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Boost Your Holiday Business By Thinking Local

No matter what type of business, if you’re hoping to compete with big boys this holiday season, you must “think local.”
Contributing Writer,
October 11, 2011

Whether you own a restaurant, retail store or service business, if you’re hoping to compete with big chains during the holiday shopping season, one of the keys to success is “think local.” In today’s tough economy, shoppers are predisposed to support local businesses so that their tax dollars go to their communities. And with social responsibility top of mind for many people, knowing that a business supports the local community is a big selling point.

How can your company benefit from customers’ desires to help their community? By being involved in your local community, of course. And there’s no better time than the holidays—when people’s thoughts naturally turn to sharing, donating and giving back—to get involved with a local charity of your choice.

Here’s a step-by-step plan to choosing the right charitable organization for you.

Think local

Many charities are big, national organizations, but to have a community impact, you’ll want to focus on a local organization, or at least the local chapter of a national charity.

Look for a natural fit

Perhaps you want to partner with a local organization that supports breast cancer research because your mother had cancer. That’s great and may make sense to you, but if your business is a restaurant, your customers may not see the connection with this charity as a natural fit. For a restaurant, it would make more sense to partner with cause related to food, such as a local food bank or homeless shelter. Working with a breast cancer charity, on the other hand, would be perfect for a business that targets women, such as a day spa.

Investigate the organization is a great place to check out charities and find out which ones are rated highly, what percentage of donations go to the actual charity (as opposed to overhead), and more. Because you’ll be looking at local branches or organizations, you can also get a good feel for a charity’s reliability by talking to other business owners at your local chamber of commerce or contacting the Better Business Bureau.

Decide how you want to give

There are many ways to contribute to a cause. Choose a method that allows your employees and customers to get involved. For instance, give your staff a paid day off to volunteer at the charity. Depending on the type of business you own, and the charity you’re contributing to, you may want to invite your customers to come along. You could designate a specific day when a percentage of all sales at your business go to the charity. Or contribute a percentage of profits from a particular product or product line sold during the holiday season to the charity. (Whichever method you choose, discuss with your accountant whether there are any tax implications.) Restaurants could host a fundraiser. Or even something as simple as distributing literature for the charity can help.

Spread the word

Don’t be uncomfortable letting your customers and community know about your charitable involvement. Your marketing materials, website e-mail newsletters and social media accounts should promote how you’re giving back to the community and how your customers can help (whether by doing business with you, volunteering or donating). Also be sure to let local media, including newspaper reporters, TV and radio stations, and bloggers know about your cause.

Keep it up

Customers can spot it a mile away when you’re not being authentic, so don’t start a relationship with a charity now only to drop it after the New Year. Keep the relationship going throughout the year—and you’ll keep the goodwill from customers flowing.

At the holidays, or any time, getting involved with a cause that’s close to your business’s heart benefits your business—and your community, too.

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