As a local franchise owner, you have the benefits of a strong, recognisable brand name behind you. Depending on your business, this could enhance credibility, awareness, company sourced leads, above the line marketing spend (or even a combination of all of these!) but as a local business, community engagement can really help take your business to the next level. It can help you build more meaningful relationships with potential customers and allows you to share your own personal business story that underpins your franchise.
But how does community engagement work? And how do you make the most of it?
Why would I?
Some local franchises use community engagement purely as a way to give back, with associated promotional branding being a secondary focus. This approach is more like a donation, with the added bonus of a little bit of exposure and the objective is really to give back in a more philanthropic and charitable way.
Other franchises have a more direct approach to community engagement, using it primarily as a selling or marketing tool. They do this to generate leads, increase sales, launch new products or services, or target new customers. Their sponsorship of the community group or event is designed to drive a return on investment just like any other marketing activity.
Both these strategies help the local community and both can be extremely beneficial for your franchise. They establish trust, help you to understand your local market and showcase that you are a local advocate of your community.
So, which is better?
If you are really passionate about a local cause and your objective is to give back, then there is nothing wrong with a donation. It can help boost your internal culture and let’s face it, there are so many causes that deserve our support.
But if you are responding to requests from community groups that you don’t have a particularly strong or authentic connection with and you think a donation is part of your marketing efforts, then we’d encourage you to take a more strategic approach.
Community Engagement as Local Area Marketing
Sponsorships are marketing activities and are quite different to donations. They are a commercial arrangement, and each party is responsible for their part. Often the community group is run by volunteers who are grateful and more than happy to help optimise your sponsorship, but they need some clear guidelines on what they should do. This should all be documented in your contact. From there you should be looking for ways you can connect with their membership base. Some ideas that you should be considering:
- Inclusion of a story in their newsletter
- Sharing of your social media posts
- Promoting you on their social media
- Advertising around the club or other location
- Placement on their website
- Sales material kept on site
Having tangible collateral such as promo items, flyers, or business cards that members can take home with them is an extremely effective way to further engage with members beyond the club, school or group. This keeps your franchise top of mind – and that is the goal.
Depending on your business type and the nature of your sponsorship, finding ways to extend the sponsorship to include face to face contact with members is recommended. We call this leveraging the sponsorship, and where possible, you should allocate a budget to these activities. This may include days where you can sample products with members, could be a referral style program where funds go back to the club if a member buys from you, or could just be extra presence on a particular day where you and your staff can meet members personally.
Finally, make sure you are sharing and promoting the activities of the community group you sponsor. Promotion is a two-way street, and most groups would love extra exposure to attract new members or promote their cause. You also get to showcase your support as you do this.
We know that planning and activating community engagement events or sponsorships can be complex, but that doesn’t change how valuable they can be. The Marketing Lab has a series of tools that can help you select and plan your community engagement activities yourself, including contract templates and suggested ideas to maximise your exposure and ROI from the event.
If you prefer more support, our team of marketing specialists can help you manage the entire process from end to end. We’ve managed hundreds of local community engagement pieces and are perfectly placed and experienced to help you identify the right club or community group for your business. We can also source promotional products and source staff for you event. Our national buying power with our media partners means we can help you strategically advertise your involvement in the local community.
For more info, please contact us on 07 3088 3021.
This article was written by TJ McKenzie.