If you are, stop it. Right now.

Companies the world over strive to be welcoming—to make customers, guests, clients feel at home and at ease with every interaction and touch point. Whether the experience occurs in their retail stores, in their hotels and recreational facilities, on their websites or in their corporate offices, companies train employees to offer services and amenities that create an experience their customers won’t forget. And companies spend a lot of money doing that. After all, well-trained staff, premium coffee, souped up websites, points programs, free shipping and down-filled bedding aren’t cheap.

All of that is well and good, but it’s a waste of time and money if a company’s primary focus is on being a welcoming company. A company that’s a “welcoming” company is practicing a 21st century version of “If we build it, they will come.”

No, companies today must go one step further and be “inviting” companies. You can’t afford to wait until customers walk through your door or stumble on to your website to pull out the welcome mat and treat them well. You must actively invite your customers and prospects to the experience.

Marketing is one way to invite customers in. But an “inviting” company goes even further and immerses itself in the community. Its leadership and its employees leave the comfort and safety of its own turf and commits to using their time, treasure and talents to improve the communities in which they do business.  They serve on boards, both business and philanthropic. They volunteer for community projects and fundraisers. They get involved in school and youth programs. The list goes on and is quite varied, but the commonality is that through these actions, company leaders and employees invite the community to see the company culture at work and witness firsthand the type of service and commitment the company brings to any endeavor.