In marketing terms, an organization’s trademark, or “mark,” is any word, phrase, symbol, design, sound, smell, color, or combination of these, used by a company to identify its products or services, and distinguish them from products and services provided by others.

We’ve talked many times about the importance of having a unique mark and protecting it both legally and by using it wisely. It’s one of the most valuable and important assets your company has.

But that’s not the kind of mark I want to talk about this week. I want to turn your attention to a much grander, broader mark. I’m talking about the mark that your organization is leaving on your community. When we think about companies that have helped shape Des Moines, we can’t help but point to the Principals, Merediths, and Wellmarks of our world, whose civic-mindedness has changed the landscape of our shared community.

For every company the size of those giants, there are hundreds of businesses with a handful of employees. Normally those companies fly under the radar because it’s assumed they can’t possibly have that kind of impact. I want to challenge that belief. Whether you are a solopreneur, have fewer than 20 employees or maybe have a few hundred people who work in your organization – you can leave your mark.

Think I’m crazy? I offer my small agency as an example. I’m very proud of the work we do for clients across the country. We help them connect with their best-fit prospects and create lasting relationships with their customers. But honestly, that’s just us doing our job and what we get paid to do. Important – yes. Our legacy in this community? No.

20+ years ago, we were part of the team that conceived, created and launched Jolly Holiday Lights for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and 10+ years ago, we conceived, created and launched the YESS Duck Derby for Youth Emergency Services & Shelter of Iowa.

These events raise a combined $500,000+ a year for those organizations. They are the largest fundraiser for each of them and they have become a significant part of their brand, their connection to the community and help them serve more children every year.

That’s our true mark. We used our best resources to change our community for the better and hopefully those non-profits will live on for many, many years, caring for the children who need their help.

My point is this – if we can do it, so can you. Lest you think I’ve forgotten that this is all about marketing, let me connect the dots. Being an organization that changes the course of your community is good for business. Here are some of the ways it translates to your bottom line.

Brand building: No doubt, being perceived as a company who serves the community is a powerful way to generate awareness, respect, and appreciation for your brand.

Employee attraction: Today’s employees want to work for an organization that has a greater purpose than just making a profit. They want a company with a connection to the community and a conscience.

Tip the scales: If a prospect is trying to decide between you and your competitor and one of you is known for doing something special for your shared community – who do you think will get the nod. No doubt you have to be good at what you do and fairly priced, etc. But being a good corporate citizen may just be what gets you the nod.

I challenge you because this doesn’t happen by accident. What mark will you leave on this community?

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Drew McLellan
Drew McLellan has owned an advertising agency for almost 20 years, serving local, regional and national businesses. He also coaches hundreds of agencies on business best practices through peer to peer networks, workshops and consulting.  Drew is often interviewed/quoted in Entrepreneur Magazine, New York Times, CNN, BusinessWeek, and many others. The Wall Street Journal calls him “one of 10 bloggers every entrepreneur should read.” He blogs at both www.DrewsMarketingMinute.com and www.BuildABetterAgency.com.

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