In the early days of the pandemic, many small businesses aided the country by pivoting and offering essential products for Americans. Restaurants offered flour and other staples for sale since they couldn’t serve dinners. Local t-shirt companies shifted to mask production to meet the extraordinary demand. As the pandemic continues, companies should embrace this community focus as a core part of their business identity, not just an admirable response to a crisis.
A crucial first step for businesses is to consider their role within a community. How will they support and bring people together, while also remaining viable and earning a profit? Not every business can commit to $800 million in COVID-19 relief, like Google, but even the smallest company can support their local community and make measurable and meaningful impacts.
Why Invest in Community?
A healthy community ecosystem is important for businesses to thrive. Companies of course operate within a community, so there’s not only a moral need in place, but also self-preservation for companies that want to grow.
Both partners and consumers gravitate towards community-centric businesses. The data bears this out and should provide companies and investors with all the inducement they need. A study from public opinion firm Certus Insights found 70 percent of consumers want to know the brands they support are addressing social issues, and 46 percent pay attention to those efforts when buying a product or service. The study also points to the need for transparency, with many consumers wary of companies paying lip service to community support, instead of offering concrete and impactful efforts.
Brands that directly donate to worthy causes after each sale can quickly build brand goodwill. Customers see the company is making local contributions, nonprofits see a seamless and effective strategy, and partners enjoy higher sales and revenues. It’s a simple yet effective dynamic that’s transparent and easily trackable so all parties can see the net results.
During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many firms answered the call for community-focused efforts. Marco’s Pizza franchise provided complimentary meals to healthcare workers and first responders and offering fundraising to support other local restaurants. Trader Joe’s and dozens of other stores offered “seniors’ hours” to provide less crowded environments for vulnerable senior populations. At BellyMelly, we’ve partnered with local restaurants to donate $1 of every takeout or delivery order to a nonprofit organization of the restaurant’s choosing. This dynamic engages the customer in the fundraising efforts and gives direct financial contributions to a local cause.
After the pandemic, firms that want to succeed will embrace a community-focused culture, and find ways to directly help communities through financial or other support.
Crafting an Ecosystem
Developing an ecosystem also helps brands directly. According to a recent Community Intelligence Marketing Report from marketing firm AspireIQ, more than 70 percent of brands stated they have an active community. In this context, an active community is a group of people on various social and other platforms that discuss the brand and its offerings and evangelize for the company. Consumers expect deeper connections, ethical actions, and authenticity from their brands. This is especially true with the younger Generation Z, with research from DoSomethingStrategic finding 76% of this generation said they have purchased or would consider purchasing from a company in order to support the issues the brand embraces. The data reinforces community focus as a sound business decision, not just a moral obligation.
COVID-19 and the unrest of 2020 provides brands with unique opportunities to support and build local communities. By adopting brand practices that invest in the community, customers can operate with their daily activities at no extra costs. And they can do this while enjoying the satisfaction that comes with uplifting their community through measurable impactful efforts.