This is a guest post by Ken Mueller. Ken is Ken is the proprietor of Inkling Media, with 30 years of experience in the media industry. He has worked extensively in the radio industry, and is an Adjunct Instructor of Marketing at Messiah College and at the Pennsylvania College of Art & Design.
One goal of marketing is to find something that sets you apart from your competition, and then finding a way to communicate that to your customers and potential customers. Often it’s something like a price-point, a superior product, or better customer service.
These are all well and good, but quite often they aren’t enough. Sometimes there are other intangibles that are less about your actual products and pricing, and more about your business culture that will draw people in and create loyal customers.
As I work with clients, I generally try to push them into becoming better members of their community; members that don’t just take, but also give back. I want them to be citizens that understand that what’s good for the local area is good for everyone, including their own business.
Here are a few ways businesses can turn into more than just a business by coming alongside nonprofits seeking to improve the quality of life in your community:
Turn your business into a link between your customers and local nonprofits.
We see this a lot at Christmas, but you can do it throughout the year. Make your business a drop-off point for donations to the local homeless shelter, women’s shelter, or child agency. Food, toys, and clothing, as well as money, are needed by local agencies all year long. Check with the local agencies and ask them about their greatest needs. Many of them even have donation wish lists on their web sites. Perhaps you can choose a “social mission partner” that benefits by receiving a percentage of some of your sales.
Challenge your customers and employees to give to local organizations by letting them know that you’ll match those funds. This allows you to give while promoting giving from others, and it builds awareness for the organizations you choose to support.
Do you have a holiday party or summer staff picnic? Why not cancel the event, or alter it, so you can use some of those funds to help out area nonprofits?
Take it on the road.
Invite the staff or clients of local nonprofits to join you for a party or event. Maybe have your summer cook-out at the local homeless shelter, and feed more than your staff.
Take it to the street.
If you are able to raise funds, you can purchase goods to give back to the community. For instance, in the winter, work with your local homeless shelter to hand out blankets, hats, and coats on the street.
I’ve seen local photographers and hairdressers work together to provide portraits to those who might not be able to afford them. I know of doctors and dentists who offer their services for free to low-income residents. What services or products do you have that you can offer to make a difference?
In everything, be genuine.
Now understand, I’m not just talking about “using” the community as a marketing tactic. If your motives aren’t genuine, and are merely a means to an end, people will notice. People can see through the thin veneer of mercenary tactics. But here are some of the benefits you might just reap:
- It puts you and your shoppers in an “others first” mindset. It’s great at building awareness and rather than being merely mercenary, everyone is participating in helping others. Shopping becomes more about giving than receiving.
- It brings new people through the door of your business. There could be people who are supporters of the various nonprofits who may have never even heard of your business, let alone shop there. As the nonprofits promote your event, you’re gaining some new customers who will already have good feelings about you because you are helping their favorite cause
- It introduces your customers to various nonprofits. You most likely have regular customers who like to patronize your business. Those loyal customers will become more familiar with the nonprofits that you are supporting. Some of them may even sign up to get on the mailing lists of those organizations.
- It promotes cooperation and collaboration. The business world is a competitive world; stores are vying with one another for your money. This is a great way for a number of business and nonprofits to work together for the betterment of the overall community.
- It builds goodwill. There’s no denying that a business that does this will win some serious PR points. People will look at your business differently, as will the nonprofits you help. This more than makes up for any revenue you give up through the discounts and donations. This is the sort of thing that people will remember throughout the year.
How are you giving back to your community? What other ideas do you have that allows for-profits to help out nonprofits?