You own a small business, but its impact on your local community is less influential than what you would like it to be. Businesses with greater visibility tend to be more profitable, attracting a steady supply of customers to help bolster profits. You don’t have to invest in a costly marketing program to reach new customers. Instead, employing effective community engagement strategies can raise your business profile for a reasonable investment of your resources, if you employ one or more of the following options.
- Team sponsorship — Your business may be suited for sponsoring a youth sport team, such as girl’s softball or boy’s soccer team. 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.
- 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.
- Print media — If your business is backing a non-profit organization’s event, you can write up a press release to announce the event and make mention of your company’s involvement. Send copies of your release to local newspapers and ask that it run a story about the event. If your involvement with a community group is a strong one, such as you being a member of its board, you can explain your role to the reporter. 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, and make use of email, Twitter and other social media platforms to get the word out. Sharing tweets and liking postings 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 given t-shirts with your company’s name printed on them, on hats or both. 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.
Successful small businesses maintain a constant and high level of engagement with their communities. Use your business as a platform to help community groups that you and your employees desire to assist, tactfully making an impact to the benefit of all involved. You may find that your community engagement strategies are your best marketing tool, allowing you to forgo costly advertising options.
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