Business

Relational marketing for Federal Way businesses | Kelly Maloney

In a tight-knit community such as Federal Way, there’s an element of marketing that is essential to how your organization is perceived, oftentimes having a corollary effect on your bottom line.

It includes engaging in three separate and distinct activities at once: Networking, community service and local marketing.

Each of these terms stand up on its own merit. Networking is an understood aspect of business decorum that, if done right, can play an integral part in an organization’s success. It’s not schmoozing, it’s relating. I recommend practicing your exit strategy for times when you run into a schmoozer. You are just wasting your time trying to build a professional relationship that matters with someone who is only looking for the next sale or the next rung up the ladder.

Those who engage in community service are those who have an active and heartfelt interest in helping the community through good works and through donations or sponsorships. These people can be from the business community or individuals, but they hold within themselves the desire to help others.

Local marketing is thought of as businesses that conduct some sort of promotional activity, such as advertising, that is specific to their locale.

There isn’t a word (that I’m aware of) that describes when businesses adopt all of these behaviors at once. If anything, I’d put it in the “relational marketing” category. Relational marketing is one aspect of building brand loyalty — and building a long-term relationship between the organization and the audience.

In Federal Way, there’s almost an expectation that business representatives will be involved in the community by volunteering or financially supporting much-needed services and programs. The humanitarian side of all this is, for most of the businesses I’ve encountered that go out of their way to shore up the community: It comes more from their belief systems or mission statements than from a marketing “angle.”

Sure, sometimes it’s enough to just show up at business functions or run an ad in the paper, but not often. I know people who do this. The focus is usually on them, not their customers or the broader community. Organizations might have an exciting offering that gets people talking and results in some immediate sales. But it probably won’t have a lasting effect on their bottom line because they haven’t truly invested in what makes a small community come together.

Happily, I can think of dozens of entities that engage in the broader narrative of helping those in need while they simultaneously engage in networking and local marketing. I’ll focus on a handful.

Highline Community College (HCC) is a publicly funded institution of higher education that sits in our backyard. For a short while, they had an extension of learning in Federal Way that recently had to be closed due to the state’s budget crisis.

I have an insider’s view to the commitment Highline has to the community, as I am a former employee. For longer than I can remember, Highline has been active in the Federal Way community, supporting local causes through sponsorships and volunteering. They have representatives on local boards, in civic organizations, and in business networking groups, the most active of whom I believe is Lisa Skari, vice president of institutional advancement. HCC has forged strong bonds with Federal Way’s K-12 administrators through collaborative efforts aimed at keeping kids in school and moving them toward either college pursuits or vocational endeavors.

There is a small sole proprietorship that deserves mention: Evergreen Service and Repair, owned and operated by Brian Ailinger. Evergreen’s tag line “What do you need done?” succinctly sums up his business offerings. Brian has devoted many of his work hours and much of his free time (which isn’t a lot) to giving back to the community. I would list all the good works he’s done over the years, and the organizations that have benefitted from his positive attitude and giving spirit, but remember, I have space limitations.

Byron Hiller of Coldwell Banker is yet another business representative who gives his time to provide much needed support for various charities. A busy commercial real estate agent, Byron can frequently be found working side-by-side with Brian for those in need.

There are a number of banks in Federal Way, but none that extends itself to help the community more than Sterling Savings Bank, with numerous representatives spread across the community volunteering and sponsoring events and activities. One such representative is Dan Bogart, vice president/commercial banker for Sterling, a soft-spoken, kind person who proves the point that people make up organizations — and it’s the people that make a difference.

Relational marketing is about networking, it is about community service, and it is about local marketing. Combined, these activities can increase an organization’s star power, setting it above others for Top of Mind Awareness (TOMA). But, above all else, relational marketing is indicative of the commitment an organization has to its community.

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