Marketing and Your Community-Business Partnership Part 1 –
Marketing is a key component to not only helping your community
business partnership to be a success, but to also make sure the right
people know about the partnership successes.
Marketing a partnership is in many ways about marketing the "cause" - in this case, the partnership – so that people are aware of it and the benefits it produces for your business or community group, as well as the wider community itself.
According to UK website Business in the Community, Cause Related Marketing is defined as:
"When a company with a product, image or service to market, builds a relationship or partnership with a cause or not for profit organisation for mutual benefit."
The reason behind the marketing of your partnership is simple: the more people who know about your community business partnership – what it does, its successes and any news that might come from it - the greater the benefits for the community group and the business involved; not to mention the wider community.
The General Resources section of the Community Business Partnership Brokerage Service at the Our Community website contains a number of Help Sheets on how your partnership can get its message out into the media.
However, while the media can play a big role in your partnership's marketing strategy, it is not the only way to market your partnership – there's much more to marketing than just getting your picture in the paper or your name in a headline. There are plenty of easy and common sense ways your partnership can be effectively marketed which don't rely on the media.
Why Should You Market your Partnership?There are a number of reasons why a partnership should market itself – these are just some of them:
- Marketing of the partnership creates greater awareness of the community group and business in new markets.
- It has the potential to attract new customers, clients, or even employees for the business, as well as new volunteers or members for the community group from the business, associated clients or the general public. It sends a positive message to the public for both business and community group.
- For the business, it is perceived to be community minded, involved in the community and genuinely caring about issues beyond their office front door – in other words, they display a social conscience, also known as "corporate social responsibility".
- Through marketing, a community group can further emphasise its association with its business partner.
- This can show it as an active and vibrant group which is willing to explore new ideas (like partnerships) to achieve its good work in the community.
- A high profile link with business can also add to the public's perceptions of legitimacy in the group's activities, and enhances the strength of the group.
- Builds confidence in the community group.
- Having a partnership with a well-known, financially established business can improve the community group's reputation for being trustworthy and financially sound.
- Givers/contributors need re-assurance that their money or efforts are being used responsibly and for the means stated.
- Volunteers want to ensure they are "working" for a group that is committed to achieving its stated aims and to properly looking after and managing its volunteers while achieving their organisational aims.
- It fosters public goodwill towards both community group and business.
- If well marketed, your partnership and its work will focus public goodwill – that is, positive public feelings - on both business and community group.
- This could bring about a number of related benefits for partners:
- Membership and involvement in the community group, and.
- Customer and client awareness of the business.
- Brand differentiation.
- Brand differentiation is the ability to market your business as significantly different from other, similar businesses or groups. It is also the ability to market yourself as a more attractive option than similar groups.
- Community business partnerships can foster brand differentiation through the positive work they do in the community. This can then make your business or community group more attractive to potential customers, clients, investors, members or volunteers.
- The Help Sheets Why Customers Think it's a Good Idea - Customer Attitudes Towards Community Business Partnerships and Why Should my Business be Involved in a Community Business Partnership? cite a number of studies showing customers and potential employees preferring socially responsible businesses. Marketing your partnership helps promote this brand differentiation.
- For community groups, the Help Sheet Why Should my Community Group be Involved in a Community Business Partnership? features reasons why marketing your partnership can make your group and its activities more attractive to potential members and volunteers.
- Encourages participation.
- Marketing your partnership and its activities well also encourages participation in future partnership activities, or in the community group itself. This in turn strengthens both the partnership and your community group.
- An established partnership also encourages further partnerships because it is seen to have worked, and makes partnerships more attractive to those looking at establishing one.
- Developing Contacts and expanding knowledge base.
- Another benefit of community business partnerships is that they can add to your business or community group's contact list and knowledge base.
- These benefits can increase your potential clients/customer or member base through contacts developed through your partnership. It can also add to your group or business' knowledge base through new information and skills gained in your partnership.
In addition to these reasons, there is another: if you are part of a partnership, it's only fair and reasonable to market both it and your partner and increase their exposure in the public eye.
From this perspective, for community groups the marketing should be about giving due credit to their business partner. For business, it should be about showing what it is doing as part of a partnership and publicising is community-mindedness due to its connection with their community partner.
Associating Partnership and Partners Through Good Marketing.When it comes to marketing a community business partnership, it's very important that it is the partnership being marketed along with those who are involved in the partnership - rather than just the partners themselves.
Marketing the partnership should not overtly focus on "personal glory" for the partners. A positive marketing effort should instead focus on the achievements of the partnership – as well as its aims and its activities.
Ensuring the names of community group and business partners are then mentioned within this type of marketing context means they will be linked nicely to the partnership and its works, and will experience the benefits this sort of linkage brings.
By properly marketing the cause – in this case, the partnership – and associating it with both community group and business, partners, partnership, consumers and community all gain greater benefits.
One word of warning though – people are not naïve, and the savvy consumer or member of the public will see through a community group or business that:
- Cynically or too overtly markets its participation in a community business partnership, or,
- Uses it as a "cover-up" for other damaging or "not-so-positive" activities it may do – particularly from a business perspective.
If not, you run the risk of the very people you market your partnership to dismissing it as a distrustful, popularity-building exercise.
For more information on ways both community groups and businesses can market their partnership, refer to the second part of the Marketing and your Community Business Partnership Help Sheet, available at the Community Business Partnership Brokerage Service at the Our Community website.