I've learned a great many things coming up in the nonprofit world, but one of the most valuable lessons I learned was this; a successful business, the kind that has the legs to live on through trends and economic changes, is one that plants its roots into the community like a great oak. I'm not talking about planting roots in a brick-and-mortar location, I'm referring to establishing partnerships deep and wide with a diverse array of businesses, groups, and organizations.
Exactly what is a community partner? A community partner is a business, organization, or group in your community that you collaborate with on projects, programs, or events and provide some type of mutual benefit. Before you start seeing dollar signs and the sounds of your marketing budget dwindling down, community partnerships are typically low-cost or no-cost to both parties involved, but increase exposure, and community support for both members of the partnership.
A great example of this principle in-action is the most-recent donation drive I worked to coordinate with United Housing Connections. As we partnered with Starbucks on Fairview, the Starbucks location received a higher volume of customers during the drive, positive community perception, and we were able to use their established customer base to reach a segment of the community we hadn't previously been able to reach through organic marketing.
Think of utilizing community partnerships as a real-life actualization of the Facebook algorithm which gives exposure based on relevance. When a post receives engagement from its community, Facebook moves it to the top of the feed because it is now classified as relevant to Facebook's users. The same applies to community partnerships. If you want to increase the exposure of your business or organization in your community, establishing community partnerships gets you in front of more eyes, to a wider audience, and establish the highest currency in marketing: relevancy.
Who should you work with? Begin by researching the customer base you want to access, but have been locked out of. Who has their ears and their business? Those are the people you want to work with. The next step in the selection process is crucial: work with organizations, businesses, or groups that believe and align with your mission. No matter their audience, never compromise the integrity of your organization by working with a partner you don't align with. The final step in rounding out your community partner portfolio is to insure diverse partnerships to hit different audiences and send your roots as wide into the community as possible.
How do you steward these relationships? In my opinion, the best thing about establishing a strong network of community partnerships is their usual willingness to support the organization I'm working with long after the event or program is over. When I'm promoting a campaign for my clients, the first thing I do is reach out to our list of community partners and ask, will you put this in your newsletter? Would you share it on your social media? And the relationship goes both ways. I always make sure to follow-up with our partners to see how business is going, if there is anything we can help with, and stay connected with my contacts to offer value and steward the relationship.
Community partnership are almost always part of my marketing strategies for nonprofit and for-profit clients. They are low-cost, high-impact, organic means of getting great results, benefiting the community, and establishing a high market share in the community for my clients.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Make sure to check out the other helpful posts on the Taylor Brand Consulting blog. If you're needing a little more help making sure your roots run deep in community partnerships, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a conversation about your business.