We’ve all heard the phrases ‘know, like and trust’, right? Well, that is exactly what the concept of community engagement is all about. If people get to know you and spend time with you, then they probably like you. Over time, they may even begin to trust you and as such, let you help them with their business. Which leads us to community engagement.
Community engagement applies to every industry, both public and private. By getting out there, into your community, both physically or virtually, you will get to know others in your area (and maybe beyond!). Whether that is within your own industry or others, you never know how you may be able to help each other. In the small business space, helping others is at the heart of success for everyone. Hence the hashtag, #supportsmallbusiness.
The benefits of community engagement
So maybe you’re wondering why it’s important and how it can help your business. By now you may have put together that community engagement is simply a form of networking. Many entrepreneurs get their clients via referrals from the relationships the create and nurture. This could mean ‘word of mouth’ or some other form of localized recommendation. By utilizing various forms of online community engagement, coupled with in-person meetings and events, you create opportunities to build and grow new relationships, ultimately increasing the exposure of your business. This does and should not mean you are always selling. If you get too salesy, you may turn people off. See who you mesh with and focus on that, put your heart into it. What are you passionate about regarding your business and how it can help other companies and organizations? How can you support or learn from each other? What is most important to them? Maybe there’s no financial component between your companies initially, maybe it’s truly about getting to know one another and seeing where those conversations lead.
The challenges of community engagement
Does the approach above sound odd or different to you? It did to me until I fully embraced it. In my previous (corporate) life, networking was all about collecting business cards and leads. I thought that was the only way but in the last two years I have found a new manner of networking that I truly love. Now it’s about talking to people, seeing and understanding what they do, hearing about their challenges and what keeps them up at night, collaborating with business owners in the same space because our strengths are different and we complement each other…AND, knowing that there truly is enough business to go around.
So where is the challenge exactly? Many still operate under that former networking approach of getting as many leads as possible, i.e., what’s in it for me/them. As you start down this path, look at your business and as mentioned above see how you can support others. This will take time and effort, it will not always be easy but when the connection is there and it works for everyone, hopefully you’ll see the value of building the relationships in your community and expanding beyond your comfort zone.
Best practices for community engagement
By working together to identify and address a business’s needs, you can help impact meaningful change that benefits everyone. Through community engagement, entrepreneurs can develop a greater sense of ownership and responsibility for their community. They can also build relationships with their neighbors, learn new skills, attract like minds, potentially generate jobs and improve the overall economy. When people feel invested in their community, they are more likely to support local businesses and work to make the area a better place to live.
This may all sound a little too good to be true but with all of the resources we now have at our fingertips, it really can be achieved at any scale if you put in the time, effort and consistency. Whether you live in a big city or a small town, there are various tools ranging from social media platforms, to event management, SEO, blogs, newsletters, networking groups, online search tools and more that will help with the visibility and growth of your business.
Just dip your toes in the water, you never know who you'll meet or who might become a client and a friend.
Wishing you all the best of luck with your business,
Sarah Hannah, Founder
If you’re interested in learning more, contact us today for your free 30-minute consultation.