The importance of building a community profile

By Doug MacMillan


For many time-starved contractors, marketing activity is dominated by the digital tactics that are necessary in an industry where a new customer is inevitably found during their time of need. If a pipe bursts or the furnace grinds to a halt, we jump online, type what we need, hit enter and look no further than the first page.

To be sure, the Google gatekeeper has service businesses over the proverbial barrel. To not put time and budget into SEO, AdWords and display advertising means not making the first page cut and feeling like the marketing equivalent of how we picked teams in grade eight dodgeball.

Relying too heavily, though, on search and digital marketing may remove an essential and emotional piece of the puzzle: the community. Even in a time of urgency, behavioural psychology suggests that when we choose from the list that pops up on the search engine, we’re more inclined to go with a brand we know over one which is there solely because of well chosen keywords, a higher ad budget, and a sophisticated algorithm.

Building community presence is as old as marketing itself, of course, but its importance fell off the radar a bit as we became more digital and transactional. COVID created an interesting tension between the two: online business and marketing surged through necessity and opportunity, while it also reignited a drive to focus on community building. It’s where we look to feel informed, and that we belong to something. Sure, there are online communities, but our physical community is the more emotional part of the equation.

Savvy, locally owned brands can tap into this by building a presence that reinforces the Google results. Yes, it’s more work, but it’s the piece of the puzzle that can make the difference between being picked first or second, and not lingering in last place until all the perceived good players are already on a team.

Here are five ways to focus your brand on building a community presence


  1. Community media such as magazines, newspapers, local online news sites and especially radio should be on the radar. While they’re experiencing declining ad revenue, they are certainly not dead: they’re go-to resources for community news. As climate change adds environmental emergencies that necessitate hyper-localized communication, I suspect local media will continue to play a key role. Businesses can provide content, such as preparing your home for winter or cooling equipment options explained.


  1. Hosting and supporting festivals and events are a great way to promote local vibrancy as we get back out there and are looking for some home-spun fun. Volunteering, hosting a table, and putting a logo on the poster are often low-cost ways to get in front of large groups of people in a comfortable, casual, and relaxed way and help put a face and personality to the online listing they may see in a time of need.


  1. Corporate social responsibility is an essential commitment for all businesses today. Whether it is tackling homelessness, food insecurity or another one of the issues challenging communities today, every small business can get involved. Cash may be too tight for a big donation, but hosting fundraising events or drives for food or clothing, team volunteering, and using our influence to spread the word about the good work of local charities all reinforce a brand’s position as a caring community member.


  1. Staying active on social media is a great way to stay connected into community. This involves more than just posting promotions and tips into the universe. Through their social media channels such as Facebook, which often hosts popular community pages, businesses can engage with local groups to provide tips and advice, and celebrate community achievements.


  1. Creating experiences people will talk about is a contractor’s most useful tool in the community. That means truly exceptional service experiences – getting there faster than promised, taking time to listen and explain, small gestures like bringing in the bins from the curb, sending handwritten thank you cards with freshly baked cookies. Teams can brainstorm how to be excellent, so they take ownership in making it so. As we navigate the new reality of AI, algorithms and anonymity, I predict the consumer’s pushback will be to put more attention on the local neighbourhoods and communities where we can make genuine connections that humanize our experiences. The best brands will be in the middle of that.

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