It is Global Entrepreneurship Week this week and in between giving some talks at Lancaster University about my experience as an ‘entrepreneur’, I’ve been thinking a great deal about the business case for community business. At Workshop Media we have always enjoyed working on community projects, using our skills and talents to the benefit of the community.
Sometimes we’re paid. Sometimes we ‘sponsor’. Sometimes we just do ‘stuff’ for free.
I personally believe that recognising your place as a business in the community is vital to its success. Right from the get go. It is (or should be) a core component of any marketing or business plan. Yet many businesses forget this. I’m not criticising, it is all too easy to do! The pressures of overheads and targets, strategy and goals can lead us to strip down our thinking to the details rather than think about the bigger picture.
This kind of thinking leads to an us versus them mentality. Where ‘we’ need sales and ‘they’ need to give us work. Where ‘we’ create a marketing plan with tactics and measurements and ‘they’ need to respond. This attitude can lead to the business being separated from the community it exists in.
Which stunts opportunity. Which stunts business growth. Which stunts work satisfaction.
A Business Case in 5 Points:
1. A community is a network of networks. By ensuring that a portion of your efforts go into the community, you will have a ripple effect that radiates through these networks. You will become familiar, and more importantly, valued for your contributions by these networks and the people that make up the networks.
2. Working within the community kick starts relationships. Ask any business about what is vital to their success and they will mention relationships somewhere in there. Yet these can be very difficult to develop (some taking years). By providing something of value to the community you can accelerate this relationship process. They already know you. They know what you stand for. They (hopefully) will like what you do. When it comes to getting some business done, you will be ahead of the pack because a fledgling relationship is already in place.
3. The community gives you something to talk about. Some businesses are incredibly valuable. Sadly, some are also incredibly boring to any one other than the people who work in them. If you are finding it hard to talk about what your business does, then work done in and for the community gives you something to be proud of, to shout about and to excite others. This raises your profile.
4. Your ‘brand’ is being talked about in the community. Brands are known for bigger things than what they sell. They have an identity of their own and this is what people talk about and what creates a vibrant brand presence in the market. The work that you can do in the community allows you to affect these conversations, reinforcing what you want to be known for.
5. Business does not exist in a vacuum. Even if you have a strictly on line business you still exist as part of a larger community. As part of a community you have an interest as well as a responsibility to ensure that community thrives. If your community doesn’t thrive, this will have an impact on your business. As people you rely on struggle and those that rely on you suffer.
If my five points are still leaving you in doubt (or having objections), try replacing the word ‘market’ with ‘community’. I find that although it still works… “We are going to target this community”, it changes the context.
The only problem I have now is in labelling this approach… I think Communism is already taken (and has other connotations) :D[lightbox link=”http://workshop-media.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/WSMHS-49.jpg” thumb=”http://workshop-media.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/WSMHS-49-1024×680.jpg” width=”1024″ align=”centre” title=”WSMHS 49″ frame=”true” icon=”image” caption=””]