Inspiration as a Client Engagement Strategy

I remember my first business trip to New York City with absolute clarity. I was very young, very green and very excited. Professionally speaking, it felt significant in some way. After all, if you can make it there...

Since that day I’ve maintained my love affair with New York, but for a very specific reason. It inspires me. And it doesn’t just inspire me in a passive ‘isn’t that nice’ kind of way. It causes me to take action, to focus on my goals and to be more productive.

I’m not just ‘inspired by’ something, but ‘inspired to do' something. Inspiration, I believe, is highly underrated as a catalyst for reaching our biggest goals.

How Does Inspiration Help Your Clients?

Research suggests that inspiration not only propels people to take action to reach their goals but is tied to other positive outcomes, like well-being. If that’s the case, is it possible that inspiring clients is one of the most important things you can do?

If clients can be inspired by a compelling vision of their own future, one that drives them to take action, what would the impact be on their lives and their financial futures? And what might the impact be on the depth of the relationship with you?

When you inspire clients you do two things:

  • Create intense loyalty and engagement
  • Help them reach their goals

And because these outcomes are so important, I’d suggest that inspiring clients is something that is not only a true differentiator for you, but one that would have a significant and meaningful impact on your clients.

So we need to understand the science, as a starting point.

What is Inspiration (Technically Speaking)?

Inspiration has been studied by academics for years. They have sought to define it, separate it from attributes like creativity, insight or motivation and examine the drivers.  

The simplest definition is this.

“Inspiration is a motivation state that compels individuals to bring ideas into fruition.” (Oleynic, Thrash, LeFew, Molovan and Kieffaber, 2014)

True inspiration, it turns out, has three distinct and interrelated parts, according to academics Todd M. Thrash and Andrew J. Elliott. Now stick with me on this.

  • Transcendence: A sense in which individuals become aware of possibilities or opportunities.
  • Evocation: The feeling that this awareness is somehow unconscious.
  • Approach motivation: A profound urge to transmit this awareness to other people or to implement a solution.

In a nutshell, inspiration:

  • Has both a passive and an active component
  • Is driven by different things for different people

And while we might “feel inspired” by a sunset, a story of grit and determination or a movie, I’m particularly interested in the form of inspiration that drives action.  

Here’s the difference.

  • You feel inspired by a beautiful sunset but are inspired to take up painting.
  • You feel inspired by the skyscrapers in New York but are inspired to set bigger goals for yourself.
  • You feel inspired by watching an extraordinary athlete but are inspired to get healthy.

Why does this matter to you and your clients?  

Because in order to reach our goals we need to feel inspired by a vision of the future and be inspired to take action on that vision. The question is this. Will you play a role in helping your clients get there?

Inspiration and Goal Setting

There’s an important connection between being inspired and reaching our goals and that’s what really matters for your clients.

Scott Barry Kaufman wrote a great article in which he says the following. “Inspiration propels a person from apathy to possibility, and transforms the way we perceive our own capabilities.”

Isn’t that your job?

Inspiration and goal setting also feed off one another. You can inspire clients to set goals. When they make progress toward those goals it creates an upward spiral in terms of greater inspiration and greater goal pursuit.

Taking Meaningful Action on Inspiration

So what does this mean in terms of real action?

The first thing we need to acknowledge (or accept) is that inspiration can, somehow, be activated. The research suggests this is the case. Here are two things you can do to help inspire your clients (and yourself).

1. Get inspired

I’d suggest that you need to become your own living laboratory on this concept. Take note of, and understand, what inspires you and you’ll understand the process more clearly. You’ve no doubt felt inspiration, but you may not have named it.

As you think about what inspires you, I’d encourage you to eliminate the ‘shoulds’. What inspires you is what inspires you so try not to get too caught up in what you think ‘should’ inspire you.  

I don’t think it matters if it’s a piece of music, looking in your child’s eyes or driving by the biggest house in your neighborhood. What are the things that compel you to take action?

For me, inspiration is tightly connected to location, hence my opening statement. There are places (a house, a city, a country) that cause me to ‘want more’ of that thing and that, in turn, drives me to work harder and take action toward the goal.  

Your inspiration may be far more altruistic but no one’s judging here.

2. Help clients see the possibility

Inspired people share some attributes, the most important of which might be that they are open to inspiration in the first place. They are open to new experiences and feel confident in their ability to reach goals. (As a side-note, I think this relates to some of our work on client self-confidence so expect to hear more about that.)

This seems like a good starting point with your clients. What can you do to open their minds to what is possible, to be expansive in their thinking and to understand how money plays a role in achieving those goals?

Rather than helping your clients achieve their goals, should you focus on helping them create a bigger vision than they might have had for themselves?

It probably goes without saying but money is not terribly inspiring in and of itself – it’s a means to an end. And while any advisor worth his or her salt will focus clients on the end rather than the means, some make those goals more real, tangible and big.

We can inspire through:

1. Exposure to role models. Perhaps you should ditch the economic update and invite your clients to hear an Olympic athlete speak at your next event? And if that’s not in your budget, then Ted talks are your best friend. Send clients a link to an inspiring talk and ask them to invest 20 minutes of their time to listen.

2. Creating a vision. Help clients create a true vision for their future, one that transcends the limits we put on ourselves. I worked with a great coach, Caroline Miller, and she asked me to do an exercise called Your Best Possible Self. It’s a good start.

3. Capture a vision. Remind clients about what's important. In a recent post I suggested recording clients talking about their goals for the future. Sometimes we can be our own best source of inspiration by remembering the goals we set before life got in the way.

Related: Are You Asking Clients the Right Questions at the Right Time?