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Better your community, bottom line with cause marketing

What’s the value of doing good?

It’s not a trick question. Or a philosophical one.

It’s the question your business should be asking. We’ve entered the age of the "socially-conscious" consumer; a entire segment of spenders are looking to do business with companies that "give back,"  companies that "do good."

Teaming-up with a non-profit isn’t only good for your community, it’s a partnership that can boost your business as well. Here are three steps for executing a meaningful cause marketing campaign.

1. Focus Your Efforts

You’re probably already doing cause advertising. It starts with sponsorships and donations. You give money to a local charity; they put your logo on a t-shirt or in an event program. It’s simple, straightforward...but the impact is brief and forgettable.

Forging a long-term relationship with one organization is the key to making a large, lasting impact. The trouble is, of course, which organization do you choose? Start by looking for a partner that matches your company’s mission and values. In other words, look for a "natural fit." If you’re a sporting goods store, it makes sense to partner with local youth sports leagues. A construction company or hardware store might find a match with Habitat for Humanity. Working for a relevant cause is viewed with more sincerity by your audience. It’s important that people see you truly support the cause and realize you’re not just in it to look like you care.

2. Start Small

Once you’ve chosen your cause, it’s time to amp up your involvement. Get your co-workers on board. You’re going to be asking for their time, skills and even dollars.  Support for the cause and an understanding of the goal from the leadership on down are key. After you’ve rallied the troops, get your people involved on a personal level. Encourage leadership to join your partner’s board of directors or serve on a committee. Give employees the opportunity to volunteer, or create a group volunteer outing that can also serve as a team-building experience. Financially, set your sights on the top sponsorship and donor levels. If you want to build a strong association with your partner, you need to have a leading presence in their efforts. Institute an employer-match program to spur contributions from your employees.

3. Go Big

Your employees are invested and the partnership has been cemented. Now you’re ready to make a splash. Take the lead when campaigning for your cause. Organize your own event or fundraiser, inviting your clients or customers to come and support your cause. This is a great chance for customers to see your efforts in action. If your budget can handle it, donate a portion of your sales to the cause. Even if it’s a time-sensitive or product-specific offer, you may be able to boost sales and raise some money for your partner. Finally, integrate your cause into your advertising. Highlight the impact your work has made or continue the campaign for financial and volunteer support. This is where buy-in from leadership is crucial. Dedicating a portion of your advertising budget to your cause rather than your sales message takes devotion.

The Hurdles

Clearly, a cause campaign isn’t the end-all of marketing plans, or everyone would be doing it. Here are three things that can stop a cause campaign in its tracks:

• Lack of Buy-In

Budgets are tight and businesses are strapped for time and resources. Your management may decide that a social cause is not be the best way to invest, either.

• Local Politics

Focusing your efforts on one organization might not be possible. Existing relationships may keep you from favoring one organization. Business owners often choose to spread their financial support throughout the community.

• Exposure & Consistency

These can be the downfall of any type of marketing effort. Not having a consistent message or the budget to generate enough exposure can hinder results and lessen impact.

While it requires a high-level of commitment, the hurdles can be crossed. A successful cause campaign can build deeper relationships with customers, increase profits, AND make a lastings impact for an organization and in your community.

That's the value of doing good.

About the Author

Anthony May
Marketing Strategy + Web Design, IdeaBank Marketing

Anthony May is a marketing strategist and web designer at IdeaBank Marketing in Hastings, where he delivers beautiful, functional, and effective websites for businesses across Nebraska. He is also an adjunct professor at Hastings College and is very involved in his community.


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