Four Ways Your Business Can Give Back in 2016

photo credit: Dollar Photo Club

photo credit: Dollar Photo Club

Being January, it’s the time of year when many of us set goals for the year and make some New Year’s resolutions pertaining to our businesses.  Perhaps we have a certain amount of revenue we’d like to earn in 2016, a product or service we’d like to begin offering, or some content we’d like to get published.  These are all excellent goals and I encourage you to set them, but I’d like to also encourage you to set one other type of goal for this year: a giving goal.

What I mean by a “giving goal” is a way that your business can donate time, talent, or treasure to help make your community or even our planet a happier, healthier, or safer place to live.  Why should you do this?  Well, I could say that you should do it because giving a helping hand to those less fortunate than yourself is the right thing to do…but in case that isn’t compelling enough for you, consider the fact that just about every single highly successful person or organization in history has made a habit of giving back in some way.  

I’m not suggesting that giving back will guarantee the success of your business, but I do believe there is more than an indirect correlation between success and giving.  This is especially true if you participate in cause marketing—in other words, making giving back such a big part of your brand identity that customers actually choose you over your competitor at least in part because of it.  Toms is a great example of this—for every clothing product you purchase from them, they donate a product to someone in need around the world.  

Now, I’m not suggesting that you need to become the next Toms, but I do think it’s important that you find some way that your business can give back.  There are many, many ways you can do this, many of which don’t even require any monetary contribution, but just in case you’re one of those less creative folks, I have taken the liberty of suggesting four possible ways your business can give back this year.

Volunteer your technical expertise

If you have a service-based business, chances are there is a non-profit organization in your community that could benefit from those services but that might not be able to afford them.  By donating your services to those organizations, they can focus more time and money on their core mission.  In some cases, your expertise might actually be their core mission.

For example, construction professionals like electricians, carpenters, and plumbers could volunteer their time on a Habitat for Humanity build site.  Financial professionals could help teach financial literacy classes or serve as advisors on the board of a non-profit organization.  Marketing professionals could donate their services to help non-profits with email campaigns or maintaining a website.  I know that there are marketing consultants that specialize in working for non-profits, and I’m not suggesting that those people should work for free, but there are plenty of small non-profit organizations that can’t afford to pay for marketing assistance but who could really use some help in that area.  Marketing professionals who donate their time to organizations like that often find that it’s a great way to meet leaders in their community who can afford their services.

While donating technical expertise doesn’t have the same tax benefits of a monetary donation, it is in many cases even more beneficial to the recipient and is also a great way for smaller businesses without a giving budget to support an organization they believe in.  

Be a mentor

Another way you as a business owner can give back this year is to mentor someone who is just getting started in your industry.  This could be part of a formal mentorship program run by an organization like SCORE or your local SBDC, or it could be something that you do on your own.    

This can be a very rewarding experience for you and really make a difference in someone’s life.  If you have had any amount of success as a business owner, chances are you had a mentor or coach at some point or at least got some valuable advice from people that helped you succeed.  Why not pay it forward by passing along your wisdom to the next generation of professionals in your industry?

Donate products, equipment, or space

If you have a business that sells physical products, you could donate those products to a local non-profit organization that could either use them directly or that could use them in a fundraiser such as a silent auction.  Even if you don’t sell physical products, you could donate used equipment such as vehicles, computers, or tools to organizations that need them.  

If you don’t have anything to donate yourself, you could simply partner with a local non-profit and serve as a collection point for donations.  You can reach out to your customers and get them to bring donations to your place of business, or if your business involves going to your customer’s home or business, you could collect items from them directly.  Just about every community has a Goodwill store or Habitat ReStore nearby, and most people have items lying around the house that they don’t really need or use.  If your business partners with one of these organizations to help them get donations from your customers, you can do a lot of good without having to spend one penny of your own money.

