sentence mention. I read Seth’s books and I enjoy them. But, and I hope this doesn’t come off wrong, I don’t always implement new strategies and tactics I find in those books. What Seth’s books do, in fact what all of Seth’s 300 word or less blog posts do, is inspire me. I always come away feeling better for having taken the time to visit and that, I believe, is one of the secrets to the success of brand Seth.

Threadless Airstream
Inside the Threadless Office – Image borrowed from Guy Kawasaki

Threadless makes t-shirts, but there’s nothing too inspiring about that. The thing is Threadless makes the coolest t-shirts in the coolest way. The designs, promotion and most likely a great deal of the marketing is done by the customers. The image above taken from inside their Chicago headquarters gives some feel for why the employees are inspired by working in a playground setting. Threadless inspires by taking advantage of the Internet’s two-way nature to involve customers in the process of creating their product. This innovation inspires profits, customers and competitors alike.

37Signals boasts over 5 million users to online services with a ton of competitors. The company’s customers are fanatical in their support because the software does just what it’s suppose to do and little more – that’s an inspiring idea. The company inspires through simple ideas and incredible design. People are drawn to the almost counter intuitive innovation that holds on dearly to simplicity. The organization lives these beliefs and has been profitable from day one.

  • Useful is forever. Bells and whistles wear off, but usefulness never does. We build useful software.
  • Our customers are our investors. They fund our daily operations by paying for our products. We answer to them, not outside investors or the stock market.
  • Clarity is king. Buzzwords, lingo, and sensationalized marketing-speak have no place at 37signals.

If you or organization does nothing that inspires, no simple concept, no incredible design, no earth shattering experience, no commitment to an idea, no story that attracts – how will people commit?

A Convenient Truth

EasyLast week I wrote a post on a subject I’ve been fascinated with of late called the Evolution of Commitment. The general idea of the post was to suggest that with all of this free information and free versions of products available it’s become more challenging to get someone to commit to your offering. I asked readers to tell me what gets them to pull out their wallet and commit and several themes arose.

One word that came up time and time again was convenience. It does seem that people will spend their last dime to get something that makes life easier, more convenient, and that’s something marketers must factor into every aspect of their business. It’s not always the best product that wins. Often it’s a good product that is easy to find, easy to understand, and easy to acquire that wins.

We often get stuck running our business in a ways that are most convenient for us and not so much for the very people we need to attract – customers. Some of the greatest innovations available today reside in making something – a product, service or entire industry – more convenient.

Convenient business

Take a look at all of the ways a prospect could find you and contact you. Are your contact details on every page of your web site? Do you have outposts in places like Facebook? Are your local search engine profiles enhanced with useful information? Do you offer multiple forms of contact – email, web form, click to call, IM? Can prospects get additional information without having to pick up the phone?

Convenient products and services

Do you have versions of your products and services tailored to every size and budget? Do you have trial offerings? Do you offer automated training to help customers get the most from your offerings? Do you give access to your products and services in ways that prospects want them – smart phone, online, offline, iPad, iPod?

Convenient delivery

No matter what your product or service you can always find new ways to give customers the ability to acquire it on their own terms. This is an area where growing use of the mobile device is just begging for innovation. I’ve been offering my podcast free of charge for years. Recently, I created a iPhone app for the podcast that’s available for $2.99. While the same information is available for free, hundreds choose to download and pay for the app for the convenience of getting the content delivered the way they want it.

Convenient message

This is a tricky one. If it’s hard to understand what you do that’s unique, what you stand for, why I must have what you offer, there’s going to be convenience friction. One of the best innovations in this area lies in paring your message down to the simplest terms possible.

Consider this About Us message from software service provider 37 Signals as a fine example of a convenient message – “We believe most software is too complex. Too many features, too many promises. Instead, we build simpler web-based software with elegant interfaces and thoughtful features you’ll actually use.

While I think most would consider this an obvious topic, it’s not always an easy one to put into practice. What a customer thinks is convenience may not be what we think it is. In fact, it’s often hard for customers to tell us what it is. You’ve got to experiment and constantly push everyone in your organization to consider innovation through convenience.

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