A city’s startups tend to be the local heroes of the business world. Startups must have their finger on the pulse of the nation to survive, but often enough their founding ideas grow from local interest. Community outreach and recognition are important for startups that need to develop a warm market in their home city.
These outreach events can have broader implications for your company too, as service, philanthropy and community outreach efforts are good PR for your startup. By pairing community outreach and the right kind of marketing efforts, your concern for local issues can be seen and appreciated around the world.
Whether you’re managing an eCommerce webshop or developing apps, community engagement and events can go a long way toward winning exposure, brand loyalty, and local support for your startup. While many startups don’t have the budget for grand philanthropic efforts and big fundraisers, you can start small with a local lecture series, local entrepreneurial workshops, and community engagement events that relate to your niche.
Volunteer Service in your Niche
Volunteer service is a great way for your company to stay in touch with the local issues of your city. Volunteering demonstrates your startup’s concern for local events, and local engagement sends the message to your audience that your business is not all about you. Furthermore, company volunteer service tends to attract dedicated employees and recruits who are not only willing to go above and beyond for your startup but also for their local community.
Every city has many opportunities for volunteers to get involved, so you can try to find a service that is applicable to your business niche. For instance, if your startup is in a high-tech industry, your employees and coworkers might be interested in getting involved with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) tutoring. If you are part of an architecture firm, it can be beneficial to aid the development of low-cost housing in your city through groups such as Habitat for Humanity or Co-Op spaces.
Community outreach can take many shapes depending on the kind of business you have and its main interest. Spend some time brainstorming what kind of events suit your startup as well as the demands of the local community. Could it be a lecture series by local professionals? A networking and socializing event like a happy hour? Or even something as simple as a bi-weekly movie night in your business space?
Don’t forget to brand your community outreach events. If you are doing a series event, come up with the name of the series. Making the name catchy, repeatable, and relevant will make it easier for individuals to refer each other to your event.
While it is a bonus to be able to reach out to your target demographic, any outreach that you do can spread referrals and good PR. Don’t feel defeated if a certain event doesn’t have the kind of turnout that you’d hoped for. If, however, you continuously have low turnout, then it might be time to reevaluate the demand for your event and try a new angle.
Planning a Time for your Event
Individuals will frequent your events based on reputation and referrals. Unless you have a large budget set aside to market and pull in interest for your event, it’s best to start small. For most startups, small events that happen with predictable frequency will help to increase more engagement than a single expensive event.
Make sure that your events take place periodically, at the same time and ideally at the same place. Predictability allows you to increase your loyalty, as your event becomes habit-forming for some individuals. Others may not attend every one of your events but will benefit from knowing that it takes place at the same time so that they can have it in mind when they are planning their schedules or talking to others.
Target a time that works for most individual’s schedules. For example, unless you are planning early morning community yoga, anything before 5:30 pm on a weekday might be difficult for most individuals to make. Test the temperature of your local environment to find the right time. Is it a family-friendly event, and, if so, can it happen on the weekends? Thursday night can be a great time for business happy hours because young professionals are more likely to have a drink later in the week but won’t be booked up on a Thursday the way they are on a Friday night.
Local lecture series are easy events to coordinate, and they draw local interest from all around your city’s community. Does your city have local artists, writers, historians, musicians, performers, industry legends, inspired chefs, or any other cultural icons who might be interested in having a venue to share their story? Invite them to speak to their fellow citizens.
Don’t have a good space to host someone? Talk to a local coffee shop, bookstore, conference center, co-working space, or public building, such as the library, about borrowing or renting a monthly room to host these.
As an added benefit to this kind of event planning, your startup will most likely have help marketing these lectures. Anyone that you invite to speak will see this as an opportunity to increase their influence, and therefore work, either with you or on their own, to market these events to their own audiences.
Local business development
Similar to the lecture series, meetings that help local businesses and the local workforce to network with each other can be highly beneficial for startup growth and marketplace health in your area. These can be industry specific or open to all depending on the needs of your city. Your startup could host roundtable mastermind groups. You might also allow a speaker each meeting from a local business or startup to discuss their business journey.
Individuals are always looking to learn new skills. Photographers and photo-editors can host introductory classes on photography. Website managers can teach classes on developing and using a branded website. In some cases, you might need to offer free classes to increase participation until your class reputation picks up. If your startup is based on specialized and in-demand skills, you can make money and get your PR benefits for community outreach by hosting niche Master-Classes.
As you start planning your startup’s community outreach, keep in mind that your events do not need to be so academic. You could help to organize a recreational ultimate frisbee or soccer league, a bike-riding circuit to help your city’s health and activity, or host a game or craft night. The balance is to do what’s right for your business while also reading the demands of your local community. The more you support your local community, they more pride they will feel in your startup and return the support.