Donate money

While there are many ways your business can support causes and organizations that don’t involve financial contributions, direct monetary support is something that every non-profit appreciates and in fact needs to survive.  There are so many worthy organizations and not nearly enough money to go around, and you may think whatever small amount you can donate makes no difference.  I can assure you that this is not the case, and this is especially true when it comes to organizations that work in developing countries, where a dollar can buy a lot more than it can in the U.S.  

If finances are tight and you’re not sure if you can afford to give direct financial support to a non-profit organization, there is an easy way around this problem.  Simply do what Toms does and tie your support directly to an increase in revenue.  You can even tie it to one of your other business goals for the year—for example, if you want more customers to upgrade to your “gold” service plan, you can advertise that for each customer who upgrades to that plan you will donate x dollar amount to a local non-profit.  

One word of caution here—if you are going to make your financial support of an organization public, do your due diligence and make sure that the organization is using the money responsibly.  Also, it’s probably a good idea not to publicly support controversial organizations or causes (such as political campaigns) unless you are very certain that 100% of your customers also support that organization.  Otherwise, it could end up costing you customers who don’t want to support a brand that affiliates with a cause they don’t agree with.

Between all the examples I gave above, hopefully you’ll be able to think of a way your business can give back in 2016.  If you did think of something and want to share your commitment publicly, or if you are already giving back in some way, please leave a comment on this post and let me know about what you’re doing.  

 

kevin JordanKevin Jordan is a Certified Duct Tape Marketing Consultant, owner of Redpoint Marketing Consultants, and co-author of the best-selling book The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Local Lead Generation. You can connect with Kevin on Twitter @RMCVirginia, and find out how he’s giving back in 2016 by visiting his small business marketing blog.

Planning Your 2016 Content Marketing Calendar

2016 content calendarThere are only a few weeks left in 2015, and that means it’s time to start planning your marketing calendar for 2016.  Actually, that time was about three months ago, but we both know that you’re probably just now getting around to it.  Hey, no worries—we’re all busy small business owners here, so we’re not going to judge you if you’re running a little behind.  If fact, I’d like to give you a bit of a head start on your marketing plan for 2016 by helping you map out your content marketing plan for next year.

Below, I’ve provided twelve ideas for blog posts that can be applied to any business—that’s one blog post for each month.  After writing each blog post (or having a copywriter write it for you), read it or summarize it while standing in front of a camera—use teleprompter software from freetelepromptersoftware.com to help you.  Upload the video to YouTube and/or a video podcast on iTunes.  Then, copy and paste at least a portion of the blog post into your email newsletter template, and send that to your list once a month.  

Do that, and you’ll have 36 pieces of nice educational content about your business by the end of 2016 that will bring you traffic and leads well into the following year and beyond.  Are you ready?  Let’s get started:

January: Share your goals for 2016

Most people spend some time around the New Year at least thinking about setting some goals for things they’d like to accomplish during the year.  Some people even end up actually setting those goals.  By “setting goals” I mean putting in writing exactly what you intend to accomplish and when you intend to accomplish it by.  People who do this are far more likely to accomplish those goals.  

If you set goals for your business in 2016, why not publicly share them with your customers on your blog in January?  People respect businesses that are constantly seeking to improve and grow.  Yes, there is a danger that if you end up not accomplishing goals that you shared publicly, people might be aware of your failure.  Who cares?  People will still appreciate the fact that you’re even trying, and they’ll trust you more for being authentic.  

February: Interview an employee

Help your customers get to know your staff a little better by featuring one of your best employees on your blog.  Interview them about their job, using some or all of the following questions:

  • How long have you worked here?
  • What do you like most about your job?
  • Share a story about a time you really helped a customer solve a problem.
  • What do you like to do in your spare time?  

To make this really powerful, do the interview on video and use the transcript for the blog post.  If you don’t have any employees, interview a vendor instead.  This will help your customers become more comfortable with your team, which will make them trust you more.  You never know when that trust might come in handy.

