The Local Advantage

You can learn a lot by watching what major national and multinational companies are doing.

While they execute their strategies on a national level, you can take some of their already tested ideas, tweak them, and put your local spin on them.

The CEOs of large corporations authorize huge research budgets in search of the emotional touch points that will win them favor with their customers.

For example, virtually all of the Fortune 500 companies today have a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) program to win the hearts of their prospects and give them a competitive advantage. CSR can include everything from reducing your carbon footprint to avoiding selling products made in sweatshops and supporting national causes, to the benefit packages they offer their employees.

You can bet that if CSR is in the sights of these CEOs, they aren’t suddenly becoming responsible out of the goodness of their hearts. Their research has indicated a shift in how consumers define value in the businesses they patronize.

But locally owned and operated businesses have a huge advantage in the CSR arena.  Consumers that have grown skeptical of big business, expect and demand three key attributes before they will trust CSR efforts:

1.) Transparency. It’s no longer good enough to say, “We support the Heart Fund” while cutting the benefits of their employees. Consumers expect a sincere effort to be a good corporate citizen on every front.

2.) Measurement.  It’s no longer effective to claim “a portion of every sale will be donated to the Big Brothers”….consumers demand to know exactly what portion or how much will go to the charity.

3.) Impact. Here is where local businesses have the advantage. While a global marketer has to be generic and promote global issues, local businesses can identify and quantify the measurable local impact. People can’t always relate to the number of children suffering from malnutrition nationally, but they can relate to the homeless children in your community.

Big businesses have to claim to feed the world while you can connect with your customers emotionally by simply feeding one local child every day.

If you’ve been watching what the large corporations are doing, there is no doubt they believe that CSR has to be an ingredient in their business plan. If you want to beat them at their own game, keep reading for our 12 Corporate Social Responsibility Tactics to Win Your Customers’ Hearts.

1.) Be sincere! Choose a cause or initiative that you personally are passionate about, and don’t always attach a sale or event to your campaign. Educational awareness campaigns and heartfelt stories about what you or an organization has achieved in your community will create a stronger emotional connection, tying every donation to a sale.

2.) Be relevant. If your customers are young families, you might want to support the Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts. If your customers are women, you might raise money for breast cancer research, or for males, you might sponsor an educational awareness program for prostate cancer.

3.) Bring It Home! People can’t relate to the national debt being ‘X’ trillion dollars. But when they understand that debt translates to $11,000 for every man, woman, and child in the country, it hits home. Promote a small measurable target, like helping 10 victims in a local women’s shelter.

4.) Focus. Choose one CSR initiative to launch and maintain rather than biting off more than you can chew or confusing your customers by doing a little bit everywhere, but nothing significant anywhere.

5.) Involve your Staff. Get your staff involved in fundraisers and promoting your cause. People who work for CSR companies; that is socially responsible companies, are more motivated. Your staff will be more loyal if they are working for a bigger cause than just their paychecks.

6.) Lighten Up. Your prospects don’t want to be preached to about your good corporate citizenship. Lighten up and have fun. Maybe run a dunk tank for local celebrities to raise funds for your cause, or organize a duck race.

7.) Respect Your Customers. Your customers may already have given to your cause or may heavily support another cause. Never make them uncomfortable by having to say “no” because you have asked them for a donation. Make it easy to donate, but never pressure customers for a donation.

8.)  Think beyond advertising. Send media releases to rally support behind your cause, have visual support in your business, and get out into the community and speak about your efforts and cause.

9.)   Advertise. Marketers are always looking for ways to make their advertising stand out. Your ads will stand out if you promote a cause while everyone else is promoting “buy me” or “offer ends today”.

10.) Use Technology. Appoint someone on staff to be the steward of your CSR campaign on social media, and update your contributions or efforts consistently on your website.

11.) Tell a Story. CSR is not measured on facts and figures alone. Tell true heart-warming stories about your local impact in press releases, social media, your website, and in your advertising.

12.) Smell the Roses. When no one is looking, take time to review and thank yourself, and feel good about what you do in your community. Giving back to the community you profit from can be a huge motivator for you too!