Charitable marketing could be your strongest ally
If you believe there is such a thing as karma, then read on. If not, I suggest you carry on anyway; there is something in here for you.
A company’s reputation (and their social media presence) is incredibly important, as is the perception of a business and the way it is portrayed.
I have often seen a brand name for the first time in the press or on an advert. That first impression can be particularly passive, or extremely powerful.
More than ever, much gets made of a company’s involvement with charitable causes and their work within the local community. Giving something back helps build a sense of trust and empathy towards the brand.
So my thought process is that this kind of giving works full circle.
As a business you can genuinely help others, which in turn can have a positive impact on your brand. In fact this can be one of the most powerful forms of advertising and marketing that you can undertake.
Largely because it has the ability to tap into our emotions.
In this article I will tell you how powerful a tool this could be, and provide examples that have worked well within other industries.
Then I will lay out practical examples that you could use within the world of real estate.
This really could change the way you view your marketing strategies going forward, and lead to some very warm leads.
Background to this article
Prior to moving full-time into real estate marketing, I was previously in a management position within a UK Supermarket chain. Our corporate social responsibility (CSR) was extremely important. Not just because it was the right thing to look after the environment, pay a fair wage and support others; but also because it presented our brand in a fantastic light.
People would trust our brand because we looked out for those less fortunate, and then told others (note – not shouted) about it. We did this in a subtle way, as if it was no big deal; simply part of our company values and something we do.
Bear in mind here that this was on a national scale, but on a local scale, as with real estate; this is more powerful again.
We were in competition with a company named Marks and Spencers (M&S). They had been struggling to see growth in terms of business sales volume.
They then came up with a new marketing strategy which really helped the company turn a corner. This advertising campaign was one of their most financially successful and publicly acclaimed. Yet it was extremely simple and straightforward.
They introduced Plan A. With the strapline:
Plan A. Because there is no Plan B.
A lot of the initiatives had nothing to do with the top lines that M&S provide to their customers. They are famous for their high quality food and ladies clothing. However their advertising was based around sustainability and the environment.
Not how tasty their food was, our how on trend their latest fashion lines are, but how they will help the world.
In fact all this advertised was brand value. This enhanced the perception that people had in M&S, and how ethical they are. This worked wonders, and helped the firm reach a solid 3% increase in brand value; having previously been in decline.
This campaign was not even all about M&S giving back; it was an opportunity for them to cut their costs. Which was one of the main aims, as well as staff motivation.
So the success of this campaign was undoubted. They increased sales by improving their brand perception; through the channels of helping the environment and supporting others.
This certainly was noted by their current and potential customers. This then set their platform for their renewed success. This new brand perception will also now live long in the memory of the consumer. It was a way of setting their values out to the public.
This campaign for the brand was actually so successful, that the company decided to extend it from 100 to 180 commitments. They then retargeted their audience with the subliminal message; ‘this is what we set out to achieve, look what we have done; this is what we will do next.’ I believe this just reinforces that initial positive message.
M&S was just one example. However I feel there is something that we can all take from this message; certainly when it comes to your business.
If you have read all of that and struggle to see how you could adapt this to a smaller, local scale; then fear not.
There is an abundance of innovative and original ways to utilise this strategy on a much smaller scale for your real estate brand.
Other industry examples
The purpose of providing examples from wider industries and sectors is simply for inspiration. Many of these ideas can be tailored to real estate brands, with just as much benefit.
Everyday people do selfless acts in the name of charitable causes. They do this because it is the right thing to do. They do not necessarily declare their actions.
Your business can do something positive, because it is the right thing to do. However you can also be known for this. I am not suggesting you throw this in your customer’s face, as that would defeat the object somewhat.
Imagine in a competitive world of business; if your point of difference was your consciousness of the environment. Or your commitment to reducing carbon footprint, or even just giving something back.
You could advertise this as your unique outlook or set of values. If it was a straight choice between realtors, I know I would select the more ethical; as long as the price and results were fairly similar. Let’s explore some possibilities that you could transfer to this thought process.
I think you could really open your mind to the types of things you could support with your own business. United Airlines flights going forward will be powered by an eco-fuel. By joining in partnership with Fulcrum Bioenergy, they can cut their carbon emissions by 80%. This is a $30 million investment that uses food scraps and farm waste to provide the fuel.
Now as a small business you are not going to contribute towards this development. However businesses could choose to travel only by United Airlines (where possible) to reduce their carbon footprint.
I don’t know how many flights per year you require, possibly not many. However it sounds a pretty bold statement if you declare this. The idea here is that the innovation does not have to be yours, but that does not mean you cannot support it.
