Some companies are intrinsically linked to the town in which they’re based. Apple and Cupertino, California. Coca Cola and Atlanta. Ford and Detroit.
Other companies, like New Belgium Brewing company in Fort Collins, Colorado and Starbucks in Seattle, started small as local mom and pop operations and quickly became community staples before climbing their way into the national spotlight.
In the digital age, it’s easy to get stuck behind your computer screen all day, forgetting that there’s an entire untapped market surrounding you right there in your backyard. But it’s important to remember—especially when you’re starting a new business—local support can be a lifeline that gets you through those tough first few years.
So how do you harness the power of the community you live in? Here are a few ideas.
Mention Your City As Often As You Mention Your Business
It’s easy to assume that if people want to know where you’re based, they’ll ask. But it’s simply not the case (nor is it something most consumers think about!).
Instead of waiting for customers to investigate where you’re located, shout it from the rooftops.
One brand that does a great job of this is the ridiculously addictive ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s. All it takes is a glance at one of their frozen treat containers to see they’re from Vermont and proud of it.
In a short blurb on the side of their ice cream carton they explain how they use family farmers to supply their milk. For some flavors, they give a portion of the proceeds from the sale of each container back to local causes.
Make mentioning where you’re from a habit. Include your city prominently on your website and packaging. You might even consider including it in your logo, for example a line at the bottom that reads ‘proudly made in Boston’ or wherever is home for you.
Get Involved In Events
Want locals to know and love you? Then get out there and be part of things!
Each town has its set of business owners that form the backbone of the community. They sponsor the little league team. They have a booth at fairs and festivals. When it’s time to step up on an important civic matter, they show up at city council to speak for the local business sector.
And guess what—when it comes to shopping local, those are the people who get the business because they’re known and trusted in the community. It’s a lot easier to choose Bob’s Hardware over Home Depot when Bob is an actual familiar face.
Do Good In Your Backyard
At the end of the day, you’re in business to make a profit. But if you want the love and trust of your local community, you should be using some of that money to make a difference.
It’s great to use your business to support any charitable cause, but why not choose one that’s in your own backyard where you can see and feel the impact?
One of the most meaningful ways to make a difference is to form a long-term partnership with a cause you care about.
For example, one of my former employers held a build day with the local Habitat for Humanity Chapter twice a year. Not only did it become a fun out-of-work gathering employees looked forward to, but it was so touching to meet the families whose homes we helped build.
We’d later see those same families around town and stop to catch up. They—and the other volunteers we’d gotten to know—were more than just passing faces in the crowd. What a meaningful way to make a connection with your neighbors!
Don’t Forget Your Roots
If you’re lucky enough to have a business that takes off, don’t forget where you came from. Just as some of the companies we’ve mentioned above have done, you can still maintain a strong tie to your roots even as your enterprise takes flight.
Jimmy Buffett is one celebrity—or brand, as it were—who has done a great job of remembering his roots even as he reached international fame.
After the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill wreaked havoc on Gulf Coast beaches, Buffett held a free benefit concert in his native South Alabama to help raise funds for the cleanup. He also participated heavily in Hurricane Katrina relief fundraising.
Remember—one of the keys to building a brand that lasts is forging a meaningful connection with your customers, and there’s no better place to begin doing that that in your own hometown. By tapping into your local community, you’ll foster support (and valuable revenue) that can help propel your business to a national stage.
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