For any small business to succeed, whether it’s a single location or a few franchises, it must build goodwill with the surrounding community. You can have Facebook fans or catalogue customers all over the world, placing orders by phone and email, but if locals aren’t walking in the door, you’re doomed.
Branding your business as a “hometown hero” can make a huge impression on your customer base and serve as an important differentiator in the marketplace. Here’s how to do it:
Promote local vendors and distributors. If you’re satisfied with work done by local workers or businesses, let them know! Announce how much you like them on your website and social channels, and even on your storefront. Such efforts cost nothing and generate enormous goodwill – and even lead to partnerships down the line.
Join all the local trade organizations, including the Chamber of Commerce. These are great ways to network, but many such groups put out directories or give their members some sort of seal of approval. In a sense, these organizations are doing your marketing for you.
|Image courtesy of Tom Edwards (@TheBlackFin)|
Participate in community events. These can be holiday events, charity fundraisers, county fairs, or events tied to the local school or college. You can simply donate money to get your business listed as a sponsor, or “go big” by becoming the sole sponsor of an event or local youth sports team. Go even bigger by hosting your own event, whether it’s just for fun, like a Fourth of July barbecue, or to raise money for a (preferably local) charity.
The inverse of that idea is to hold a contest among your employees that benefits a local charity. Give a prize to whichever employee can sell the most candy, bring in the most cans to recycle, or raise the most money. Prizes can be as simple as an extra vacation day. Again, there’s no point in keeping this a secret; tell the charity, post updates online, and display a leaderboard so your customers can see your efforts.
You can also encourage employees to volunteer at the charity of their choice, perhaps giving a paid (or non-penalized) personal day to allow them to attend weekday events. You yourself can also join the board of a local charity, which will guarantee your name in their marketing materials.
|Photo courtesy of D'Anna Associates|
Finally, take pride in your community. Decorate your workplace with photos of local heroes, celebrities, or important events. Try to get endorsements from the local TV anchors. Congratulate local teams on their victories and let nearby schools post flyers for their events. You can even make the community part of your tagline: “Proudly serving Plano since 1997,” for example, not only shows your commitment to the community but also helps with your SEO.
These strategies make goodwill and community involvement part of your brand and differentiate you in the marketplace. Organizations from local banks to TOMS Shoes have successfully incorporated the spirit of giving, which creates a strong emotional connection to their brands. And that makes customers want to spend money on your products or services instead of your competitor’s.
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