Small business owners have always known the importance of fostering community. In the last few years, however, ‘community engagement’ has come to mean managing your online relationships. In my final blog post of 2017, I want to talk about engaging your local community – the people whose homes you build or the customers who walk into your store every day.
If there was one word I could use to sum up the advice I’ve shared over the year, it would be connection. I’ve talked about connecting with other small business owners, connecting with employees, and connecting with your own dreams and ambitions. Here are a few tips for engaging and connecting with your real-life community-at-large:
- Engagement must be sustainable.
When it comes to community initiatives, people are often tempted to go for the low-hanging fruit. They try to grab publicity at a high profile event with a sponsorship or a billboard. However, when the big event is over, so is your business’s involvement.
The key to a long-term, symbiotic relationship is choosing a partner you like, whose values align with your own. For example, at Blue Sky, we support Shadowpath Theatre because of the incredible work they do making the arts more accessible to the community.
- Community must be built, not bought.
It’s important for small business owners to understand that they help build the community and then the community helps build their business. Your choice of how to engage should benefit the community, bolstering it and making it stronger.
Instead of dropping off a cheque for $100 at the local food bank, ask employees to bring canned goods to the annual Christmas party. Becoming a real part of the community requires helping to create a stronger foundation to support that community. In the long run, people will treat your business the same way.
- Share your achievements.
Share the story of what you support in your networking, with your customers, and your clients. Make people proud to say they hired you/shop at your store/buy your products!
When you truly believe in what you’re involved in, it’ll be easy to highlight what you’ve done for the community in a personal way. This will help you build connections and strengthen relationships – leading to more opportunities to foster new ones.
Becoming a part of the local community isn’t something you just throw money it. You have to get involved with an organization that is offering a valuable service to your community and support it in a perpetual, committed fashion.
Need help figuring out how community outreach fits into your business plan? Give us a call today at 289-466-5210 – we never charge to chat.