SMEs are often hailed as the backbone of their local communities. Locally owned restaurants offer a look into the unique character of a community through locally sourced ingredients and dishes, while local businesses — from retail shops to professional services — support the supply needs of the area.
Typically, local businesses tend to support other local businesses, creating a thriving local economy. By supporting one another, friends, neighbours and colleagues create strong community bonds that circulate money within the local community.
Over the last year, these small UK businesses and communities have had little choice but to adapt and collaborate as the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted everyday life. At times, the outlook has seemed bleak, but thankfully the power of community spirit has shone through at times, delivering a much-needed glimpse of optimism.
Read on to discover how your small businesses can leverage the power of your local community to raise awareness and boost sales.
Why Giving Back to the Community is Important
Doing good is good for business. For SMEs and large-scale companies, a healthy local community isn’t the only benefit of giving charitably. Giving back to the community is a powerful way for businesses to spread the word about their products and services.
In fact, one study concluded that as many as 85% of consumers think positively of companies who give to charity. Now more than ever, consumers are looking to support local businesses that share their values as a way to make sure their money is truly benefiting the community they live in.
Since being confronted with the COVID-19 pandemic, individual and organisational philanthropic efforts became more responsive to the needs of local communities.
While the recent swell of local giving shifted the priority away from other global inequities and injustices in the short-term, the virus acts as a reminder of the need — and obligation — for businesses to come together and support the local community throughout challenging times.
(Being a company that gives back to the community is important - an act of kindness now could benefit your business down the line.)
How do Businesses Benefit from Giving Back to the Community?
Building respect and a good reputation in the community. When you help other people, the same people will often tend to want to support you in return.
Employees respect leaders who help their communities. Making your company a positive force in the community can improve employee cohesion or job satisfaction and bolster positive morale.
Establishing connections and networking. In business, your network often determines what you can get done and what opportunities you can take advantage of. For local SME leaders, business connections are an invaluable resource.
Ways to Involve Your Local Community and Maintain Sales
1. Actively donate to charity
As an SME owner, ask yourself: is there anything you can offer to support your local community?
Rather than donating cash, companies donate to charity by offering their own products and services to help consumers make use of your specific expertise. For example, Arancini Brothers in London have teamed up with Made In Hackney to provide meals to people who need help the most. For every Lockdown Risotto Ball kit ordered, Arancini Brothers donate a meal.
Better yet, get your team involved by asking them to nominate a charity or to choose a specific cause linked to your business. Take London restaurant 7 Saints, who are working with Age UK by preparing ready meals to be delivered to vulnerable members throughout the local community.
2. Reward your locals
The local community is the lifeblood of your business. Take restaurant ITJL Colindale for example, who surprise loyal customers by adding free smoothies, desserts or snacks to orders, and go the extra mile to handwrite thank you notes and well wishes to their customers.
For South African restaurant chain Fego, upholding the community spirit is vital to maintaining their presence in the local community: whether it's delivering bread to people’s homes, staying up-to-date with local Mums groups on Facebook, or simply waving to people passing in the street, Fego take the initiative to understand the general mood of the community and try to cater to their needs.
However small these gestures might seem, showing the human side of your business, and demonstrating the fact that you value customers, is more important than ever.
(Showcasing the human side to your business, and going the extra mile for your customers will foster greater customer loyalty.)
3. Ask your community for support if you need it
Asking for help, and exposing your business’ vulnerabilities, is a scary notion. However, sounding the alarm could be the very thing that saves your business.
When Australian bushfires ravaged local communities in 2019–20, small businesses appealed for help via Spend With Them, advertising their products and services in an effort to save their businesses – and, in most cases, it did.
Informing, and appealing to, your local community that the business is struggling will help rally loyal customers to your support - particularly if your business is a mainstay for many locals, the threat of losing your hospitality, products or services will reinforce the importance of customers injecting money back into your business.
4. Maintain an online presence
Shopping locally online seems like an oxymoron, but throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and even just through the bad winter weather, shopping online is a powerful channel for small businesses as much as it is for multinational organisations. So make sure your local community knows they have the option to shop or order food from your website.
Local businesses must have a website where customers can find out more about the products and services on offer — along with all the essential delivery or pick-up options available.
As a small business owner, it’s important to whip your website into good shape, showcase your business in its best light, exhibit your inventory and perhaps even use your site as an opportunity to reward your customers with discounts or promotional digital vouchers. When money is tight, it might seem counterproductive to give things away for free. However, offering a helping-hand during tough times can benefit your business’ reputation and public perception in the long-term.
What Else Can Small Businesses Do During Quieter Periods?
Even if you don’t have floods of customers, there are plenty of ways you can prepare your business for future success.
Set goals for the year ahead. Plan for the year and think about what you realistically want to achieve – if your goals require further financial support, spending time investigating and analysing what’s currently available to support your business is crucial.
(Extensively research what financial, and non-monetary, support is available to help sustain your business.)
Touch base with old and potential customers. When business is slow, launching a promotional sale or offering old customers deals can reignite interest. To incentivise local customers, Spa & Massage offer a £30 discount when customers can show that they have left a Google Review, which in turn helps boost online visibility and trust in the brand.
Think outside-the-box to find innovative ways to reach new customers. Consumer behaviours have changed, which might mean your traditional business practices don’t fit with emerging customer expectations. That’s why it’s important to brainstorm other ways to reach new and existing customers.
Plan for the Future with 365 Business Finance
Building and maintaining “community cheer” throughout the pandemic is a powerful tool when it comes to spring boarding your small business back towards success when circumstances begin to resemble normality.
Being a company that gives back to the community is more important than ever, and an act of kindness now could benefit your business down the line. Remember, positive word-of-mouth and referrals will travel fast around the local area — rewarding your brand in the long-term.
If you are looking at ways to implement the ideas and examples in this article, 365 Business Finance can help - particularly if your business needs financial support to overcome the challenges presented by COVID-19.
We offer alternative funding for UK SMEs, where there are no APRs or fixed monthly payments – instead, repayments mirror your cashflow, and you only repay when customers pay you.
Get a free quote today - we approve 90% of businesses that apply, and funds can be with you in as little as 48 hours.
At every step of the way, you will have support from a dedicated funding advisor. They will help you throughout the entire process, from applying to receiving your funding.