March: Do a “top 10” or “roundup” style blog post

This is a blog post where you make a list of great resources your customers might be interested in.  For example, a CPA could post a list of the top ten personal finance blogs or top ten budget apps for smartphones.  These types of posts tend to generate lots of backlinks, especially if you contact all the sites you link to in the post and let them know they’ve been featured on your blog.  

April: Answer a “Should Ask Question”

A “should ask question” is one that your customers should ask about your products or services, but don’t know enough about what you do to even know to ask those questions.  These types of questions really position you as an expert in your niche and demonstrate how smart you are to potential customers.

May:  Answer a “Frequently Asked Question”

While “should ask questions” make great content, the problem is that not a lot of people will be searching for answers to these types of questions on Google.  That’s where frequently asked questions come in handy.  Check your “sent email” folder to see what types of questions you and your staff answer over and over again.  Pick one topic, and write an 800—1,000-word blog post about it.  These tend to show up in search results, especially if you get a few quality backlinks to the post.  

June: Do a seasonal post

June marks the beginning of summer, which in the U.S. is a time of transition for many people and businesses.  Schools close for the summer, colleges shift to different schedules, some seasonal business wind up for their busy season and others wind down for a few months (think ski resorts).  Many families get ready to take their annual vacation.  Just about any business can find a way to relate their products or services to one of these transitions.  Use this for June’s blog post.

July: Interview one of your customers or strategic partners

Everyone loves seeing their name in the paper, even if it’s just your paper (aka, blog).  Invite one of your best customers to be interviewed for a feature on your blog and in your email newsletter.  Ask them questions like:

  • How long have you been our customer?
  • What do you like best about what we do?
  • How have our products or services benefitted you?
  • What tips can you offer other customers to help them get the most from our product or service?

For some businesses (divorce attorneys, counselors, etc.) this might not be appropriate due to privacy concerns.  In that case, interview a strategic partner instead of a customer—it will work just as well.

August: Publish an infographic

Infographics are all the rage these days, and if you can create one that helps people in your industry support their position on a topic—especially if that topic is somewhat controversial—it could get a lot of shares and links.  There will be a cost of time and money involved here to develop the infographic, but if done well, it will be more than worth it.

September: Invite a strategic partner to write a guest post

After working hard on your blog for eight months, it’s time to take a month off.  Let someone else create some nice content for your website by inviting a strategic partner to write a guest post for your blog.  Make sure they know you will promote their post on social media and in your email newsletter.  Also, make sure they understand the SEO value of writing a guest post—just send them a link to an article that explains guest blogging to them.  

October: Write a case study about a successful project you’ve completed this year

Hopefully, by this point in the year, you have a least one major success story under your belt for 2016.  Write a case study about it, including what life was like for your customer before they found you, what you did to help them, and how life was better for them afterward.  Include numbers and data to support your case study if possible.  This might just be the most valuable blog post you write this year because you can use it in your lead conversion process for a long time to come.

November: Write a post about the holidays

Yeah, I know, writing a blog post that somehow relates your products and services to the end-of-year holiday season is cliché, but let’s face it—this time of year, it’s probably what you and your customers are going to be thinking about half the time anyway.  You might as well acknowledge that and use it to create some content for your blog.

December: Do a year-in-review post

Remember that blog post you wrote in January about your goals for 2016?  Do a post updating your progress regarding those goals, along with anything else your business accomplished during the year.  If it was a bad year, focus on some of the challenges you had to overcome.  If it was a good year, highlight your achievements.  

In either case, spending some time thinking about everything you managed to do during the course of an entire year is a valuable exercise.  Chances are you’ll be shocked at how much you accomplished.  If you had told me at the beginning of 2015 that by the end of the year I would become a best-selling author, be named to a list of the top 100 business bloggers of the year, and be the president of a brand new BNI chapter, I wouldn’t have believed you—but I accomplished all those things and more.  

If you stick to the content marketing plan I outlined above for an entire year, I’ll bet that by the time you write your year-in-review post for 2016, you’ll have some pretty impressive accomplishments to discuss as well.  

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