Some of the local store marketing strategies that I have highlighted over the past year are designed to increase awareness and sales for your brand, others because it’s the right thing to do. Working with charities over a period of time enables you to give back to the communities in which you are located, in addition to creating a sales opportunity at the store level.
Developing a working relationship with influential, local charities in your trade area not only establishes your community commitment as a business owner, but can also provide an effective way to link to a sales-driving fundraiser at your store. By supporting a local charity, you can help these organizations achieve their goals of reaching those people who are attempting to experience the everyday joys that the rest of us take for granted.
The benefits of supporting a charity are manyfold:
- Provides an opportunity for your store to support a credible, respected organization
- Provides an opportunity for your store to give back to the community
- Creates goodwill among your customers
- Creates awareness for the charity and your retail store
- Builds employee morale by giving your employees another reason to feel proud of your store values
- Provides an opportunity to tie charity-fundraising to a vendor sales event at your store, such as “Buy X and we will donate a portion of sales to the local charity”
- Once funds are raised, it enables you to contact your local media for a check presentation photo opportunity at your store
Your charity strategy should be developed and committed to a local organization on a quarterly (or semiannual) cycle. This enables your store to build up enough awareness so that customers recognize the praiseworthy deeds you are accomplishing for the charity.
Create Linkage: Supporting a charity can take on many forms: you may decide to sell small items—such as selling shamrocks and stars to individual customers, and donating all proceeds to your selected charity—or you may decide that your store make a monetary donation based on sales for a preset time period. Your relationship with a charitable organization can take many forms–monetary contributions, volunteering, co-sponsorships or a combination of all three.
Put Together A Plan: Contact local charities or cause-related organizations within your 3-mile trade area. Set up meetings to better understand their goals and align your store with the most appropriate cause. Develop ways to raise funds with your selected charity that may include: 1) when a customer buys a retail item, donate 50 cents of sales to the charity during a set time period; 2) on-counter canisters to help raise awareness and generate funds from customer donations; and 3) donate sales of charity markers (i.e. like shamrocks) that can be purchased for $1 or $5 and posted on store walls.
Maximize Your Efforts: It is important to maximize media exposure regarding your store’s charity fundraiser, in addition to raising charity funds. Regardless of how your store supports your charity, a news announcement regarding it should be prepared and distributed to the local media. Once the event is complete, schedule a media event to have the local newspapers come to your store for a photo opportunity of your check presentation to the charitable group. Your goal is to create a recognizable connection between your store and the charity in order to propel your status in the community in which you serve.
Do What’s Right: While this may not translate into a huge sales windfall, it does cast your store as a solid corporate citizen in the eyes of your customers. In addition, if your local newspaper runs a photo or story on your check presentation, you have an excellent chance of reducing advertising cost since you’re receiving free news coverage and publicity. The community will give you ample kudos for your involvement.
Keep Momentum: In addition to holding an annual charity event at your store, consider other events–such as 5K charitable races–that create awareness of your commitment outside of your store and that generate incremental sales opportunities. These incremental events can dovetail nicely with your 3-mile marketing strategy and overall brand awareness campaigns.
John Matthews is the founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises, Inc., a strategic planning and marketing services firm that specializes in helping businesses grow in the restaurant, convenience and general retail industries. With more than 20 years of senior-level experience in retail and a speaker at retail-group events throughout the U.S., Matthews has recently written two step-by-step manuals, Local Store Marketing Manual for Retailers and Grand Opening Manual for Retailers, which are available at www.graycatenterprises.com.