When I climbed into bed late one recent Saturday evening, my wife yelped. Apparently I was freezing cold and actively sucking the warmth out of her very soul. Perhaps a minor overreaction on her part, but I was pretty cold and bordering on mild hypothermia, so she might have had a point.
Earlier that morning I left the house to spend the day standing outside, as one of the organisers of our village Christmas Lights switch-on event. When the entertainment programme started later that afternoon, the heavens opened and soaked me to the skin. Being wet and outside for several hours in mid-November is a good recipe for getting very cold indeed.
This was my third year as an organiser of this event, a role which is entirely voluntary and the culmination of countless hours of meetings, emails, phone calls and general running around. It’s one of several community events I’m closely involved with organising, taking place a week ahead of a charity 10k race, with more than 400 runners taking part.
I mention my involvement not to brag, but because of its importance within our wider business goals. When we updated our marketing plan back in 2014, a key part of this was becoming highly visible in the local community. After all, right here in our village and the surrounding villages is where our target clients live and spend most of their time.
This local focus comes in a number of forms. Our high street presence is central to it, with a rebranding exercise at the same time in late 2014 resulting in a new logo based on our mock Tudor 1920s office.
In the time since, we’ve invested thousands as custodians of this building of local merit. This year this includes completely replacing the roof, reusing the original tiles from a local brick and tile company which is sadly no longer in business.
As a local business operating in the village since 1994, we want to make sure people know who we are and, most importantly, what we stand for.
This is about more than throwing money at local events and organisations. Any business can sponsor a local event; it’s only by getting your hands dirty and combining sponsorship cash with direct support that you become known. In the words of one of our local competitors, since stepping upping our efforts with this new community-led marketing strategy, “you’ve become the only game in town.”
What this means in practical terms is being elected to the organising committee of our local Chamber of Commerce, becoming chairman of our local In Bloom group, establishing and then regularly volunteering at our local parkrun (a great motivator to get up early every Saturday morning) and helping to organise two annual charity races, among many other commitments.
Three times a year, our directors can also be found leading and participating in a village-wide litter pick. Those tend to result in us getting very cold too.
Would we do all of this if it didn’t result in a regular stream of our ideal clients knocking on our door? Of course. We feel being a local business owner is a great responsibility, not only in providing important local employment opportunities, but carefully choosing local suppliers to pump money into the village economy and doing our bit to make this a lovely place to live, work and play.
You may already contribute to your local community, or want to do more. But with a little strategy behind this, I’m convinced financial planners can reap the rewards from doing their bit.