Building Professional Relationships in Your Community

Posted by Richard "Dick" Cleary on Mar 24, 2020 8:24:49 AM

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With the exponential growth of the internet, the increased popularity of social media, and the use of these platforms to build brand awareness, communicate with clients, and recruit new talent, the art of physically speaking to another person sometimes goes by the wayside. Digital marketing and recruitment are incredible tools which can help you grow your business, but building lasting professional relationships through face-to-face interaction still remains a critical part of running a growing firm. Meaningful community involvement can help increase brand recognition, generate leads for prospective clients, and recruit new associates. Community involvement is an umbrella term which includes several types of activities. Below are just a few ways you can engage with your community while benefiting your agency at the same time:

Organizational Membership

Of course, one of the most important connections which you can make is being an active member with your city or town's Chamber of Commerce. Your physical professional networking operates similarly to that of a social media platform, and the Chamber of Commerce is the closest to a physical platform. It serves as the hub of the who's, what's, where's, and when's of business. Your chamber can put you in touch with all kinds of events and business owners, allowing you to let those in your community begin to know you. Other relevant organizational memberships include industry related groups, country clubs, and fraternal organizations. If you attended college near your agency, your alumni organization can be valuable in recruiting college grads as new agents. Keep in mind that becoming only a card-carrying member of a group won't really benefit you. In order to take full advantage of your memberships and to give back to the community, you need to lead by example, by demonstrating what you expect from your associates, by not only attending events to meet members of your community, but by becoming an active contributor to their mission.

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Being a respected business owner in a community requires giving back on occasion. One way to do this is through volunteering at local organizations. Volunteering is also a good way to encourage team building among your associates. You can have your whole office participate in a half-day or full day project. So, many opportunities exist with multiple types of organizations. Some examples of types of activities can include:

- Helping with construction on a Habitat for Humanity home

- Teaching financial literacy workshops at local schools and community center

- Assisting with clean up after a storm or natural disaster

- Putting together care packages for the Armed forces

- Putting together food packages for malnourished children in other countries

- Volunteering to help shop for elderly residents at a nearby assisted-living facility

- Helping serve meals at a homeless shelter

- Helping adults learn to read in a local literacy program

Philanthropy

Volunteering your time is a type of philanthropy but raising money for a cause also goes a long way in increasing your community engagement. As a business owner you might be asked to sponsor a sports team or donate money to a specific community cause. Large organizations, like United Way, have programs which also allow your employees to make small contributions to causes they care about. Philanthropy doesn't always have to mean opening up your checkbook, especially if you have only recently established your agency. You can encourage your associates to join you on a 5K for a specific cause and each raise money for that cause. In any case, find the causes you are passionate about and give what you can reasonably afford to demonstrate your commitment and dedication to your community.

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Vying for a seat on the board of your village, town, or county, or your local school board, isn't everyone's cup of tea. Yet, if the thought of being involved in local politics interests you, holding one of these seats puts you, and by default, your agency, in the public eye. Being a board member also gives you the opportunity to participate in important decisions about businesses and your community which can impact your agency. More importantly, you can be the voice for other business owners elevating your status in the community. Community and county boards also play a big part in planning celebrations, parades, and other community-sponsored events. These types of free events offer valuable opportunities for you to increase name recognition, whether sponsoring a particular aspect of an event, entering a float in the local parade, or volunteering to help with logistics.

Hosting an Event

Holding your own event can also be a philanthropic pursuit to raise money for a particular organization or cause, but hosting a "Thank You" event is a great way to engage with current clients and perhaps find some new ones. Depending on your budget, you can plan a half-day or full-day family friendly event providing food, music, and fun activities for kids. You might do something simple like an ice cream social, or something more involved such as a pancake breakfast, or hot dogs and chips. Either way, community members love free events and it gives you and your associates the opportunity to mingle, know your community, and answer any insurance related questions. You can also hold workshops and business networking events to build relationships in your community.

Scholarships

Sponsoring a yearly scholarship at your local high school or summer camp scholarships for local kids is another way to show goodwill towards your community. Helping out your local youth shows your commitment to education and youth empowerment, but it's also a powerful marketing tool, especially in terms of increasing name recognition and brand awareness. Your agency gets mentioned with an award, allowing community members to take notice. Scholarship winners might be interested in future employment, too; and, when people are chatting about their insurance needs, your name will be at the top of the list.  Also, several online platforms for scholarship management make this an easy project by streamlining the entire process, in this way, you won't have to deal with all of the minutia.

Topics: Agent / Advisor Training, eLearning, Training and Development, Insurance

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