Small business owners are ambitious, innovative and determined. They’ll do whatever it takes to keep their businesses afloat. They expertly juggle many hats, from hiring staff and making payroll to billing and filing taxes to marketing and providing quality customer service.
The impact from COVID-19 added additional challenges in 2020, causing businesses – both large and small – to pivot and adapt. Some have taken their business outside, others have implemented strict safety and cleaning protocols, while others have switched to online formats. One thing all small businesses have in common is their resilience. Another commonality is their determination when it comes to doing good and giving back to their community.
If we’ve learned anything from living through an extraordinary 2020, it’s to remember that with hope there is possibility. For many small business owners, this requires big changes – and realizing opportunities for change means taking action.
Read on to find out how authentically and transparently sharing the good your business does in the community, a.k.a. community story, can have a big impact in your marketing efforts. You will also find tips to enhance your marketing by expanding your online presence, attracting and retaining customers and differentiating yourself from your competition.
Expanding Your Online Visibility
Studies show that those placing more emphasis on marketing and technology have a better survival rate. Now, more than ever, potential customers are shopping online and using social media as a means of entertainment. In fact, a small business survey conducted by Bluehost found that 69% of small business owners recognized the importance of enhancing their online presence during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, more than 50% of business owners surveyed reported an increase in website traffic since the beginning of quarantining.
The solution involves not only adapting your business strategies to focus on your online presence, but also ensuring your content is unique, visible, relevant and authentic.
In short: Tell your community story including all the ways you give back and how you care about your community. Let everyone know about the good your business and your employees do for local causes and charities. Make known your business’ values – what you do, why it matters, how you do it and the impact it has.
“Giving is an expression of values and small business owners work to build their entire lives around their values,” notes Christopher Andrus, Co-Owner of The Mitten Brewing Company and author of Dough Nation: How Pizza (and Small Businesses) Can Change the World. “Ultimately, giving is our business. They (customers) sustain us a higher price points and lower efficiencies that our larger and more convenient competitors, so we sustain them by giving more. More depth, more meaning, more satisfaction, and more community value.”
Sharing your story doesn’t just provide awareness about a charity or cause your business cares about, it also helps expand your network and create personal connections with potential customers.
How Can seedership Help?
seedership provides a digital platform that helps your business track, aggregate and grow your community story. Using our solution doesn’t take long. Within minutes you can create a professionally designed kindness profile with creative content you can link to your website, share across the social media platforms you use to engage with your customers, or use for email marketing.
The seedership platform is intuitive and user friendly, eliminating the need for IT support or maintenance. It’s also affordable, starting at just $25 to $40 per month, depending on your commitment.
Attracting and Retaining Customers
All businesses, from Fortune 500 to mom-and-pop stores, struggle with finding customers. In the Bluehost small business survey, 44% of participants cited securing new customers as a top concern for 2021.
Small businesses need to not only attract new customers – they need to keep them. A Wells Fargo Survey found that when trying to build their customer base, the biggest challenges for business owners included finding and retaining new customers, creating the right combination of advertising and marketing, and handling competition for customers (which is where differentiation is key).
Customers prefer to spend their money on businesses that support issues they care about – and many want their purchases to contribute to a positive impact. They also want their everyday purchases to go beyond just getting a product or service. They want to know they’re making a difference too.
A Cone/Porter Novelli Purpose Study reported that 88% of Americans would buy a product from a purpose-driven company and many would try a new product line or even pay more. Cone Communications also found that 85% of consumers have a more positive image of businesses that give to charities, and 90% want to know how companies support charitable causes. And, according to another Cone Communications study, 90% of customers would switch brands to ones associated with social or environmental cause.
These studies affirm that publicly sharing the causes your business is committed to helps set you apart from your competition. It showcases your authenticity, helps you deepen and expand customer relationships and inspires customer loyalty.
Know that doing good doesn’t always mean giving to charities or nonprofits. It also means doing good in your community and being a good neighbor. Potential customers want to support local businesses who share their values and concerns. They care about how they’re spending their money and that it supports a particular cause.
Your business has value in your community beyond just selling a product or service. You can serve as a platform uniting your community around a cause, like Lucky Miller’s Deli & Market did when the Zogg Fire hit their area and they coordinated a collection drive for evacuees.
“Small businesses are the intersection where our humanity meets the marketplace,” underscores Dough Nation author Christopher Andrus. And customers are willing and eager to be a part of something that makes a meaningful difference in others’ lives.
How Can seedership Help?
The seedership storytelling platform helps you organize and showcase all the good your business does in one centralized location that serves as your kindness profile. With your profile, you can easily share, invite others to explore and celebrate your community impact stories on your website and social media platforms.
The platform creates visibility and transparency around the local causes and charities that you give your time, energy and resources. Automated infographics summarize your monthly community achievements. Over time, these acts of kindness amount to a large and positive impact and demonstrate your community commitment.
Differentiating Your Business
Digital marketing is an essential tool for reaching and engaging with new audiences. Customers are online now more than ever. They’re using websites and social media to compare and contrast businesses – and they are bombarded with an abundance of content.
Free social media platforms create stiff competition for customers’ attention. What’s more, a CBS News story noted that from the 1970s to today, we’ve gone from being exposed to about 500 ads a day to as many as 5,000 ads a day. How can your business possibly compete with all the information overload and overstimulation?
Again, this is where authenticity is key. This is also where small businesses often have the upper hand because they live and work in the same communities as their customers. This helps make their community story more genuine because it’s based on personal relationships and deeply rooted connections.
In a Stackla survey, 90% of consumers said authenticity is important when deciding which brands they like and support. Being open about the causes your business supports, why they matter to you and demonstrating consistent commitment to supporting them, helps set you apart from your competition and forge emotional connections with your customers. It’s about showing your community that you genuinely care and are invested in its future.
How Can seedership Help?
It’s wonderful that so many companies give back and perform acts of good. How can your business differentiate its giving efforts? seedership helps you build a community story that enables your business to be transparent about its acts of kindness. With the seedership platform, your community can connect with your business and see exactly who, what, how and why you’re supporting the causes you do. They can see your progress and examine the stories behind your contributions and appreciate the impact your business is making.
seedership’s Total Kindness Impact Score summarizes all the good ways your business has given back. The Kindness Dashboard visualizes all your giving, making it easy to see your total investment in your community.
Emphasize Doing Good as Part of Your Marketing Efforts
Most small businesses’ marketing goals – expanding their online presence, attracting and retaining customers, and differentiating themselves from the competition – benefit from giving back to their communities.
“There is a common misconception that for charitable giving to be authentic, it must be done solely altruistically without benefit to the business,” said Jennifer Smithberger, seedership co-founder. “That mindset puts the mutual benefits to the community and your business at odds with one another. As a result, giving often takes a back seat, is practiced reactively or when resources and time are available. However, when giving is part of how the business differentiates and generates growth, it instills purpose into the team.”
When a small business gives back it serves as an investment in the community, yet it can also be an investment in itself. Align these two goals so that as the business grows, what you give back can also grow. By taking a profit and purpose approach, giving back can become a more sustainable, year-round effort that is embedded in the company’s identity and enjoys active participation among its employees, customers and partners.