The greatest good a business does in a community is serving the public and generating a profit that can be reinvested in the business. This is a company that’s growing, that’s funding government through taxes, that’s supporting local families, and that’s meeting a need of the market. Beyond these essential functions, business owners can further help the community through social marketing.
Social marketing is a version of affinity marketing. By supporting a social cause, business owners attract customers for the same or less investment than standard marketing. It’s a win-win-win. The charity gets support it would not otherwise receive. The customer is able to support preferred causes. The business owner is able to do well by doing good.
Identify Current Charities
Through the company, yourself, and your employees, your business already supports many worthy charities. Make a list. Ask each employee about any donations or volunteer work, not just by the employee, but the employee’s family.
Employees may be reluctant and wonder how their private activities relate to the company. It’s simple. The company supports the employee’s family financially, which enables the employee to donate time or money. By making a list, you are trying to highlight the good works that directly or indirectly result from your organization to the employees and community at large.
Current charities may range from churches to the PTA to the local soccer association. If an employee has a boy scout or girl scout, those organizations are being supported. If anyone drops off old clothing to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, that’s support.
Be specific in your list. If someone donates money to First Baptist and also volunteers in the Mother’s Day Out program, list both.
Once you assemble your list, headline it as “Charities Supported by the XYZ Company Team.” Pass it out to your employees. Put it on your website. Email it to your customers with a note of thanks because it’s their patronage of the company that makes this possible. Promote it on your social media pages. Include it with your sales presentation. It signifies that you are an important part of the community.
Participate in, or Start a Heat the Town/Cool the Town Program
Some local trade association chapters sponsor “heat the town” events in the fall and “cool the town “ events in the spring. Typically, the contractors coordinate with suppliers to offer donated or reduced price equipment that the contractor installs for low income or elderly homeowners gratis. If your town lacks a trade association that’s running one of these promotions, run your own. Work with a local charity to identify the beneficiaries. Promote it through the media, your website, social media, and by email.
Make Charitable Donations Promotional
Many businesses are routinely approached about donating items to silent auctions or as door prizes. Make sure any donation is promotional. Donate an Internet thermostat to build awareness of its capabilities and call attention to the fact that people can get one from you (if possible, get your logo silk screened by ordering through companies like Jackson Systems). Donate a service agreement if you can highlight the many benefits of annual maintenance. Whatever you donate, make sure the focus is your company brand and not the brand of a product you sell.
Host a Food or Clothing Drive
A tried and true social marketing program is to conduct a food or clothing drive. A great time is between Thanksgiving and Christmas when food banks and local missions have the greatest need. Give customers one or two dollars off for every can of food or item of winter clothing donated during a service call. Again, use email, social media, and traditional media to get the word out.
Make Marketing a Fund Raiser
If you want to door hanger a neighborhood, pay a scout troop or sports team to do it for you. With anywhere from eight to twenty teenagers, a lot of ground can be covered in an hour or two. It may cost less than fifty cents per household to get your message out.
Host a Company Truck Wash
During nice weather, school and church groups hold car washes every weekend. Depending on the size of your fleet, hire them to come to your shop and wash all vehicles on a Saturday or Sunday. If your techs take their trucks home, give them the choice of bringing to the shop for a free car wash or washing it on their own at home.
Start a Sanctuary Agreement
The late Tom McCart created the first Sanctuary Agreement. This is a standalone service agreement offered by a church to its members. When a member of the congregation calls your company for a Sanctuary Agreement or mails in the form, you donate $10 in the person’s name to any fund the church designates. Sanctuary Agreements have been wildly successful. There is no difference between a Sanctuary Agreement as a restaurant offering 15% of a certain day’s take to the church.
Use a Charitable Solicitation Form
If you raise your community profile and become known for good works, you will be approached by lots of people looking for sponsorships. Give solicitors an application to complete and tell everyone that you will evaluate the request. The application should include space for information about the charity/organization/team, contacts, and so on. It should also include space for the solicitor to identify three families involved with the charity who are service agreement customers of your company (hat tip to Robert Wilkos for this idea). Word gets out quickly that the best way to win support of your business or a cause is to support your business.
Some business owners are uneasy about the prospect of promoting their businesses through social marketing. They feel that profits and marketing somehow tarnish the purity of charity. Phooey. It’s only a prosperous business that can afford to give back to the community. Besides, your business’ mere existence is positive for the community. No one celebrates business closures or contractions. We all want the businesses in our communities to prosper and grow. Ronald Reagan noted that the greatest social program is a job. When you promote your business you inevitably create the greatest social programs!
Matt Michel is CEO of Service Nation Inc., which operates the Service Roundtable, Retail Contractor Coalition, and Service Nation Alliance. Whatever your size or position, one or more of these programs can help your business grow and prosper. Plus, cash rebates from the organization’s Roundtable Rewards program will pay for your participation and give you even more money to use to grow your business and create more of the greatest social programs. Call 877.262.3341 to learn more.