“You’ve got to spend money to make money.” As a business owner, you’ve likely heard this countless times, usually from someone who has something to sell you. To some extent, it’s true. Cliches always are.
But not everything your company or brand needs to thrive has a price tag on it. Whether you’re just launching a business, or trying to grow your existing business, one of the best investments you can make is in your community.
No matter what kind of business you own, whether you’re the sole owner or manager of a multinational franchise, there are countless ways to get involved with your community. When you do, you won’t just be building your company’s brand. You’ll be increasing goodwill with your neighbors, and making valuable connections with current and future customers.
Why Get Involved?
Because when your company is an active, contributing member of the community, you’re using your position as a business owner or leader to provide support for families, seniors, children and the neighborhoods they call home.
Because it’s smart business to connect with your customers, prospects, suppliers and community leaders outside of your business’s four walls.
Because it’s valuable exposure for your brand. When you’re part of your community’s day-to-day life, over time your brand is perceived as a good citizen, and a contributing member of the place you (and your customers) call home.
If not you, who? If not now, when? Think of being involved this way. Somewhere out there is a “you-shaped” hole. Some organization needs what you and your business have to offer. Maybe it’s extra help with an event. Maybe it’s helping feed their volunteers. Maybe it’s something as simple as being a part of a fundraiser through a donation. No matter what you do, you’ll begin making a difference the minute you say yes.
Your employees want to play a part, too. Community involvement can be a powerful way to increase employee engagement, too. Even starting small — by volunteering yourself, or representing your business when you join a neighborhood organization — an example and saying to your employees “we are a part of something larger than just the day-to-day work we do here.”
Community is more than just a place.
When we talk about “community,” we’re talking about more than geography. Sure, your business is located in a neighborhood or business district surrounded by other neighborhoods, cities, or even states where your customers live and work.
But “community” is larger than lines on a map. It’s your customers. Their neighborhoods. The schools and churches that lie close by your business. Youth athletics. Scout groups. Even your competitors are one of many communities you’re a part of.
The point is to look beyond the map for communities you can connect with and make a meaningful difference.
What Can You Do?
Here are just a few ways you can get involved with your community:
- Support youth athletics by sponsoring a team or an end-of-the-season tournament.
- Contact your neighborhood elementary school to lead or participate in a playground cleanup, or a read-aloud program.
- Look for ways to help beyond the holidays. The end of the year always brings countless opportunities to do good in your community. But after the New Year, many service organizations report finding it difficult to enlist help.
- Hold a Community Night or Community Week when a percentage of sales is donated to one or more organizations making an impact in the immediate area.
- Use your business’s social media presence to promote neighborhood and community events to your customers and followers. Even if you’re not directly involved with an organization, helping them get the word out is always appreciated. And it sends a powerful message to everyone you’re in contact with that being involved with the place you call home is important.
- If you’re at a loss for ideas, get in touch with your local United Way. Organizations like this are tapped into your community’s entire network of service organizations and nonprofits. They can help connect you with a group whose mission is a perfect match with yours.
More Than One and Done
Finally, try to think about your community involvement as more than a once-a-year box to check. After all, part of what you’re trying to accomplish is to raise the visibility of your brand, right? That’s why you should consider ways to spread your involvement out over the course of an entire year. Your business year might have seasonal ups and downs, but community groups work all year ‘round.
By looking at what your business has to offer your community and getting involved, you can build your brand at the same time you’re building relationships and goodwill.