For a restaurant or home services company, name recognition and trust are core assets—and any lack of that positive awareness can be a big hurdle to your marketing success. Your investment in traditional and digital advertising and social media engagement are just table stakes. But there’s another way to help people become familiar with your brand and garner trust and good will: community engagement that reaches your neighbors and customers where they live.
And before you ask: It’s not cynical to engage in charitable giving or volunteerism with the goal of improving your marketing. It’s good business, and it’s good for your neighbors. When you dedicate your business and your brand to a cause—whether by sponsoring a community event, supporting the volunteer efforts of your employees, providing in-kind donations of food or professional services, or any other goodwill efforts—you actually are making your community a better place to live and work.
The only real difference between community engagement for marketing and pure altruism is that, as a business, it’s not unseemly to take credit. Meanwhile, the positive reputation you already have among customers and neighbors in the community serves to multiply your business’s contribution and lend credibility to the cause, multiplying the effect.
In addition to helping make the community a better place to live and work, you’re introducing potential customers to your brand in the best way possible: by making a strongly positive association with something they care about, in their community, and in an authentic and long-lasting way.
Your company’s name will be connected to more than just the event or the issue it addresses, too. Community engagement for marketing allows you to make a deeper emotional connection, associating your brand with how people feel when they get involved in their own community. And that feeling is amplified every time your charitable partner tweets or posts or sends out an email blast.
A few tips on choosing a charity:
- Steer clear of anything controversial or divisive. Generalities are your friends here. For example, there may be a dispute in the community about whether a disc golf course or a bocci court is a more pressing local need, but it’s likely that most agree that parks and green spaces are a good thing in general.
- Seek relationships with organizations that complement your brand message. For example, a restaurant specializing in fresh or healthy menu items may find a natural fit with a wellness cause or event. A home services company that caters to families might choose to work with a local children’s hospital. The point is, you still can invest in a cause that’s close to your heart—and feel great about the trust and name recognition you’re banking for your business.
Another advantage: here often are operational benefits as well. Don’t underestimate the morale boost your own team will feel as a result of being part of something bigger than themselves.