Being seen as a valuable member of your local community can keep you in mind for prospective customers or clients in a way that many other branding strategies can't. You can create opportunities for your business to get involved with activities and organizations the rest of the neighborhood interacts with every day. Your competition will have a hard time beating this kind of local visibility.
Support the Community
When you're considering how to get involved in the local community, the obvious answer is typically to look at philanthropy. Choose the right philanthropy — one that your customers, as well as the community as a whole, will care about. Steve Mochel's business, Fresh Green Light, found a cause near and dear to the interests of its customers. The company is a driving school and Mochel's customers are primarily parents paying for their teenagers to learn to drive. "As a driving school that caters to new teen drivers, our core customer is 40+ moms, so we have created a program where we donate 1 percent of our student registration fees to the PTA organization of the high school they attend. The response has been great — the PTAs love the donation, and we are connecting in an organic way with our core target and they are talking about us to all their friends!"
Parents can even see exactly how much the driving school has donated to different high schools in Rye, New York and Lower Westchester County through Fresh Green Light's website. Having a personal connection to your community can make these sorts of opportunities a little easier to find. Mochel has lived in Rye for more than a decade, and he has four teenagers of his own in the Rye public school system. The donations are a significant part of Fresh Green Light's marketing efforts, including its website and collateral materials.
Mochel's community-based branding has tied his company to its target customers and helped him work towards his overall goals. "We are very committed as a business to creating safe teen drivers (car crashes are the No. 1 killer of teens in America). We decided that we would financially support organizations that also work to support the education of our kids. From a business perspective, it's put us in direct contact with our core customer (moms with teenagers), but in a positive (non-selling) manner where we are both working to support our teenagers."
Look at the Bigger Picture
Your business' marketing and branding efforts are, of course, geared towards making sure that you're able to keep bringing in new customers and clients. Building your connections in your community so that you can help your future customers have the money to come to you is a strategy that can pay off in the long run. Camelot Communications and its founder, Christina Cozzi, have built that sort of connection in the heart of the New York City Financial District.
Cozzi found herself with an unexpected personal connection to the area. "I have lived in NYC for over five years and up until about 15 months ago I had a negative opinion about the Financial District. Similar to what the majority of people think, I believed that the Financial District was simply a place for corporate business, where there was nothing going on at night or on the weekends, and I thought that everything down there was either 'extremely expensive' or, for lack of a better word, 'divey.' Then, about 15 months ago I found myself moving to the Financial District because of the amazing apartments that were offered down there. I still had a negative connotation about the area and thought for sure that there would be 'nothing around,' as people said. I soon found that the Financial District had a lot to offer, and that there were a number of amazing businesses and services that were offered at an 'affordable luxury' price."
She was able to find a clientele in the area. "I realized that these were the types of businesses that would benefit most from public relations and marketing, and that with a little bit of help, these are the businesses that would stand out above the rest. With the population of those who work and live down in the Financial District, I knew that a little publicity would drive consumers to these businesses, rather than thinking they had to go uptown."
Camelot Communications' clients in the area have told Cozzi that business has picked up since she started working with area businesses. "The fact that I represent a number of noncompetitive businesses in the area really helps as well, as I can devise programs that works for all of them (keeping budget down), and figure out ways for all the businesses to work in collaboration with each other. It's a great feeling to walk into one of my clients and see that business is booming (especially given the overall economic climate), or to see that they have mentions in local press, directories, etc. that they normally otherwise wouldn't have." Cozzi even has an event planned for this fall called "Fall in Love with the Financial District" to bring community members together — as well as promote several of her local clients in one go.
Start Where You Are
The first step to branding your company locally is just getting involved. Something as simple as social media can be a good fit; it allows you to manage involvement without taking too much time away from your business. Irina Netchaev is a real estate agent in Pasadena, California — as well as the blogger behind Pasadena Views. Her blog, as well as Facebook and Twitter efforts, have had a dramatic impact at connecting Netchaev to the community.
It was relatively easy for Netchaev to get the ball rolling on her efforts. "Technology, from blogs to Facebook to Twitter to implementing technologically advanced products like electronic signatures, has always been fascinating to me because of the opportunities it gives me in marketing my services and streamlining the home buying/selling process. It is very clear, both from experience and statistically speaking, that most home buyers start their home search online. I need to be online for my business to survive and flourish. While many real estate agents continue to advertise in newspapers or just stick signs in front of homes, I've continually looked for opportunities to learn about social media and internet marketing. Reading both industry and non-industry blogs like ProBlogger and Chris Brogan, as well as attending and organizing Real Estate Related Social Media events like REBarCamp Los Angeles have all kept me informed and on my toes. It's a matter of taking social media a step at a time... sort of like an elephant (a bite at a time!) and experimenting!"
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