Marketing in the community – join up and join in

First published on Law Society Gazette In Business Blog - Click here to see full discussion.

Last week, I attended a fantastic talk by Andrew Donaldson, partner at north-west based self-storage chain, Big Storage, on how and why to run a good corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme.

At the age of 23, Andrew founded his business with a £2,000 loan by the Prince’s Trust, and today has an annual turnover of £10m. Given his consequent success, it is easy to see why he is such a passionate ambassador for the Prince’s Trust.

However, the personal and professional benefits that he has experienced as a result of getting involved have been such that he and his company now support a wide range of community activities. These range from rescuing Chester’s local basketball club to establishing high-level business networks. While the benefits to his business have been immense, so is the impact on his private life, as many of these commitments require his participation in the evening and weekends.

Many of the most successful solicitors whom I meet are very active in their local communities or support national and international charities. By investing their time and energy in good causes, they are ambassadors for their firm, developing enviable personal networks and a consistent flow of new client referrals. They know the importance of ‘joining in’ as well as just ‘joining up’.

Apart from pro bono advice schemes, encouraging young solicitors to get involved in community groups is a great way to help them start building their own personal network and can help develop their broader commercial skills too. For example, Arts & Business matches professionals with arts organisations on a project basis, or places professionals as board members within an arts organisation.

I recently met one partner who claimed to generate a third of their private client business via active membership of a formal business referral network. However, I often also meet partners and associates with quite different views, such as the one who explained that ‘he did not have time to go out making daisy chains in the hope of winning new business’.

For many, spare time is the one thing that they are most short of. But if you can find the time, the great thing about community marketing is that there are so many opportunities that there is something to suit all interests, and it can be tremendously rewarding personally as well as professionally.

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