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Being a good neighbor is good marketing!

87548959 When the economy gets tight, many businesses pull in, almost withdrawing from the world.

To hold expenses, they stop volunteering, they stop recruiting for talent (even when you aren't hiring, you should always be recruiting), they stop thanking their best customers and often times, they stop being a good neighbor.

A good neighbor is there, willing to share what they have.  A good neighbor sees you working on something and comes over to help.  A good neighbor wants to get other neighbors to help too.

And those are the neighbors we tell everyone about.  They're the ones we help in return.  They're the ones we love.

The same is true in business.  Let me give you an example.  Steve and Meg Shearer, owners of The Chocolate Storybook, are good neighbors.  They go out of their way to support local schools by creating very generous fundraisers.   And it's not just schools they support.  To encourage people to buy local, they created a local coupon book -- featuring Des Moines' best local businesses.

Why would they bother?  Because it's smart marketing.  Let me show you the math. 

One of the schools benefiting from their generosity is my daughter's high school.  The drama boosters are raising money with Chocolate Storybook's help.  In my 15 years of business, I've never bought anything from them.  We've sent clients chocolates before...but for whatever reason, they weren't the company we purchased it from. 

I knew of them, knew of their quality.  So I had absolutely no negative connotation.  But I also didn't have a compelling reason to change my buying habits.

Until the fundraiser...they'd made $0 from me.  Then, they got involved at our school.  With no ads, no mailers, no cold calls or Facebook messaging...they earned my business.  Yes, they had to share some of their profits.  But for that short-term investment, they're making some long term gains.

Guess where the McLellan Marketing Group's holiday gifts for 2009 are coming from.  Guess where I bought all my out of town relatives' gifts from.  Guess who is now my provider of choice.  Right -- my good neighbor.

And...I am telling everyone I know how incredible they are being.  If you stop by our office, some of their delicious popcorn will be ready for the sampling.

Multiply that by many families and business owners.  I know that Chocolate Storybook earned many new customers as a result of the one fundraiser.  So let's say my company spent around $1,500 this year.  And out of this newly created relationship, we continue to spend between $1-3,000/year for the next 5 years.  That's $15K from me.  On the conservative side, let's say they only get that sort of long-term return from two other new customers.  That's $45K over the next 5 years. 

That's smart marketing and a heckuva ROI.

Why?  Because good neighbors are the ones we want to help in return.  And if that's not enough, think about this.  Which customer do you think is more sticky?  Me or someone who shopped there because they saw an ad or got a mailer?

If you want to earn customers who hold you in high regard and come with built in loyalty -- as you work on your 2010 marketing plan -- ask yourself this question.  Who could we help this year?  What do we have that we could share?  How can we make a difference?

That's not just feel good stuff.  It's smart marketing.

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Very true words Drew. Buying local and supporting our local businesses is even more important during these tough economic times. Now is the time to ensure businesses have a future, by investing in a smart marketing strategy and investing the time now. Good to hear of these local successess.

Great blog. You have an absolutely amazing layout and design. Awesome top quality information in your blog post.

Drew, thanks for mentioning Steve and Meg Shearer. They are trying very hard to draw the small business community together and let everyone know the way to help local businesses is to buy local. They have been tireless champions and for almost no monetary reward.

They are also beginning to use social media and are enjoying getting to know the bloggers and Twitter folks in Des Moines.

By the way, Chocolate Storybook has homemade stuff made here in Des Moines. Not shipped in from a factory in who-knows-where.

Pete --

I think there is a lot to be said about buying local. But, I am not a believer in buying just because they are local.

Sometimes the best choice happens to be out of town.

But...in this case, Chocolate Storybook has earned my loyalty because they over served their customers and their community. That -- coupled with their excellent product makes them my choice from this point forward. They have earned my loyalty and I am now a raving fan!


Claire --

Steve and Meg are demonstrating the combination that I believe it takes to be an exceptional business.

Excellent product/service + customer love + community love. When business owners are smart enough to genuinely live by that equation -- they are tough to beat.


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