Recently, a client told me, “As I’ve become familiar with other businesses in this area, I have to say that I am very impressed with your outreach and community involvement. The company I work for could take a lesson from you.”
While it was flattering, the funny thing is that I feel Stout can and should be doing even more. Based on our success with outreach and community participation, we’ve recently hired a management level employee to take it to the next level.
In the software and IT business, it’s too easy to be somewhat isolated—and not realize it. On one side of it, a lot of companies restrict their outreach to sales activities, which, in the eyes of potential customers, keeps them strictly in the “vendor” category. I also find far too many employment candidates restrict their own outreach to a social media profile and resume postings.
This is not about online media or virtual work tools. It’s really about being involved, active and visible in business organizations and community activities on a face-to-face level, above and beyond any online medium. This is not simply a benefit to the immediate participants, but it’s also a great marketing tool for you and can be a fine source of new business to your company. If you are a job seeker and interested in furthering your career, group participation is probably the best way to find the colleagues and employer of your dreams.
Participate in industry events: sponsorship, public speaking, and volunteering. Do committee work for a business organization. In so doing, you can help improve the business environment. Help with community activities outside your industry. As an example, Stout sponsors and actively supports a local arts advocacy organization.
Outreach has a practical consideration as well. I find that too many underestimate what it really takes to make their businesses better known. The truth of it is that you could devote a third of your daily activity to outreach and community participation and it would likely pay off for you in ways you never imagined. One smart business owner says that as much as 20% of their new business comes from referrals as a result of being active in outreach initiatives.
To be clear, I am not advising you to be active to directly sell yourself or your business. Selling will occur naturally as people come to know you for your involvement. And don’t just try it once and then feel it didn’t help you or your business. Find a way to be involved. It will pay off.