Authentic Marketing Through Community Engagement Part Three

 This is part three of a three part series. Please visit to access the first two parts. 

There are many example of great CLM campaigns.

One personal example is the Green Neighborhood Challenge (GNEC) I created and directed at Clean Currents.  GNEC was fairly simple early on, evolving over time as we learned how to perfect this particular form of CLM. We found the deep green, environmentally focused activist and worked with them to sign up their community to GNEC. The fact that the pitch for the campaign came from a community volunteer was huge. The premise of the campaign was that for every clean energy enrollment we got, we would donate money to a green project the group was working on. In the campaign execution, we would provide material and speakers to talk about the threat of climate change. We also would send out an eNewsletter highlighting positive actions of GNECs and providing additional educational information. The GNEC leaders had open access to our staff and were brought into the office on a few occasions for food and drinks. If they ever had any problems, I would personally get involved. We created unique presentations for GNECs to use, such as a fun wind power “demonstration” for elementary school students. In one of our later iterations, we had a summer picnic where the entire company came and we recognized the efforts of the best GNEC leaders, with everybody in the company personally thanking them. GNEC cemented Clean Currents firmly in the communities where we operated it. The credibility of the campaign rested on the brand’s credibility as a company that was environmentally and socially conscious, plus we didn’t pay the GNEC leaders anything. The donations never financially benefited the volunteer leaders, but rather went directly to the community project.

Another campaign that looks like CLM is the SweetGreen Passport program. In this initiative, SweetGreen (a restaurant chain focusing on healthy and local salads) partners with health and fitness providers that are local to their restaurants. These partners provide free classes (yoga, dance, etc.) that are exclusive to SweetGreen Passport participants. When the classes happen, participants often share the experience via social media. In addition, and perhaps the part that really makes this “community,” is the connections people make with each other at these events based on their shared interest in health and wellness (or anything else!).

CLM is a leading edge marketing strategy that is still evolving, but fits a powerful need in our society – the need to belong to something. By creating a community where likeminded people can come together and feel “at home,” CLM is addressing this need directly. At the end of the day, you will not only have new customers, brand ambassadors, and high morale among your staff, but you’ll be using your organization to make society a little bit of a better place.


Authentic Marketing through Community Engagement Part Two

Clean Currents Cycling Team

Part Two of a three part series on Community Level Marketing (CLM)

Click here for Part One

Community Level Marketing (CLM) may require a shift in the mindset of your organization. Frankly, CLM may not result in immediate sales or a short-term favorable ROI. Rather, it represents a long-term commitment from your organization to the community it is targeting or serving. Think of it as a three step process starting with CLM, then moving to more traditional outbound marketing, followed by direct sales. CLM doesn’t have to be costly, but it does require a commitment of staff time and organizational support, especially at the upper management level. The community will see leadership’s involvement as further evidence that this is not just some sales or marketing ploy, but rather a real part of the organization’s brand identity. Of course, having leadership’s support is also vital to keep other stakeholders patient while the campaign gradually materializes.

The four spokes of the wheel of CLM are:

  • Education
  • Credibility
  • Action
  • Reward

Here’s a brief description of each spoke as I see them:

  • Education

When you engage in CLM, a big part of the value proposition you as an organization bring to the table are the resources and expertise you have. Your community leaders will likely rely on you to provide them a “tool kit” to use for outreach. A good CLM plan should have a simple, easy-to-use set of materials, including templates, talking points, background information, and other collateral. The material you provide should not be overtly trying to sell your product, though should brand the material, for sure.  Also, your community leader may volunteer for the campaign because s/he has a related cause s/he wants to push. As long as there is open communication and the cause aligns with your campaign, this can be a big benefit to your organization. The expertise you provide can go beyond the outreach materials. Your organization may have staff that can speak to certain issues important to the community leader, or you may have access to other experts that the community leader cannot reach. The bottom line with education is that it forms the foundation of your pitch to the community leaders because it’s your biggest value add.

  • Credibility

Your CLM efforts will be for naught if your brand doesn’t have credibility. This credibility comes in two forms. First, the obvious thing is that you need credibility in the space where you are operating the CLM campaign. Don’t over reach by branching into areas that don’t make sense. That’s not to say you can’t address a broader category than your possibly narrow organizational focus. For example, a company like Clean Currents, which fought climate change by selling clean energy, could have credibility in other environmental areas such as recycling or energy conservation. Maintaining credibility also means being true to the immediate purpose of the CLM campaign. The campaign rationale has to have a purpose that creates positive results for the community.  The campaign cannot be a sales-by-other-means approach. If you want a sales campaign, try something else.

  • Action

This may seem self-apparent, but a good CLM campaign should incorporate an action component for the members of the community. It is not simply an educational or awareness campaign.  The thing that separates CLM from other kinds of marketing is the action the campaign inspires. The action can be an actual physical project in the community, such as building a community garden or it can be a digital action, such as a social media campaign. It depends on what community you are targeting. Action can also involve advocating for an issue or legislation related to that issue. The point is that the action is the center around which the entire CLM campaign revolves. It’s the glue that holds it together.

  • Reward

The CLM campaign needs to have a reward component at the end and/or as an incentive for actions people take in the midst of it. These rewards serve as a both an individual and a group incentive. It’s important to note that the incentives do not need to be financial, as many may think. Rather, incentives that are a better fit with CLM are ones that carry social capital. The star performers and community leaders should see visible benefits if the campaign goes well. The community should see group benefits as well. Examples of good benefits are public recognition, access to exclusive information, or a meeting with your CEO or Board members.

Stay tuned for Part Three next week for specific examples of CLM in action.