We like giving to others because it makes us feel good. As business owners though, we know our own personal altruism won't keep the doors open. Times are tough. Why spend if you’re getting nothing back?
Giving can seem like a sunk cost. But generosity can actually help your business prosper too. When you give, you can actually buy something every small business needs: brand awareness.
You can give and advertise at the same time by sponsoring something. It can be a memorable alternative to simply buying an insert ad in the local free weekly or other traditional advertising media. After all, actions speak louder than bus stop ads.
As usual, make sure any creative advertising you do is right for your brand. With that caveat in mind, here are five ideas that might get your name out there while simultaneously giving back.
1. Buy Yourself a Team
Okay, the Yankees are probably out of reach, but sponsoring a little league team can be a cheap way to buy adorable little walking advertisements. Contact your local Boys and Girls Club or YMCA and see if any group of whippersnappers needs an esteemed benefactor to buy equipment, field times, and/or uniforms.
You may be telling yourself: “Eight-year-olds don’t buy widgets. They are a horrible target market.” Rest assured that their parents will get to know your name as well as they know which laundry detergent works best at eliminating grass stains.
2. Give It Away
This one is riskier, in that you’re not implicitly asking for anything in return. But giving away samples of your product is a great way to get people to notice what your business is about. Just avoid the all-too-common error of pushing people to buy. Go to places where your target market frequents, and sponsor a giveaway. You’d be surprised at how well people respond to unfettered generosity.
People are most easily convinced when they feel they've discovered something on their own. Offer a free trial with no strings attached.
3. Throw a Party
There is something deep within us that loves congregating with others. It’s no surprise that almost every culture has parades and festivals of some kind. Related to this point, people start to learn these festivals by their given name. Which, as the event organizer, you get to pick.
If you are wondering how effective this can be, I ask you this: What do you call that parade in New York every Thanksgiving with the giant inflatable floats? The parade doesn't have much to do with the department store, but it's amazing advertising. The name Macy's is literally synonymous with the event itself.
4. Raise the Roof of Fundraising
A fundraiser has a triple function: You help others, you network and you host an event with your name attached. While your business should probably shy away from hosting a fundraiser of the political kind, it certainly doesn’t hurt to get people together to raise money for a good cause.
Some ideas for fun fundraisers are contests, walks, runs, concerts, potlucks, cook-offs and anything that gets people involved, together under one roof and working for something good.
5. Get Artistic
Artistic grants have long been in style with the mega-rich in the form of museum donations and the like. But just because you’re a small business doesn’t mean you can’t get in the business of enriching the community culturally while pumping up your good name. Fund a YouTube short. Commission a painting. Fund an album.
Who knows? Maybe you’ll get thanked in the liner notes.
Jacob Harper co-founded clothing store/apparel brand Vintage Vice in 2006 at the age of 23. Jacob sold Vintage Vice in 2009 (the company still operates successfully today) and has been working as a writer and teacher ever since. He is currently a head writer of the weekly political sketch show Top Story! Weekly at the iO West in Hollywood.
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