Satisfied small business customers are loyal small business customers. Whether your company is providing financial services, benefits packages, or office supplies to small businesses, you have a vested interest in the long-term health and growth of those clients. You’re probably also well aware that small businesses don’t survive as long as big businesses – but you might not know there’s something you can do about it while also bolstering your bottom line.
Use staff volunteering to drive customer engagement and retention
Think of the employees in your company, and all the collective business skill and knowhow they possess. You could bring that collective skill to bear to help your customers by creating a formal program where staff can provide your customers with pro bono advice. Having a formal pro bono program at your company can bring your people together around a purpose in their work, instill pride in your company, and increase their conviction that your company is doing something worthwhile in the world. There are even websites like BusinessAdvising.org that can manage a program like that for you, while also supplementing it with pro bono expert advisors from other industries.
According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses that receive three or more hours of mentoring achieve higher revenues and increased business growth. Even better, they report: “according to a 2014 survey, 70 percent of small businesses that receive mentoring survive more than five years – double the survival rate of non-mentored businesses.” The same survey found that 88 percent of business owners with a mentor say that having one is invaluable.
And yet small business owners – and particularly diverse small business owners – face challenges finding advisors. Many often want help in areas less familiar to them but don’t have access to affordable advisors or networks that can help them. For example, nearly half of women and one-third of minority small business owners lack available mentors and advisors even if they’re actively looking for one.
Align your brand experience with your company’s mission and bottom line
Your customers are more likely to think highly of your brand if you’re constantly working to make their life easier. Your small business clients will be more willing to stick with you – and evangelize your products and services – if you have a meaningful way of engaging with their needs. Your customers already have a routine behavior that has them interacting with your brand, sometimes daily. Use that to your advantage and plus-up your relationship!
As an example, let’s say you’re a bank who services small business customers with checking accounts or loans. Your customers already trust you as a financial institution, and you’re in a prime position to build on that trust by offering them free advice to help them meet their business challenges. If you have your employees enrolled as volunteers in a site like BusinessAdvising.org, then your small business clients can be matched with pro bono help from anyone in your bank, anywhere in the country. And all of a sudden your bank is more than just a bank to your customers, but an integral part of their business’ health. You’re a partner.
There’s also an added side bonus: by having employees engage with your customers in all kinds of new ways, it also might just provide your brand with some detailed marketing information and new ideas that could give you a competitive edge.
Create a unique local impact in your local community
By offering skills-based volunteer advisors to your customers, you can build enormous amounts of goodwill while also creating real opportunities across multiple fronts.
It’s fairly easy to see the benefits that a nonprofit or charity is having right in your community. For small businesses it’s often a halo of impact. According to research from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, places with a high density of locally-owned businesses experience higher incomes and employment growth, and less poverty. If you help empower your small business customers while at the same time creating quality jobs with better wages, then everyone in your community benefits.
Give It A Try!
If skills-based volunteering sounds like something that you’d like to try at your company, we encourage you to start your search with us and BusinessAdvising.org. We can help you come up with a test a free or low-cost pilot, and we think everyone at your company has something to offer. When it comes to small businesses, they’re looking for pro bono help in HR, leadership, marketing, sales, IT, finance (and much more), and freeing staff to contribute just 5 hours a month to mentoring goes a long way. Your staff can even do it from their desks or a meeting room — using the phone, email or Skype.
Consider the easier and more engaging way to volunteer—because chances are, skills-based volunteering will enable you and your staff to volunteer more often, and create real community impact and best of all retain customers and drive new ones. And really, what’s better than that?