Professional relationships between a business and the community at large are vital building blocks for any business' success. And yet, many businesses sorely overlook these relationships in exchange for grand marketing campaigns and brand development.

Fortunately, it's never too late to make these professional connections in the community. It may take some extra work if you've been in business for a while already and haven't made an effort before, but the benefits of establishing professional relationships in your community outweigh any growing pains.

1. Creates a positive reputation

If you want to build a positive reputation, connect with people in the community. The good rapport that results from this is some of the best testimonials your business can get.

When people interact with you in informal settings, e.g., charity events, food drive drop-offs, soup kitchen volunteer settings, etc., they will get to know you and your employees personally. And by participating in the community, you establish yourself as an indispensable part of it.

2. Builds friendships

The more you interact with other businesses, the easier it will be to form friendships. People naturally desire to make new connections, and your efforts are bound to pay off in this regard. You may even find yourself in a quid pro quo situation with one of these business friends. You advertise their product, they advertise yours.

3. Increase sales

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As you make yourself valuable to the community, you may see an increase in sales. People tend to buy from businesses they respect and have a connection with. And with an increasing movement to buy local and support small businesses, being considered "local" is an additional bonus.

4. Opportunities for expansion

With an increase in your sales, you may see a need to expand your business. You may want to open a second location or grow your current one. Whatever the case, there will be greater opportunities for expansion thanks to increased revenue. You'll also have a better chance of negotiating zoning issues with the town if you're already seen as a friendly and useful entity.

5. Improve your communication skills

By throwing yourself into uncharted territories, such as organizing charity events or setting up fairs, you will have to interact with people differently. You may have to confront someone about a mistake they made in an order. You may have to meet with a respected town official for the first time. You'll learn how to speak to each type of customer or connection you make. This type of practical experience is invaluable.

How to Make Connections

Not every method for making connections will work for you. A method's success is dependent on your type of business and the community you are in.

1. CSR initiatives

Company Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives use your expertise to benefit the community. If you run a tech business, for instance, you could organize a summer tech boot camp for young kids to supplement STEM education. You could also fund community projects or local radio stations and non-profits.

2. Participate in local causes

When community members come together for a local cause, there is synergy. This synergy transcends any barriers of race, ethnicity and culture. By planning such events, you'll meet people from all walks of life, learn their stories and build a reputation as a compassionate and thoughtful company. You may also find out what needs your business has not yet met in the community.

3. Partner with local vendors

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Contract local service providers and vendors whenever you need an external service. If you have regular business lunches, consider holding them at local restaurants or hiring local catering companies. As your business expands, you'll not only gain a loyal service provider, but you'll also help these local businesses grow.

4. Organize a yearly giving back day

Dedicate a day in the year where you give back to the community. Giving back could be a sale specifically for community members, a community picnic, or donating to a local charity.

Establishing professional relationships is the way to go

If you ignore the community in which you operate, you exclude a major demographic that can potentially further your business. So do yourself a favor and go local. Local professional relationships open the door to quid pro quo opportunities, better negotiations with town officials and a stellar reputation.