Perhaps to tailor this towards real estate, then going forward you could consider an environmentally friendly hybrid or electric vehicle to travel.
Some food related businesses are using apps like that from Feeding Forward makes donating food seamless. They use the app to request a free food pickup. This food is then collected and delivered to local homeless shelters and food banks.
A slogan of, ‘We donate all of our waste food to the homeless’ could be pretty powerful.
Are solar panels an option for your real estate base? Even if you are based from home. ‘We have reduced our carbon footprint by creating our own electricity. Help us to continue to support the environment’.
Having a solar panel attached to your building could help power your home, and act as a great advertising aid.
Perhaps you could even collaborate with a solar company to recommend their services and vice versa.
Again whether based from home or an office, especially in urban areas. Could you support a charitable bird nest company like The Nest Project.
This can provide homes for birds in the inner city. ‘Looking after your interests, and the local wildlife’. Sounds a little corny I know, but you get the message.
Another example I have witnessed was a link building company that helps sites climb the search engine rankings; but only by providing charitable links.
They boost your position and increase traffic, whilst also donating to charity. That certainly caught my attention and acted as a draw.
I am just trying to think of out of the box examples of things that could benefit you financially, help the environment and also improve your brand value.
The possibilities to help the planet or an organisation, and gain kudos from it are limitless.
Incorporate CSR into real estate marketing
This may sound incredibly simple and basic, but some of the most successful examples are. Could you begin a local campaign for your area or a specific neighbourhood?
Campaigns that are beneficial to the community, can gain a lot of traction in a very short space of time. You could be the figurehead of that.
Once again it does not have to be your innovation that you choose to support. It could be absolutely anything. It can be as easy for starting a petition for a cause, then submitting the acquired signatures.
Best of all some towns and cities are more than happy to get behind these; whether it is basic or innovative.
Let’s take New York as an example. They have a very poor recycling rate when compared to the national average; by almost half in fact.
The Intellibins app has been designed to improve recycling access in New York City. The app will helps residents find recycling points for specific items that sanitation trucks normally don’t take.
Whether residents choose to use this or not is their own prerogative. However in return BigBelly solar powered Wi-Fi trash cans have also been installed. These can provide free Wi-Fi in public areas. There have been 170 of these installed so far.
They can also notify the city collectors when they are ready to be emptied. It would seem that New York is supporting the local population whilst supporting the environment through recycling.
Is this something you could campaign to have installed in your area? A way to improve recycling and provide the public with Wi-Fi. If you were responsible how could this impact your image?
There are so many opportunities, no doubt right on your doorstep.
Could you sponsor a local charity within the area? This does not even need to be in the form of finances. Could you or your team offer your time as a form of volunteering? These kinds of days and initiatives can be a fantastic form of teambuilding.
They can also help a great cause. Even more so they can build trust and compassion for your brand. You may be known as the real estate agent that helped X,Y or Z. Rather than just another agent.
Seriously consider how powerful that could be, and what difference it could make to all.
Could you promote a local event, or support an area improvement project. These will be very much dependant on your specific area. However I am certain there are opportunities out there where you could make a difference.
Other possible suggestions include:
- Host or be elected onto a local board
- Organise and chair local business owner meetings
- Offer career advice to local school children (I’ve done this with a business enterprise class and it was extremely rewarding)
- Attend local meetings – anything that determines the future of the area. This can be a great opportunity, especially if you aim to be genuinely interested in others. The topic will quickly come to you and what you are all about. This is a great opportunity build rapport with some influential contacts.
They key with this is to get your name out there and raise your profile.
Perhaps the people you talk to aren’t looking to buy or sell a home, but they may well know someone who is. If you have begun to bond and build relationships, then a recommendation may be very close.
Keep in mind that all of this can be 100% free marketing. You could build reputation and source leads by investing your time only. It really is a smart tactic.
Let’s round this up
The main thing is to do it because it is the right thing to do. The second point is to talk about it, because it will help your brand value. Then who knows what kind of karma comes back around to you.
You may also inspire others to do likewise. You could possibly just do something so simple as to only use sustainable materials in your office or place of work. The potential possibilities are endless.
There will always be those that simply do not care about your companies CSR. They just want low costs and good results. However for the undecided customer, this could be a game changer for you.
I guess in summary I am a strong believer that CSR can be one of the best forms of marketing. It can certainly help you stand out from the rest of the real estate competition.
It also may just make you feel great too. It doesn’t matter how big or small your contribution. If you are making a positive impact, then the favour may well be returned to you in the form of local opinion and leads.
Thank you as ever for reading,