How Do You Inspire Customers? Let Us Count the Ways

Inspired customers- it almost sounds too good to be true. When this status is achieved with customers, they not only buy your products, but they will tell anyone who is willing to listen about their experiences with your brand. And, they often are willing to pay higher prices for your brand because they are sold on the value delivered. How can we possibly determine how an inspiring company looks, and exactly which companies do consumers feel are inspiring to them?

One way to answer these questions is to look to Inspiration Blvd, a brand consultancy that conducted a survey of more than 1,200 adults to find America’s most inspiring companies. The survey touched on key indicators such as product innovation, growth, reliability, and charitable efforts. Below are the 10 most inspiring companies and a brief description of why they scored high.

1. Microsoft – Maybe a surprise at #1; received high marks for its charity work through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

2. Google – Treats employees well; perceived as innovative as well as a purveyor of free information

3. Apple – An innovative company with a knack for rolling out successful new products

4. Ford – An inspiration for what it did not do… accept a government bailout

5. Walmart – Helps consumers by selling products at low prices; viewed as an important employer in many communities

6. McDonald’s – Charitable efforts of Ronald McDonald House cited; another company that has delivered value through low prices during the recession

7. General Electric – Receives high marks for innovation; perceived to have high level of concern for environment and health issues

8. Johnson & Johnson – Although a big company, it is perceived as caring about health and well-being of people all over the world

9. Chick-Fil-A – Practices that include closing stores on Sundays and giving back to local communities are admired

10. Target – Well known for giving 5% of pre-tax profits to local charities and causes

What does this top 10 list tell us about being an inspiring company? First, a company in virtually an industry or category can be viewed as inspiring by customers. Second, there is no single formula or recipe for being inspiring. The companies in this list were admired for different reasons, even if certain themes did emerge such as charity support and innovation. How a company can develop a reputation of being inspiring will depend on the resources it has available to commit and the point of difference it wishes to create.

Competitive activity does not matter much when it comes to the relationship between consumer and brand. A review of the top 10 list finds at least three sets of head-to-head competitors (Microsoft-Apple, Walmart-Target, and McDonald’s-Chick-Fil-A). This evidence suggests that being perceived as an inspiring company is not like a brand positioning strategy that we assume cannot be mimicked by competitors. Inspiration is in the eye of the beholder; it is up to a business to follow through on its mission so convincingly that customers feel inspired by their performance. Go forth and inspire!

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