For a small business owner, building positive brand awareness starts with your community. Even if you’re an online merchant who never meets customers face-to-face, you still live in a physical community – and work in a virtual one. As such, you should explore ways to give back and to help those who make your business possible. Community involvement not only helps improve the lives of others, but it also produces goodwill for your small business. This, in turn, may eventually lead to more sales and higher brand loyalty over time.
Here are five ideas to help your business succeed at community engagement.
1. Build your network
If you haven’t already, now is a good time to join any relevant trade associations, industry groups, or chambers of commerce within your community. This outreach will help you better understand the local landscape and allow you to pinpoint ways in which you can contribute value.
However, don’t limit yourself to business-oriented networking. Town halls, charity events, and faith-based groups can also provide you with opportunities to meet local influencers and thought leaders.
2. Identify ways to help
As your network grows, you’ll begin to develop a clearer picture of the challenges within your community. Sometimes the biggest issue for community leaders is lack of participation in fundraising initiatives, volunteer efforts, or planning meetings. This is an issue you can help solve just by attending meetings, events, etc. Other times, you may need to specifically ask your network what contributions might have the greatest positive impact.
Although offering financial assistance is a welcomed option, not every business owner has the budget to explore this choice. Fortunately, there are other ways you can contribute – by donating time, event and meeting space, labor, materials, or experience. Don’t overlook the impact of internal improvements you can make to your business that benefit the larger community. For example, installing solar panels, going paperless, or using recycled materials can help protect the environmental health of your community and reduce operating expenses. You can potentially put those savings toward financially supporting local causes.
3. Build long-term partnerships
Although you can certainly participate on an as-needed basis, there is value in building long-term relationships with other businesses and organizations. For example, you could:
? Fundraise regularly for a local charity
? Sponsor a youth sports league
? Volunteer at a local school throughout the year
? Host a free workshop once a quarter
? Donate co-branded promotional items
Just make sure to only promise what you can guarantee. Making a smaller commitment is better than overextending your business and staff.
4. Source and shop locally
Everyone benefits when money is spent within the community. Try to source as many supplies as you can locally. This includes supporting other small businesses in the neighborhood (even when you’re not on the clock). Local baristas and hairstylists are far more likely to visit your electronics store, for instance, if you regularly patronize their businesses.
5. Let employees volunteer (on your dime)
Some of your employees might want to become more engaged with the community – whether it’s volunteering at local charities or participating in community-wide events. If you have the leeway to do so, consider giving them paid time off to pursue those activities.
Even better – you could print company t-shirts and start a company-wide volunteer initiative. Not only will this offer a morale-boost for your team, it will also help generate goodwill within the community. It also signals to employees that you support their causes and value their time.
Helping others is inherently satisfying. When done correctly, it can also be financially rewarding. According to recent studies, an estimated 85% of consumers will switch brands to support one associated with a worthy cause. Making your community that “worthy cause” can help drive sales for many years to come.
Author Bio: Mihir Korke, is the Head of Acquisition at Clover. As a leader in small business credit card processing and POS systems, Clover specializes in restaurant, retail, and personal and professional service payment solutions. With desktop and mobile POS systems, contactless payments, solutions for curbside pickup and online ordering, loyalty, and rewards, Clover has multiple solutions to meet your business’s needs.
Also published on Medium.