chester4The challenge many businesses face is personalizing themselves to their customers. Businesses try and accomplish this through many methods. They create unique commercials, ad campaigns and other marketing. They can hire a public relations firm to assist them in gaining exposure via various methods. They can also employ many services that help them better connect with their customers and make it easier for their customers to connect with them. Many businesses, however, neglect to utilize one of the most important things they could be doing: community involvement.

Community involvement can help separate you from your competition. People appreciate and notice when businesses integrate themselves into the community. There are many ways to accomplish this ranging from self-initiated and administered charitable activities to small things that appeal to wide audiences. The people in your community are the exact people you want paying attention to you. If that attention is based on your involvement and efforts towards a cause they love, they will return the favor by patronizing your dealership.

Here are a few ways that you can involve yourself in your community that are effective, and some may even drive traffic to your dealership.

  1. Have a Test-Drive-athon: Offer to donate $25 to a charity for every test drive that a customer takes. Movie tickets and gift cards work great but they won’t engender the widespread good feelings you’ll receive from your community, especially if the charity you choose is local. You’ll benefit not only by increased traffic – hold it over a weekend – but also from people in the community who hear about the promotion. Planned correctly, most charities will even assist you in promoting the event.
  2. Sponsor animals at your local shelter: There’s nobody more passionate than animal lovers. In many cases, pets become an extension of family and are treated like children… and there are a lot of animal lovers out there. Arrange with your local shelter to cover the adoption fees of a few animals per month. The animal shelter will appreciate it as most employees are also animal lovers and nobody wants to euthanize animals. Chances are they’ll also promote the sponsorship via social media and in their normal marketing. Locals will come out of nowhere to thank you on your social media accounts. I’ve seen brand new Facebook pages literally acquire hundreds of new fans in the space of a week from this activity. People left comments such as “I’m definitely buying my next vehicle there.” And “I will refer everyone I know to your dealership. You are doing a great thing. Thank you.” This cost the dealership about $100 per month and they didn’t have to do anything. Of course this also makes great marketing, social media and customer communication content for your dealership to use as well.
  3. Get involved in local events: Find out what’s going on in your community and make sure to get involved. It doesn’t matter what the event is… car show, craft fair or farmer’s market. Don’t be there to sell, however. Just be there. Hand out balloons and popcorn to kids or free water to attendees. Maybe there’s a parade going on. Offer to drive some vehicles in the parade. Contact your local high school and get involved in their homecoming games driving their royal prospects around the track. There are infinite possibilities to gain exposure through goodwill. You just have to look for them.
  4. Sponsor local little league teams or school clubs: There are so many different children organizations that need your help staying afloat. High school clubs need funding to survive, which is why fundraising is extremely important. Let them hold a car wash on your property or just offer to sponsor an event for them. Their parents and the school will be appreciative and think of you when it comes time to buy a vehicle. Little league baseball teams are also a great way to gain goodwill and exposure. Many leagues will even imprint your logo on their jerseys. Another great organization to consider would be your local Boy or Girl Scout troops.

These are just a few of many ways that you can integrate yourself into your community. You’ll gain exposure for the dealership, increased opportunities to meet people and network, referrals from people that appreciate the support and business from people sympathetic to the cause you assisted.  You can also feel good about giving back to your community and doing something worthwhile.

In most of these examples, you’ll also have the charity organization itself promoting your dealership. You’ll have great content for marketing, provide valuable content for press releases and generate buzz around your dealership. You’ll also gain a community full of appreciative people.

You know the old saying “People buy from people they like.” Become the business that people like and you’ll be that much closer to increasing sales.

Sara Callahan | Carter West Public Relations