Whether you are a franchise or an independent provider of services, we all struggle to maintain a sustainable customer base. We spend a good amount of time and money just to achieve this goal. We set up training programs, we work on customer service scores, and market our brand against the competition.
The purpose of this entry is to give you an area of marketing that is cost effective and gives you a leg up on your competition. How well are you doing in working within your own community?
There is an avenue of goodwill marketing that many of us miss, just because it's not always at the top of our minds. As businesses, we all need to get better at reaching out to our communities. The word-of-mouth advertising that you get from your customer base is free and can mean more than any dollar amount that you spend on billboards or radio advertising. Take a few minutes and read the rest of this for some ideas on how to attain this valuable advertising, and it will cost you nothing to do that!
Some franchises out there are doing an outstanding job of working with community outreach programs and entrenching themselves in it. Examples of this can be found in Indiana with the local Jiffy Lubes having artwork on the sides of their buildings from local artists or independent shops that run Coats for Kids programs for the underprivileged. How much do you think these cost them? Now think about the amount of advertising and conversation that they get for free just by doing this. News stations, newspapers and independent websites jump on these stories and run with it. In fact, this magazine has featured some of these shops within these very pages.
So how do you get into these types of situations? Well, from my personal experience, the easiest way is to just visit your local chamber of commerce. As we opened our new locations, I met with the group to determine a good, local charity to support. We found one in Sleep in Heavenly Peace. They build beds for children who otherwise would not be able to get a new bed. There are branches in most of our markets, so feel free to reach out to them. Using your chamber of commerce will allow you to use their network of businesses and contacts to help get this information out into the community. They can coordinate news outlets and more, all you must do is ask.
Another route that you can take, in case you are not a member of a local Chamber of Commerce, is to pound the pavement. Talk to your customers. Cold call other businesses and ask who they are supporting, in case they want to work together on a project. Once you find some good options, work with your team and put together a package that can benefit you both. Think outside the box and be creative.
You do not need to hire an agency to help you if you have the time to do the work yourself. Many agencies are going to direct you to the big box charities that you see at every fast-food restaurant or grocery store. I do not have to name them because they are already running through your head. Be different.
Some advantages to working with a local charity organization can include free advertising by their website, radio ads, and more. You can also take advantage of using these donations as tax write-offs, and even get reimbursements on costs through your franchisee, if you have that option. Put together a special weekend where a portion of your proceeds go to the charity, give out a discount card for donating or set up a kids area for the day to drive in that business. If you do not want to spend those dollars on doing this, offer up your building. You can copycat the painting idea or have local artwork in your lobbies from local schools. You can set up a school system contest for entries. All these things take a little bit of your time but can pay dividends.
Now that you have made it to the end of my turn on the soapbox, how many of you have things spinning around in your head? Some of you will bypass these ideas and stick with whatever has been sent to you from a corporate office. A few of you will just decide that times are too tough to take a chance on something that is not a guaranteed home run.
But the ones who are still reading this and are looking at how the dollars make sense may just find that hitting a single for one day can lead to many runs in the future! Small ball can always beat the long ball if played right.