I attended a breakfast seminar on leadership not long ago and one of the great messages I heard was this: When in doubt, act!
In the current economic climate, it would be very easy for small-business owners to fall into the fear and doubt that leads to inaction; but that is not for us. As business owners, we are leaders. And as leaders, we must act. We must move forward with a vision of success; and we’ve got to bring our employees, our management team and our community with us.
The ‘sweet spot’
But, how? We all want to achieve brand loyalty, but there is a level above brand loyalty that some people in the marketing business call “the sweet spot.” To reach the level of “the sweet spot” with your customers, you must connect with them on a positive emotional level.
Think about this in terms of promoting your business in your local marketplace right now. How can you connect with the community on that emotional level and engage the people there as advocates without spending a bundle? You must first take a look around and see what kind of good you can do for your community, and then get involved. How to do this? Consider what might be happening right now in your community:
- Has someone lost a home in a fire?
- Is the regional food bank having a hard time meeting the needs of the hungry?
- Does the local children’s hospital need books and toys for the patients?
- Does the local animal shelter need food and supplies for the hundreds of animals displaced due to the housing crisis?
- Brainstorm with your team and get their input. What is everyone passionate about? What opportunity to make a difference is directly related to your own core values and beliefs? Where is the most urgent need?
A concrete example
For example, you want to host an open house and you have decided it will benefit the local food bank. Great! First, make plans to offer a goodie bag that will contain valuable information on your business and some type of a special offer like a coupon for a discount toward products or services that will bring people back. Promote this goodie bag as a free gift to anyone who attends the open house and brings a donation for the food bank.
Next, reach out to other non-competitive business owners in your local Chamber of Commerce and invite them to be involved in your effort. Need fliers printed? Contact one of the copy service providers in the Chamber and ask if he or she would be willing to sponsor the printing in exchange for being listed as a sponsor.
Contact the local, small catering business or bakery, the florist and the party supplies business nearby. Invite them to participate as event sponsors by donating their wares also in exchange for being listed as an event sponsor. Then, invite your sponsors to donate something of value to the goodie bag.
After you’ve secured your group, create a news brief that includes the date, time, location, participants and sponsors along with a list of the food items most urgently needed by the food bank, and send it to your local newspaper editors about four weeks before the event. Ask them to kindly include this information in the community calendar or events section of the paper. Then send it to everyone who is participating in the event, including the food bank. Re-purpose this information for the fliers. Start distributing the fliers several weeks before the event and ask all of the participants to do the same. Post the information on your website and ask others to do the same. Send out an invitation via e-mail and ask folks to forward the e-mail. And, if you’re social media savvy, post the event info in all those places, too.
Now you’ve connected, brand yourself
When you integrate this element of helping others into the plan, you know what happens? People want to support you, they want to be involved, they want to bring their friends and they want to tell others. By reaching out to other small-business owners, you open the door for opportunities to work with them again in the future, as well as opportunities to support each other through mutual referrals. You promote your business in a very special way and gain exposure that you could not buy for any price — all for a tiny financial investment. Guess what else? You are connecting with the community on an emotional level.
So, if you want to be a leader, be a doer. Do some good, for goodness sake. When you do, everyone wins. And that’s the sweet spot in my book.