In difficult economic conditions, every client and every dollar counts even more than usual. People are seeing their homes going into foreclosure, companies are laying off employees, municipalities are going bankrupt all across the country. After school and community youth programs are disappearing due to lack of funding and support. Public services such as police and fire departments are even on the brink of being consolidated in many areas in order to save money. While many would say that this is a bad time to market and promote yourself or business, it is, in reality, a perfect time to do that, and help in your community as well.
There are a great many people who are of the opinion that doing something for nothing is poor business practice, and that if you give away your service that it means that you don’t value it (therefore potential clients won’t value it either). These beliefs cannot be further from the truth. In reality taking on a small project for the sake of helping another, or lending your time and expertise for a local charity says much more. Doing so shows that you are a member of the community, and that you (and your business) care about that community and are willing to forgo profits to not only help others, but to aid in improving the community as well. Something as small as a medical practice sending doctors to volunteer at a free clinic, any business helping to rebuild homes damaged by natural disasters, or an accountant or lawyer helping a community center or little league set up the bylaws or find funding are just a few examples of such acts.
Donating time and expertise may not immediately affect the company’s bottom line, but what it will do is show people that not all companies put profits before those in the area that the business exists in. Doing so will help build trust and goodwill with neighbors who are always potential clients. Perhaps free positive publicity or PR will follow, which is always a benefit to any business. Even without such broad-reaching attention, word of mouth may carry the company name far enough and to enough people to spread the word of an involved business that takes the time to give back. At the very least, it creates a great opportunity to network with other community members.
Down the road, when conditions improve and people are in a better position to become clients, they will already have a positive view of the company. A positive general image combined with giving back to the community are two sure-fire ways to attract and retain clients. This can all be accomplished at any time regardless of economic climate or without reason other than simply because people are in need and it would be the right thing to do.
Do you think it’s counter-productive to do pro bono work or give products away? If you ran a business, would you give products or services for free in an effort to not only build goodwill but also to help the less fortunate?