Whether it’s to manage risk, create business opportunities, or build community goodwill – businesses are increasingly relying on community engagement to build their brand and drive customer loyalty.
Here are five strategic approaches to community engagement that are commonly used by food companies:
1. Market Your Products
Using your products to do good in the community can be a great marketing tool. If companies can attribute a benefit to your product, and see it often, they are more likely to buy it.
Example: An apple orchard supporting a community lunch program (and then including their apples in the lunches).
2. Attract Employees
If you’re active in your community, people will notice – including potential employees. You’ll attract people that share your values and are engaged with your purpose.
Example: Employees at a meat processing facility volunteer at a local university engineering fundraiser where soon-to-be graduates engage with the company's leadership team and employees.
3. Conduct Market Research
Engaging the community for market research could be a cost-effective way to understand critical issues to your business and learn about your customers. Think of new and unique ways to interact and engage with your target market to learn details that might give you a competitive edge.
Example: A brewery sponsoring a community event could learn that many potential customers have a gluten intolerance.
4. Build Brand Loyalty
Community members can become loyal customers. Spend time in the community, build trust and be transparent in your activities that will have an impact. In doing so, you will build loyalty and trust and win new customers.
Example: A veggie processor offers a partial scholarship to a student in the community going into Food and Agriculture Sciences field.
5. Gain Social License to Operate
Ensure your company has approval with the local community and stakeholders and that your company is responsive to community concerns. Your company must be seen operating responsibly, taking care of its employees and the environment, and being a good corporate citizen.
Example: Host an “open-house” to invite community members into your facility. Provide an opportunity for dialogue and share the positive work you are doing.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to community engagement
Your strategy should align with your organizations overall values and purpose –and engage your employees since they are often the ones executing it. Make sure the initiatives you choose align with your strategic goals. When done right- community engagement can be a powerful and cost-effective way to build awareness about your products and loyalty with your customer base.