You probably know a few business people in your community who”everybody knows.” They’re so visible, so involved, so active in doing good things that others are drawn to them. Not everyone is their client or customer, but they make a friend of everyone they meet. And they meet a lot of people. For some business owners, their relationship to the community IS their brand.

Take my friend Mary Contreras, owner of Contreras State Farm Agency. Mary sells commodity products. You can buy auto insurance everywhere, even online. You don’t even need an insurance agent any more if you don’t want one. Plus, there are many State Farm agents in the area–in fact, one is my next door neighbor. Just to put that in context, there are 63 State Farm agents in Phoenix, and about 16 in each of the suburbs of Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler–I could go on. So it’s a commodity product; she has about 100 competitors in the same company within easy driving distance; and she has comparable numbers of competitors in all of the other insurance agencies with local offices plus all of the ones that sell online.

But if I had a need for new insurance, I would call Mary Contreras, for two reasons. One, because I believe that she would be expert at settling claims, not just selling insurance. That is her mission! And two, she is investing time and money to make this community a better place to live. And I respect that and welcome it.

Mary is involved in many activities here in the valley, and she always steps up to leadership. She’s not just networking; she’s getting involved, leading things, making things happen. She gives time to the Chandler Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the National Bank of Arizona’s Women’s Financial Group, the business associations Women of Scottsdale and Central Phoenix Women, and other business and charitable organizations. Mary’s agency sponsors many of these programs, which builds good will and name recognition. “Everybody knows her.”

Of course, not everybody knows her. Nor does she know everybody. But her sphere of influence in her target market is constantly expanding, and with it so is her business.

When she has occasion to speak in public, which she does frequently as a sponsor, she always tells a story about a claim that she and her company helped to settle. She illustrates how they go out of their way with personal service. It’s never about their policies, their prices, or their competitors. It’s always about someone whom they insure, and how they handle a claim–quickly, generously, with a helping hand.

The brand, therefore, is “Mary Contreras–State Farm–taking care of customers.” It’s powerful and predictable. And it works.

As you work on your branding and re-branding, think about whether your community involvement might be the best way to position your company. I would love to have your comments and suggestions!