Civic Duties

You don't have to be a Ben or Jerry to capitalize on community outreach. In fact, "civic marketing" can serve as a low-cost, high-impact marketing tool for almost any business.

Take Boston pawnshop Empire Loans, for example. Owner Michael Goldstein contributes to a variety of causes, including a nearby homeless shelter, a shelter for battered women and a local performing arts school.

Goldstein's motives are sincerely altruistic--and savvy. "Doing our part makes us a good neighbor and helps our image in the community," he says.

Concord, Massachusetts, marketing coach Nancy Michaels says that civic marketing can offer a host of benefits, including:

  • raising community awareness of your business
  • building customer and employee loyalty
  • differentiating your business from competitors
  • positioning your business as a leader

All this for minimum expense. "In fact," says Michaels, "you can donate your time or resources, or pay employees to volunteer on community-oriented projects, without involving [much] money at all."

To maximize your efforts, Michaels recommends selecting causes carefully. "Look for [causes] that are meaningful to your target market." Leverage your involvement with press coverage, promotional signs or in-store displays.

If your business doesn't draw from a geographical community, make a splash in your industry. New York City entrepreneur Terri Edelman, owner of advertising, marketing and design firm The Edelman Group, sponsors a $3,000 scholarship for students of her former high school who wish to study advertising and design.

Not only did Edelman win recognition in the trade publications read by her clients, but she strengthened key client relationships by asking clients to participate in the judging.

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This article was originally published in the November 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Civic Duties.

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