Branding any business is a tough gig. Branding a local small or medium-size business is tougher than it’s ever been, considering how popular (and inexpensive) online sales have become. Not to mention the big boxes and the seamless shopping experience most can offer consumers in your community.
Hopefully, after months and years marketing your local SME, branding gets easier. That’s the goal of any business, to have sales trickling in while you sleep and hoards of people lining up at your door who didn’t cost you a dime in marketing costs.
As many smart established business owners will tell you: giving back, in any form, is one of the most effective ways to show your community how much you care, while simultaneously building a bullet proof brand.
Here’s 5 simple ways to accomplish such a goal:
1. Help promote other businesses in the area.
Purchase everything you can locally. Your entire business is built on the hope that locals will do the same thing with your business, right? Be a symbol of “buy local” and show your support to other businesses, even if you can get things significantly cheaper on Amazon.
Purchase your vehicles from a local dealer, shop at the local markets, use the mom and pop convenience stores and gas stations, take your loved ones to the local movie theater, etc.
Also, work out deals with local non-competing businesses (ie., you don’t make your money in the same niche). Offer post-purchase coupons they can give their customers while you do the same for them — ie., a car dealer could offer coupons for discounted detailing and/or car washes from a local vendor, and the vendor would reciprocate by recommending all their clients to the dealer when they’re ready to buy new.
2. Sponsor local teams, organizations, and initiatives.
How many times have you seen a “Sponsored by XYZ Company” on promotional materials for good causes. Nothing will make you look better in the eyes of local citizens and government than putting yourself out there as a business who doesn’t mind investing their hard earned local profits into causes that matter to the community.
You don’t have to donate to things you don’t believe in. It’s far better to donate to, and invest in the local girl’s soccer team because you believe in it, and actually go to games, than it is to throw money around willy-nilly trying to impress everyone.
3. Collect donations for a good local cause or two.
Always keep your ear to the ground for things that matter most to the community. Whether it’s building a new library, redoing the local youth center, or helping a family that’s fallen on hard times because of an act of nature like lightning starting their house on fire, or a child contracting a severe disease. It might seem like a cheap shot to step in and help to get some exposure for your company, but you’ll find that very few haters will try to chastise you for lending a helping hand.
Put a donation jar near the cash registers, set a pop-up to go off in your online shopping carts asking for a small donation. Host local fundraising events. There are tons of ways to pull this off and gain some great lasting exposure for your local business at the same time.
4. Help give the local homeless a place to live.
There’s few things more virtuous and immediately rewarding than providing struggling citizens who need a home a place to live.
Depending on your available time and financial reach, this may be something as little as volunteering and/or donating to Habitat for Humanity and other similar organizations. Organizations like Habitat are more than happy to bring the press out for a local business owner and their team for some free PR.
If you have more to offer than your time or a little money, consider donating unused real estate to be used for building homes, boarding houses, or centers for the disadvantaged.
5. Be the expert everyone can turn to.
This is the last and best tip for giving back to your community, while ‘innocently’ increasing the reach of your brand, is to become an expert that everyone in the community turns to when they have needs that your brand and/or professional knowledge can answer.
For instance, if you run a dog training business make yourself approachable when people have questions about dog training. Not hours-long free instruction, but let the community know you’re willing to answer simple questions without charging them for everything. Often, this will lead to more business in the form of referrals, or those same people who’re asking for free advice will give in and hire you when they realize that things aren’t as easy to do as they are to hear.
There’s too many applications to give examples for. But consider all the times we’ve seen this at work:
- The local mechanic who offers do-it-your-selfers tips on how to track down problems with their vehicles.
- The local hair stylist who offers free product and styling advice to clients and walk-ins off the street.
- The local lawyer, who regularly charges $200/hr, but offers free consultations and advice to potential clients — potentials who they know may never end up using their services.
It’s all about establishing credibility and getting the locals talking about you among their friends and families.
None of the methods mentioned above are necessarily passive; you’ll have to put some time and/or cash into the pot to see results. But the lasting impact you’ll have on the community and brand make giving back something you’ll never regret!
Main Image Credit: Caleb Knott/Flickr