No person is an island, and no business exists in isolation. Even if your business is a purely virtual enterprise that operates solely on the Internet, it is still part of a community. You have an office or a storefront in a particular place, you buy your electricity and your water and your utilities from a particular company or government, you live and work in a particular town or city. We are all part of communities larger than ourselves, and being involved with that community is important. Read on to learn about ways you can benefit your community in a way that also benefits your business.
For local businesses, the community is a critical component of their success. Retailers and restaurants understand this implicitly, of course, and even those businesses focused more on the wider world still have a considerable attachment to the place or places in which they operate. In this article, we’ll discuss ten ways you can get your business more involved in your local community.
1. Teach a Class
Every business owner (or someone who works for them) knows how to do something that other people don’t know how to do, whether it’s making a perfect crème brulee or programming a killer spreadsheet application. There are people who’d like to learn what you know.
Get in contact with your local library or community college and offer to teach a free or inexpensive class that’s an introduction to what your business does. You’ll build relationships and maybe spot a few potential future hires.
2. Sponsor an event
Events are fun, build immediate attention and interest in your business, and create positive thoughts about your business in the public mind. (“Bob’s Bicycle Shop? Oh they’re the ones who hold the annual Cross-Park Rally.”) Just about any business can find something of interest that connects to what they do.
Got a bakery? Hold a cake-walk downtown. Sell scuba equipment? Rent the community pool and do an underwater scavenger hunt. For more event marketing ideas, check out this post.
3. Join a Parade
Many towns, especially small ones, hold parades as part of the Independence Day celebrations or for other holidays. Build a float and get into that parade! Building the float will be fun for your team and then everyone in town turns out to watch your mobile advertisement. It’s a no-brainer.
4. Give a Tour
This might not work well if you are, say, a CPA firm or sell insurance, but most businesses have at least one thing that’s interesting to show the world. Have public tours to get members of the public behind the scenes and caring about what you do and why you do it.
5. Host a School Field Trip
Even the insurance guys can be exciting to school kids—any excuse to get out of the classroom is an opportunity for fun. Not only does showing the local kids what your business does create engagement in the community, it also demonstrates that you intend to be in the community for the long haul.
6. Hold a Contest
Nothing gets the attention of the public like free stuff. Hold a contest and give something away. For service businesses, this is a huge win. You give away one session or service and get a crowd of people interested in what you have to offer. Even businesses that have to pay cash for their inventory can usually find something on the shelves that just isn’t going to sell. Turn that dust-collector into an attention-grabber with a raffle, sweepstakes, or giveaway. (Be sure to obey local, state, and federal laws, though. Going to jail will get you some public attention too, but not the good kind.)
Related: Examples of Facebook Contests and Instagram Giveaways (free download)
7. Help a Charity
There are a host of charitable organizations in your town and they all need more help. Anybody can make a donation, but you can combine any of the suggestions on this list with a charitable contribution and really leverage the impact you’ll have on your community involvement. (“Bob’s Bicycle Shop? Aren’t they the ones who donate bikes to the shelter after the Cross-Park Rally every year?”).
Supporting a charity that aligns with your values will organically draw people to your business who share those values, and these are the best kinds of customers to have.
8. Attend a Meeting
Your city council is meeting this week or this month, and can be almost guaranteed they’re going to discuss something that has at least a tangential impact on your business. Not only would showing up to the meeting be an act of good citizenship, but it would also put your business’ name in the public eye.
A lot of people attend those meetings, and they tend to be the kind of people who talk to all their friends and neighbors. Connecting with influential people in your community can help you to better understand your community as well as get the word spread about your business.
9. Adopt a Highway
Those roadside signs are pure advertising gold, and all it costs you is maybe one weekend a month spending a couple of hours picking up soda cans. You make your community nicer and build your reputation at the same time.
10. Throw a Barbecue
Everybody loves a barbecue. Rent some grills, buy some hamburgers and hot dogs, and turn a regular old summer afternoon into a festival. You’ll get great publicity, meet a lot of past and future customers, and put your business in the public eye.
These ideas barely scrape the surface of the things that you can do to get your business more engaged with your local community. Some of them take time, some of them take money, and some of them take energy, so take a look at what you have available, decide the best way you can get your business more involved, and then execute on the plan!