The following is a guest post by Noble McIntyre of McIntyre Law in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Let’s be honest. That title sounds cynical at best, opportunistic at worst. But hear me out. Getting involved with your community can be one of the best ways to market your firm, not just because of the business you’ll gain from it, but precisely because it means becoming an active member of your community. Marketing is usually very one-sided. It’s a billboard, or an ad, or a Web site that allows for limited interaction, if any. Community involvement puts you in a much better position to get to know your potential clients, and to let them get to know you. Here’s how you can make it work to everyone’s advantage.
Support a Local Charity
Anyone can write a check and call it supporting the community. Charity and volunteer organizations undoubtedly need money to do the things they do, and if your firm can contribute, that’s great, especially during times when your caseload may prohibit actual participation. But if it’s all you do, you’ll eventually come off as remote, uninterested, and yes, uninvolved. To really make a difference, and gain some exposure for your firm, you need to get your hands dirty.
Find an organization that supports a cause close to your heart. If it’s too difficult to narrow it down, and you don’t want to spread yourself too thin, ask your employees to vote on what cause they’d like to contribute their time to. To make it fair, decide to support one organization per month, or per six months, whatever works for your firm. Designate a day, even if it’s a weekend day, to go out and help, whether it’s collecting clothing or canned goods, distributing school supplies, or cleaning up a local park. Where does the marketing come in? Before you even begin, the first thing to do is buy your firm matching shirts—polo or tees—with your company’s logo embroidered or printed on them. You can also do this with hats, especially if you’re all going to be outdoors on a sunny day. Not only will this display team unity, it will get your name out there while you’re doing good.
The sad reality is, we can all only do so much. We all have our own families to care for, bills to pay, needs to fulfill. It’s wonderful when we can share what we have, but there are limits to what we can do. This applies not only to money, but to time and personnel, too. My firm is fairly small, and as dedicated as my employees are to helping the community, we can only take on so much, which also means we can’t help everyone in need, and that can be frustrating at times.
In November 2010, we teamed up with a local organization, Angel Food Ministries, to provide Thanksgiving dinner to a few hundred families in Oklahoma City who would otherwise not be able to enjoy a holiday meal. At first, a few hundred sounds like a lot, but when you consider that nearly 20 percent of our city’s population lives in poverty, it’s just not enough. We took things a step further, and shared our plans with the Oklahoma Association for Justice. They joined the Community Project, and we ended up being able to provide food for about 4,200 people. The event grew so large so quickly, that a local news station showed up to cover it. We were able to share our story with the community, which we hope not only encouraged others to step up, but got our name out there as being a law firm dedicated to helping others.
Make Helping a Habit
While it’s true we all only have so much money, time, and energy to give, it’s still not an excuse for making nothing more than a token effort to get involved with the community. Nothing will show your true colors faster than participating in one event, and then never showing your face in the community again. People remember those who help—and they also remember those who only do so once for their own personal gain.
Get together with your partners and employees, and come up with a schedule for helping throughout the year. Choose one big event you want to participate in—for us, it was Thanksgiving—and then a few other, smaller events. Whether it’s once a month or once a quarter, the fact that you’re making a regular effort to help those less fortunate members of your community on a regular basis will go a long way toward building good will and faith in your company, and your staff.
Every time a potential client walks through our doors, we want them to feel that we’re offering them the best service and an equal amount of attention as we offer every other client, no matter who they are, or how much money they have. Being present in our community, making our names known, and garnering attention for charity and volunteer projects does benefit us. But it also benefits our future clients because once they’ve seen us in action, they know they’ll be getting the best service we can provide.
Noble McIntyre is the senior partner and owner of McIntyre Law, an Oklahoma personal injury law firm.