Now be honest.

On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your comfort level with community marketing?

When I’ve asked directors around the country this question, most of them rank it a five or below. They know community marketing is an important part of the marketing communications mix. They agree it’s a cost-effective way to develop awareness of their centers and early care and education services. They admit there are ample opportunities to get involved in the communities around their centers. Yet they just don’t do it very often, if at all. Why not? Most say they can’t find the time, they don’t feel comfortable doing it, or they just aren’t sure quite what to do or say.

Community marketing means those activities you conduct, primarily outside your center, to help communicate your image and your marketing messages within your local community. It includes everything from being actively involved in your city’s Chamber of Commerce to co-sponsoring a community event to participating in a local town parade. The opportunities are endless.

Think of community marketing like exercising. It takes more than knowing it is good for you or having the desire to do it. It takes commitment. The hardest part is just getting out there. Once you’re doing it, it doesn’t seem as foreboding and can actually be fun. And when you’re done, the results are usually well worth the effort.

If community marketing is tough for you, then, like exercising, start with easier moves and work up to those that are more challenging. Use the following seven ideas as a foundation to help make community marketing easier for you and to create a community marketing action plan to which you’re willing to commit your time and energy.

1. Make friendly visit calls

An easy first step into community marketing is to visit businesses near your center, introduce yourself as another professional in the community, leave a business card and small token from your center (such as a bookmark made by one of the children), and invite the business owner to your center for a visit or upcoming center event.

Think in your prospect’s perspective. Think not what they can do for you, but what you can do for them. What could your direct, daily contact with large numbers of parents and their young children mean to that business? The more you think in the prospect’s perspective and communicate the benefits to them of knowing you, the more well-received you’ll be on community visits.

2. Conduct mutual-benefit activities

Once you’ve determined an advantage you can offer a local business near your center, approach them with a way you can both benefit. For example, perhaps you offer to give your local beauty salon copies of articles on parenting preschoolers for her clientele to read while at the salon (a good idea anywhere customers must sit and wait). On each copy you attach a sticker that says Compliments of (Name of Your Center) and your telephone number. This positions you as the helpful expert to call regarding early care and education, yet provides the beautician with reading material that will be of interest to her clients and be a value-added service of her salon. It’s mutually-beneficial community marketing.

Julie Wassom
“The Speaker Whose Message Means Business”
Marketing and Sales Speaker/Consultant/Author
Call me: 303-693-2306
Fax me: 303-617-6422
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