“There is incredible value in being of service to others.” Elizabeth Berg
Even if you’re new to the idea of “branding” your practice and seeking name-recognition in the marketplace, both online and offline, it’s likely that you already understand how important good advertising and marketing is to your overall success. What you may not know is that there’s an easy way to gain brand recognition and establish a solid customer base with a very little cost to you: volunteering. This time of year is perfect for thinking about the meaningful ways you and your team can volunteer in the upcoming holiday season.
The advantages of regularly giving back to your community go beyond those they directly benefit. By inspiring confidence and trust in your brand, you create something called the halo effect. This psychological term describes how our first or most powerful impression of someone goes on to influence how we judge and evaluate them later, even if it’s long after that original impression. Essentially, this means that a person’s overall impression of your brand – “Look at this company volunteering in the community!” – will impact their evaluation of your brand’s specific traits – “They must also be trustworthy/giving/honorable.” By harnessing this halo effect effectively, you can earn loyalty and trust before clients ever even walk through your door!
Volunteering in your community and getting involved on a local level shifts cognitive bias in your favor. The first impression of your brand for many people will be that you and your team care about the community and aren’t afraid to get your hands “dirty” to help those who need it. It also signals that your brand cares about more than just making a profit. This can be a powerful first impression, and one that will reverberate the more involved you become. Here at Neon Canvas, we want to help you put this halo effect into motion successfully. Here are a few ways you can begin to build trust in your brand by being a leader in your community.
Find a way to link up your brand and your volunteer opportunities
The best way to make your volunteering truly meaningful and reach your target audience at the same time is to identify a need in your community that meshes with your brand’s service, products, and mission statement.
For an orthodontist, this may look like partnering with an established charity such as Smiles Change Lives to provide access to orthodontic care for children who qualify in your community. There are many similar programs for almost every profession, or you may prefer to set up your own scholarship or reduced rates for families in need. Something as simple as speaking to children in local schools about the importance of dental hygiene, for example, can have an impact on both brand recognition and improved oral health outcomes in your community.
There are so many ways that this idea can be explored that the opportunities are almost limitless. Assess the needs of your community and be creative! By marketing your services and skills to those who will appreciate them most, you’ll be able to build a reputation as an expert in your field and a business owner who cares enough to give back to the community.
Decide which causes your brand will support
Once you’ve found the right volunteer opportunities for your business, take some time to sit down and figure out the types of causes you will want to support, and those you want to avoid. Some brands who are seeking to broaden their customer base may want to choose causes that are not linked to specific religions or those that fall on one end of the political spectrum or another. For others, partnering with a local church or political organization can be a reflection of personal beliefs that are integral to their brand. This will obviously vary from person to person and brand to brand. Whatever causes you to choose to back, remember that authenticity is the most important way of connecting with your target audience. Be passionate about the ways you choose to serve your community!
Get your team involved
Whether you have a small group of employees or a large group spread out over several offices, you can use volunteering as an opportunity for team building as well as serving the community. Some charities or groups even offer team building exercises as part of their overall experience! You may also consider company-sponsored volunteer days, where employees are given a day off work in order to partner with the charitable organization of their choice. This is a great way to build morale in the office, and many companies have found that offering annual volunteer opportunities in this way contributes to a more positive working environment that lasts throughout the year.
Be a reliable volunteer partner
Always remember that the marketing value of any company’s volunteer activities is based on building trust and loyalty to your brand. Few things can cause that to backfire more quickly than being unreliable. View any charitable activity as an extension of your office by being as reliable and trustworthy as you would be for your established clients. Show up when you say you’re going to, engage fully while you are there, and follow through on any promises you make. These simple considerations will show a commitment to your community that can have long-reaching positive results for you and your brand.
It’s always helpful to have a starting point for new adventures. You may be enthusiastic about reaching out within your community, but unsure of where, or how, to begin. We have several suggestions for volunteer activities that you can customize for your brand based on your own interests, talents, and location.
- Sponsor a community youth sports team for excellent local advertising.
- Hold a bake sale and have your staff, family, and friends contribute cakes, cookies, and pies. Donate the profits to your favorite local charity or organization.
- Organize a small community auction for the organization or charity of your choice, including items like gift baskets from local businesses, gift certificates, a weekend getaway at a local bed and breakfast, spa days, antiques, furniture, or vouchers for local lessons.
- Get a team together for a cause like Relay for Life or Race for the Cure, but don’t forget local causes! Many smaller organizations rely on big events like 5K races and walks to keep them going. Have your team dress in matching outfits or shirts to build on the bonding experience.
- Get involved in a local cleanup, or organize your own! Have your team grab a big box of trash bags, and hit nearby waterways, empty lots, beaches, or parks to have them looking as good as new in no time at all.
- Host a backpack drive for kids going back to school, a coat drive for families when the weather starts getting cooler, or a food-packaging event for families who could use a little extra support throughout the year. You’ll often be able to partner with local schools, charities, or churches on this for maximum exposure and participation.
Participating in volunteer programs or creating opportunities for your team to engage in charitable activities is a highly effective way to build trust and visibility for your brand while making a difference in your community. At Neon Canvas, our team is experienced in coming up with creative ways for you to add market value to your volunteering. Our mission is to give your brand the boost it needs to become a recognizable, trusted name in your community. We appreciate you and your business, and are excited to explore new volunteer opportunities with you in the coming months!
Kyle Fagala, DDS, MDS
Co-Founder, Neon Canvas