What do the people in your community really care about? Except for your mom, the odds are that not many will name their friendly neighborhood air conditioning company. People care about their families, their neighbors, their charities, and their causes. This is an opportunity for you to associate your brand with the things people care about in your community. It is a local opportunity — one the big boxes and dot-coms cannot match. Here are 12 ways to build your company by supporting your community.
You might wonder why you should support a charity or cause in the first place. After all, it’s the role of an individual to be charitable and the responsibility of a company to be profitable. Nevertheless, when your company supports a charity in such a way that it benefits your business, everyone wins. The charity wins by getting badly needed support. The customer wins because a cause or charity they care about receives additional support when they choose to do business with you. The company wins by gaining additional business at an acceptable cost and building brand equity.
1. AFFINITY MARKETING
One of the most basic forms of charitable support is affinity marketing. This is a marketing method created through partnerships between compatible brands or organizations. For example, you can approach the local PTA and present coupons that will get passed out to students to take home to their parents. When the parents present the coupons to you for a tune-up or repair, a donation is made to the PTA. The class that has the most coupons turned in gets a pizza party or other celebration.
Another example of affinity marketing is to contact a neighborhood homeowners association (HOA). The HOA promotes your company to its residents. Whenever you perform work inside the neighborhood, you make a small $10 or $20 donation to the HOA.
2. PINK TRUCKS
In his prior company, Sunny Service owner Ben Stark wrapped one of his trucks pink with the Susan G. Komen foundation logo and a note that a percentage of the profits were donated to the Komen foundation. Ben’s agreement was to donate a small percentage of the profits from the pink truck. It cost Ben very little and generated enormous goodwill, publicity, and sales. Once Ben shared his results on the Service Roundtable, contractors from coast to coast introduced their own pink trucks.
3. VOTE FOR YOUR CHARITY
Dave Squires from Online-Access Inc. came up with the idea to use a money giveaway to generate social media buzz. The contractor selects three disparate charities that have social media pages and followings and arranges with the charities’ executive directors for their participation. Over a two-month period, people register by email and confirm by text to vote for their preferred charity. The winning charity receives $1,000, second place gets $500, and third gets $250 to keep everyone engaged.
When a supporter registers, they receive an email from the executive director of the charity, thanking them for the support and encouraging them to check out the contractor and the accompanying coupon for the contractor’s business. The charity is marketing for the contractor.
There’s more to it, of course. You can learn more at hvacwebsites.com/helpingoutlocally.
4. SANCTUARY AGREEMENT
Sanctuary agreements are a form of affinity marketing. A church offers a service agreement with the contractor. For each service agreement sold, the contractor makes a small donation to the church. The key is that the pastor has to promote it. Many contractors are hesitant about sanctuary agreements, but churches run business promotions all the time that result in money for the general fund, choir, youth, and so on.
5. Heat the Town
There are various forms of “heat the town” promotions. Some involve several contractors (usually under the direction of a local trade association) who team up with distributors to offer free furnace installations to people in financial straits. This can also be done by a single company, though not on the same scale. This promotion requires cooperation of a local media outlet. Pay for TV or radio airtime, if necessary.
As a local business, every contractor is approached by people looking for money. In Panama City, Florida, when people would ask Robert Wilkos to sponsor a sports team, he would ask them for a list of team parents who were also his customers. Hint given. Hint received. The coaches of youth sports teams started promoting Robert’s company to team parents.
Some contractors offer blocks of small scholarships to graduating seniors at a local high school, provided the scholarships are announced. Think of the graduation ceremony when the seniors are announced and a number of them are recipients of scholarships in the local contractor’s company name. No one mentions the amount, which can be as small as $50 or $100.
An adopt-a-spot program means taking around a half hour to police a strip of public land and pick up trash once a month. It can be done as a team-building exercise with employees wearing logoed T-shirts or safety vests. It is important, too, for the town or company to put up visible signage acknowledging the company’s contribution.
9. FOOD DRIVES
Food banks have an unending need, especially after the holidays. Give customers discounts of a dollar for each can or box of dry food donated at the time of a service call. Collect them in the service trucks. When enough are amassed, make a show of delivering them to a local food pantry. Call the local media. Take pictures of technicians unloading boxes of food, with your truck and logo visible in the background. Use these on your website, in social media, and share with the people who made the food donations. Ask the food bank to share the pictures on its social media.
10. Watch the News
Make a point of watching the local news stations. Look for opportunities to step in and help a local citizen in need. Ideally, you want to help people with heating or air conditioning problems, but you are not limited. You can usually find a way to help anyone in need. Reach out to the news station, noting the story and time it was run. Propose how you would like to help. More than likely, the news media will give you recognition without the need for you to ask for it.
11. BOY SCOUT POLICY
Encourage everyone on your team to do a good deed for someone every day. This could be a customer, coworker, or someone in the community. It could be as simple as offering to take out the trash for a senior customer. Hunter Supertechs in southern Oklahoma has generated incredible publicity by allowing technicians to assist stranded motorists. This can be a challenge for the dispatcher to juggle calls if the assistance takes more than a few minutes, but it often results in viral social media gold.
12. LIST YOUR CHARITIES
Your company supports charities. You, as an individual, support others. Your team has charities they support individually. Identify them and list them on your website and in your collateral as charities supported by your company’s team. After all, no one would be able to support their personal charities without the paycheck provided by the company.
There is nothing mercenary or untoward in choosing to support charities and causes in ways that will help your business. Without the business, there would be no money to support anyone. The key is to construct win-win scenarios where both company and cause come out ahead. Pick something that appeals to you, and execute it well.
For a wealth of marketing ideas and predesigned marketing collateral, such as a sanctuary agreement that is designed and ready to use, contact the Service Roundtable at 877.262.3341 or visit serviceroundtable.com.
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