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Community Marketing: Does It Work?

It works, if you do it right...

In an era when traditional advertising has become outdated and online marketing and social media are still being debated for its cost effectiveness, community service marketing still has its place in local municipalities across the country. Public service, charitable giving and community involvement have been around for decades, offering an opportunity to contribute to one’s community or cause but also getting credit for it and creating goodwill and positive exposure.

In some cases, this is Small Business, 101.

Yet, while giving back and supporting various projects has been around a while, many businesses including funeral homes, tend to forget or miss this low-cost advertising option that many national corporations do every day. As a small business, you too, can take advantage of community service and charitable giving as effective ways to promote a business. Like them you can use these same methods to (a) create a positive public image, (b) build goodwill with your employees, and (c) promote your businesses.

However, before you jump out there are start spreading your goodwill, name and time, it is important to develop a strategy and plan. These tips will help guide you as you develop a community service strategy:

  • Create a targeted plan. Identify what charities are important to your customers and target market and create a solid plan for getting involved with them. For example, consider hosting or sponsoring a lecture from a health professional on Alzheimer’s/Dementia or support an event at your local senior center. Support your local Hospice groups through fundraising activities or educational workshops.

  • Make time for and commit to community service. Don’t treat this lightly. Whenever you put your name, brand or reputation out in the public, it needs to be taken seriously and done strategically. Work with reputable groups and make sure you maximize each opportunity with the balance of supporting your cause and getting your name out there. Creating a plan with a timeline and budget will help you manage this important task.

  • Aim for maximum exposure. Consider those events, sponsorships, and organizations that will put your business in the presence of the largest number of people you are targeting.

  • Involve your entire staff. Bringing your staff on board and getting them to buy in, can be a tremendous boost to whatever project you are supporting. Their enthusiasm and engagement enhances your exposure that much more.

  • Share your good works. Use press releases, your own website, social media and other marketing materials (e.g., newsletters and brochures) to let the community (and your targeted market) be aware of the causes your business supports.

Here are some low-cost ways you can promote your small businesses through community service:

  • Sponsor senior organizations and activities ranging from the arts to education.

  • Donate time and man-hours to local projects that beautify or clean-up the community.

  • Speak at charitable, school-related, and other events.

  • Contribute financing or services to charitable organizations and schools.

  • Sponsor activities related to senior living or senior center.

  • Host community food or clothing drives in partnership with a non-profit.

  • Buy tickets to charitable events like lunches, dinners, and food tastings and donate them.

  • Donate a percentage of every sale (perhaps for a limited time) to a charity.

  • Join the boards of charitable organizations.

In the end, here are the benefits you will gain through a fine-tuned community service strategy:

  • New customers

  • Better relationships with existing customers

  • A more positive business image

  • Free publicity

  • Improved word of mouth advertising

  • Invaluable networking opportunities

As a member of your community, now is the time to demonstrate on an annual basis, integrating your brand and name within your market through a cost-effective and well-planned commitment to community service.

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