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5 Community Building Tactics for Local Businesses

By February 5, 2020 6 Comments
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Gaining traction in a local community is an important piece of the puzzle for businesses looking to expand their customer base.  Whether you live in a small town, moderately sized region, or Midtown Manhattan – the perception of your local community can make or break you.  Cultivating that relationship with the locals is an important part of brand building. Like the old fashioned networking dinners and nights out at community events – getting involved online can provide long-term benefits to your business.  

Expanding into a new geographic market? Community sponsorship and involvement can be a stepping stone to longevity in that community.  Being generous shows residents that you’re invested in everyone succeeding – and they will reward businesses with genuine interest accordingly.

Once upon a time, businesses relied on word of mouth advertising to grow and succeed.  What was said over the fence or down at the pub could ensure ongoing business or signal the end of your livelihood.  Being a positive force in the community was the bread and butter of making it. It’s still that way, but there are more ways for a happy (or disgruntled) customer to share their experience, and nearly all those ways are virtual.

Share your time

We all know the idiom, “Time is money” and nobody is more aware of that than a business owner who has to balance getting work done and marketing to get more work.  Sharing a little bit of time can make a big difference in your community, whether you’re helping a young family get their heating fixed on a cold day, or giving some quick advice on a legal matter – you’re building a brand community that will share your name the next time a friend, family member, or coworker needs some help.  

Example:

Blair Plumbing, Heating & Cooling in Kelowna, BC helped a local family who had lived without heat for 2 years replace their furnace.  More info here.

Lend support with dollars (sponsorships)

One of my favorite ways for businesses to build community is via sponsorships.  Ideally these tie into the business or business owners passion projects, whether its homeless advocacy, pet adoption, or Pop Warner football – setting up a sponsorship can not only get your name on a jersey, it can also put your business’ name on the lips of every parent that has a kid on that team, or a kid on an opposing team.  Some sponsorships will come with visibility on signage as well – Little League sponsors in small-to-large market locations can attest to that.

Example:

Rifle Animal Shelter in Rifle, CO has sponsors who offset the cost of adoption – reducing the price to less than $20 in some cases. More info here

Provide some space

Volunteering your space as a community drop of point for donations can be a great way to get involved without investing a lot of time.  A family who lost their home might need somewhere to receive donations, or a food pantry might need a place for the community to drop off dry goods to stock their shelves.  Offering a small corner of your office or warehouse can make a big difference to a local charity – and costs you relatively little – you could even put a box outside the front door in a protected spot, it would have minimal impact on your foot traffic and office operations – but maximum impact on the people those donations assist.

Example:

Dependable Cleaners collects and cleans coats for the Coats for Colorado charity drive held by 9News.  More info here.

Be generous with your expertise

While forums have lost some of their “shine” they still have plenty of beautiful “patina” if you’re willing to invest the time.  Forums come in many shapes and forms – my favorites for local businesses are NextDoor and Facebook groups. You have to follow the group rules, but you can connect directly with a community of people who might need your help, or who might know someone who needs your help.  Providing a small amount of advice can go a long way towards earning you, or your business, a good name in your local community.  

Even the most simple statement can make a big difference to someone who is asking a question and doesn’t know the next step.  Who handles business liability insurance in your area? Who knows about Rheem tankless water heaters that arent producing hot water?  Even if your advice is “Those are complicated units, give a licensed plumber a call – we can help too – here’s my number….” you’re providing a “next step” for the query – and that can make a difference.  It can also put your name and your business’s name top of mind the next time a similar situation comes up for someone that just read the post and didn’t participate.

Example:

Legal Aid and Volunteer Legal Experts help staff an evening civil & family law workshop with qualified legal experts in Central Texas. More info here.

Host an event

This has the potential to be the most expensive option – both in time and dollars – but it can be a huge boon for a local charity.  Many times they have the ideas and people to hold a fundraising event, but no venue. Do you have a warehouse/ballroom/boardroom/lobby that could do the trick? They might handle all the planning and finances – and all you have to do is provide the space, or you can choose to be more involved if the charity aligns with one of your passion projects.

Example:

Vehicle Vault in Denver, CO provided a venue for an event to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Denver. More info here.

Whether its an online review, a mention in a local Facebook or Nextdoor group, or even a mention in an online forum – making sure you have a good reputation, and brand advocates in your local community is a big part of succeeding in a local market.  Nobody is going to hire a lawyer or plumber that’s “just ok.” They’re going to hire the local business who sponsors Little League and pet adoptions at the local shelter and gave away some time to help a family in need out – because an investment in your community is an investment in your long-term business goals.

Carrie Hill
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