Engaging your local community
Making your store a key part of your community can pay big dividends. Mandeep Singh, a member of Partners for Growth's Retailer Advisory Panel and winner of Asian Trader magazine’s Spirit of the Community Award 2015, shares the benefits:
What are the big benefits of doing this?
“Getting involved in the community takes your customer engagement to the next level. It’s something we can do better than the big supermarkets. People really appreciate you putting something back into the community, they talk to you more and they’re more likely to support you.
It also makes the job more enjoyable, as customers like coming in and we like seeing them. And, long term, it shows in profits. “
What type of activities have you tried?
“We started with sponsorship of one football team, then two, then 10. We now run a charity cup every year, and we’ve expanded to sponsor other sports and fund-raising activities.
“We have days when we and the customers dress up – the last one was as superheroes – and we’ve had giveaways of signed rugby balls for the Rugby World Cup. Nowadays, people have started asking us what we’re up to next.
We also interact with customers on social media all the time. It’s not just telling them about products; it’s about building a relationship, so we post videos of staff members, sometimes talking about products.”
Which worked best?
“We hold a charity football tournament on the pitch at Sheffield United for a day in the off-season. It’s a great day and gives players the chance to play on a professional pitch – they really look forward to it.
“We also sponsored a fundraiser known locally as ‘the man with the pram’ to walk between our three stores every day for a month, collecting money for Macmillan Cancer Support in a pram. Between us, we raised £22,000 in a month.
“We’ve just run a trolley dash, which was really successful. People had to ‘like’, ‘share’ and ‘comment’ on our Facebook page to enter and about 700 people did. We even had 300 turning up at the store to watch.”
How should a retailer get started?
“Start small but think long term. Once you feel more confident, you can branch out into other things. Talk to local schools or care homes, and sponsor their activities – by providing a case of wine or boxes of crisps and for an event, for example. There is a cost involved but you’re going to gain in the long run as it gets your name out there.
“Getting involved with schools pays off in other ways too, in that they will be quick to help you stamp out problems with kids in store.”
What are the pitfalls and how do you avoid them?
“You’ve got to plan, you’ve got to publicise and you’ve got to make sure you’ve got the basics in place. It’s no good organising things and making them sound great, if you don’t smile at customers when they come into the store. You’ve got to have a laugh with them; to talk to them; find out what they’re interested in; ask about their families.”
What are the best ways to tell people what you're doing?
“You’ve got to tell people about what you’re doing, so social media is crucial. It’s as important to get this right as it is to organise the events or sponsorship. Doing it properly builds a relationship with your customers. They see you as friendly and fun and this means more than just being having the products at the cheapest price.
“We get an average of 60-70 ‘likes’ on all of our Facebook posts nowadays. We put fun stuff up – we’ve just done a Halloween video of staff and customers dressed up and dancing to a mash-up of Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Indian bhangra music.
“You need to update your social media regularly though – every day if possible – as you’re talking to your customers. It’s like being part of a family.”
For tips on how to put your store at the heart of your community, download our fact sheet below, and for more information about setting up a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and more, click here.