Marketing your business can take place in many forms, and not all of them require expensive investments. For many small businesses, being neighborly is a very effective marketing plan. Community involvement is an excellent way for any small business to market itself and build profitable relationships. Whether you have an online business or a traditional brick and mortar enterprise, taking part in community programs is a strong way to boost exposure and business visibility.
Here are a few of the marketing benefits of community involvement.
You are viewed as helping your community grow. By giving back to the community, you take an active role in community development and helping others in your neighborhood succeed. Small businesses, in particular, help create a close-knit community vibe that benefits not just the consumers but other small businesses as well. Deeper ties with customers and other businesses foster stronger communities, which can lead to larger customer bases.
Your involvement in the community increases your brand awareness. The most obvious reason why community involvement is a good marketing strategy is that it puts a human face to your business and brings it out into the neighborhood where it is highly visible. Your business becomes more recognizable and informs people about what you offer. As a result, you create a reliable, trustworthy and generous business image.
You can gain a competitive advantage. Community involvement can make your business a more favorable option over larger, impersonal competitors because customers like to deal with people they know and trust. By taking an active role in community and neighborhood programs, you distinguish yourself from other businesses because you take on the community as part of your identity. Customers look at the degree of community involvement when deciding what products to buy and where to buy these products from. If you are a familiar fixture in the community, you establish yourself as the more trustworthy option. This is particularly true among mothers and millennial consumers.
Community involvement is good for employee morale. Community involvement can also motivate your employees and give them a sense of pride in their workplace. Studies have shown employees are more likely to display higher satisfaction rates with their jobs if they know that they are working for a socially responsible enterprise. Higher satisfaction rates are more likely to lead to higher productivity and increased retention rates.
Approaches to Community Involvement
There are many ways to approach your community. Here are a few things to consider.
Team Sponsorship — Your business may be suited for sponsoring a youth sport team, such as Pop Warner football or soccer teams. If you own a sporting goods store, then sponsoring a local team is a natural extension of what you do. For a fee, your logo is placed on the back or a sleeve on each player’s shirt, giving you extended exposure to players, families and fans. Find the right type of sponsorship to go with your business model to increase your brand visibility.
Cause Marketing — Local charities often struggle financially, relying on the community to provide support. Individuals and businesses are the backbone for many organizations, providing financial backing, in-kind donations and volunteer time to help these charities thrive. Consider hosting a fundraiser, backing a car wash or supporting some other event. Typically, the charity will publicly acknowledge your support and may send some business your way.
Promote your Involvement — If your business is backing a non-profit organization’s event, you should issue a press release to announce the event and make mention of your company’s involvement. Mention it in your next customer newsletter and explain why you support that particular cause. Building a relationship with the local news sources, with printed newspapers or online community sites, can help you promote your involvement in these types of events at no cost. You want to tie your business as closely to a community group you endorse as much as possible, so that readers will make a connection.
Social Media — The Internet offers multiple ways for you to help a community group while also helping your business. On your company’s Facebook page, announce an upcoming event and your business’ involvement. Ask people to like your page, run a contest giving away free tickets or other prizes through Facebook. You can use email, Twitter and other social media platforms to spread the word. Sharing tweets and liking posts are small efforts that can yield big results.
Volunteer days — If you can afford it, allow your employees to volunteer on company time with a community group. This can include a one-time effort such as allowing several employees to leave work early to spend their remaining hours at a charitable event. Employees willing to participate can be wear apparel with your company’s name or logo. As they assist in packing food, manning a booth at a fair or visiting an animal shelter to help out, your people will represent a living advertisement for your business.
You don’t have to invest in a costly marketing program to reach new customers. Instead, be neighborly. Everyone will benefit, the community, your employees and especially your business. You may find that your community engagement work becomes your best marketing tool.