“No man is an island”
The same goes for businesses, especially solo-owned and mom and pop stores. Many small business owners only operate in one location. So they rely on the community around them for income and labor, and in turn the community relies on it for quality goods and services. It’s a give and take relationship. Unfortunately, not all small businesses look at it this way.
But giving back to the people—the community—that fuels your business’s operations is an incredibly powerful marketing tool capable of giving you returns so much more than you invested. With giving, you reap the benefits of a stronger and more loyal customer base faster than a catchy jingle.
You might think you have nothing to give, being a small business and all. You can play an active part in helping your community without spending thousands doing so. Here’s how:
1. Party with Your Neighbors: Attend or Sponsor Local Events
What’s an amazing way to have fun and rack up tons of free brand exposure in your community? Participate in local events, such as parades, holidays, festivals, seasonal fairs, and pop-up markets.
You have three options for participating:
For example, Whole Foods Market in Morris New Jersey and Cleaners Advantage are sponsoring the Easter Fun Fest event organized by Madison Chamber of Commerce on March 19. Cleaners Advantage will use their delivery trucks to distribute Easter goodies for the event, while I think Whole Foods will support by providing part of the goodies that will be given away.
2. Donate to Local Charities
Donating money has long been recognized as the most common way businesses engage with their local community. Even before ‘cause marketing’ and social responsibility become the buzzwords they are now, American Express used this strategy to increase their brand recognition.
In 1983, Amex ran a funding campaign for Lady Liberty, donating 1 cent toward its restoration, for every dollar spent using their credit card. All in all, they donated about $1.7 million during the campaign. And what did they get out of this donation?
Only a 47% increase in new card holders, and a 27% increase in card usage. So yes, they gave a lot of money, but they earned a lot more in return.
3. Hold a Contest for a School
Many school districts don’t have enough budgets to fund arts, music, and educational activities for students. Some don’t even have enough funds to buy new equipment for their lab and other facilities. Then there are gifted students who can go far in life, but have to work because they don’t have money to pay for their education.
You can help them.
Contact the school nearest you and ask how you can help. I’m sure the principal can help you brainstorm ways to promote your business while helping the school at the same time.
Hold an essay contest and reward the winning student, offer internship programs to help students find out what’s it like to work in a business like yours, give away a small scholarship fund, or reward a team for designing a new artwork for your business. A small portion of your surplus income, time, and inventory, can go a long way in helping students have a better school year.
What does this give you? Kids will tell their parents about your contest at school. Your logo will be posted in their bulletins, and your name will probably be announced throughout the school. Aside from new leads in the form of parents and students who’ve never heard about your business, you can also get free press from local newspapers and websites that feature feel-good stories.
4. Volunteer as a Team
The Texas Heart institute, lead by Dr. Doris Taylor during their “Texas Heart Has Heart” project to collect donations they’ll give to the Houston Food Bank.
Don’t have funds or extra inventory to donate? That’s okay! You can always donate your time.
Take one day off from work to head over to a local charity of your choosing. You can cook food at the nursing home, feed the homeless, read to kids, clean up the park, and so much more.
Workload permitting, you can even take your team with you. Working together outside of the office can strengthen your bonds with each other. It’s a great team building and philanthropic activity, and it shows them that you’re not all about profits and productivity.
Here are 5 organizations that accept individual and corporate volunteers:
5. Sponsor a Local Sports Team
You can sponsor a team’s uniform or gear for a small amount of money. What do you get in return? Free adverts in the form of a local sports team, a part in helping a kid’s athletic dream come true, bigger brand exposure during the championships (if you’re the sponsor of a finalist team), and positive press. You’ll meet interesting people who might be potential customers, too.
Below are examples of small businesses sponsoring their local teams.
Taylor Homes sponsoring Team SMASH, their local baseball team:
Crossfit Kennett Square sponsoring two local traveling baseball teams, Kennett Knights and the Piedmont Predators:
Supporting your local community will increase your businesses’ local brand recognition. It will also widen your network and help you develop partnerships with other businesses doing the same thing.
Do you have any experience giving back to your community? How did it turn out?