From the August, 19 2018 Knoxville News-Sentinel
Depending upon the particular marketplace that your company operates in, it is tempting to narrow your communications focus to only those customers and prospects that you already know you should be talking to. Most companies have a defined “hit list” that is based on some combination of their historically best customers, potential new customers who fit their tried and true profile, and perhaps prospects resulting from some type of ongoing market research and marketing outreach.
It is tempting to just “hunker down” and play a purely tactical game, using industry trade shows and advertising, targeted digital channels and direct sales calls as your total marketing game plan. However, this narrowly focused plan leaves out the critical role that a community outreach and overall awareness-building strategy can play for your company – no matter what industry you are operating in.
Obviously, community relations is more important for some types of businesses than it is for others. Frequently, companies with a national customer base do not see as much value in creating and maintaining a local corporate profile. However, by taking this view, they miss out on opportunities to meet, interact with and ultimately influence a broad base of business and community leaders who no doubt have connections with people all over the country and/or all over the world.
The power of “who you know” should never be underestimated. There may be someone with connections that could benefit your business who is sitting right next to you at your child’s baseball game or soccer match, at a charity fund-raising event, or at a neighborhood picnic. So, it is important to always have your business cards handy and to have a well-rehearsed “elevator speech” when asked what you do.
People do business with and refer business to people they know, like and respect, and you never know when and where you might encounter someone who has connections within your industry or who knows someone in a decision-making position in a company you’d like to do business with (you’ve heard of the “six degrees of separation,” right?).
Taking it a step further, there are very few companies that wouldn’t benefit from having a defined community relations and outreach plan. Demonstrating an interest in and a commitment to the communities in which they are located or headquartered says positive things about you to your customers, your partners and your internal team members in terms of the kind of company you are and what you value.
I believe that “community connectedness” in its broadest sense refers to how smart businesses connect with all their various “communities” – their customer/prospect community, their employee community, the community in which they are physically located, and even their “philosophical community” (people with shared values and interests no matter who or where they may be). One of your business differentiators can be the degree to which you are aware of, nurture and communicate with all your communities of importance.
So, don’t forget to allocate some of your marketing resources to generating goodwill and good word-of-mouth throughout all of the varied relationships that touch you and your business. Think broadly, not narrowly, in terms of the value of connections and community commitment.
Cathy Ackermann, founder and president of Ackermann Marketing and PR, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org