What is cause marketing — and why is it important to my small business?
Many small business owners and small business marketing people tell me they’re not sure about cause marketing.
What is it? Why can’t I just support the causes I care about anonymously — why do I always have to be strategic about it, Samantha? Can’t I just write a check and be done with it?
I smile at these questions, and I do my marketing consulting thang and help them understand how vital it is to turn their causes into an opportunity to connect with their audience. I go out of the way to do this because one of Zao’s main causes is uplifting the small businesses and nonprofits in our community. And I’ll do everything I can to help them succeed.
What Cause Marketing Is
In the early 1980’s, American Express partnered with a nonprofit to raise funds to restore the Statue of Liberty. American Express gifted a portion of every purchase made with one of its credit cards. At the same time, they promoted what they were doing with an ad campaign. In a three-month campaign, the Statue of Liberty raised more than $1.7 million, and American Express card use increased 27 percent.
What American Express did here was cause marketing.
There had been a couple examples before it. However, American Express really set the stage for what we know as cause marketing today.
So, essentially, cause marketing is an agreement between a for-profit business and a nonprofit that work together to support a cause. The for-profit business provides integral support to the cause, and they expect to make profit from the arrangement. The nonprofit provides all the feels and the means to support a cause and expects a donation from (directly or indirectly) the for-profit. This is what people mean when they say “win-win.”
This could mean selling specially branded products (see Exile Brewing). It could be asking customers to make a small donation at the cash register when they’re buying your products. Or it could be cobranding a special event or program.
What Cause Marketing Isn’t
Cause marketing is not corporate philanthropy. In other words, if your small business gives a direct contribution out of its pocket, you aren’t taking advantage of cause marketing (but go you for doing good!).
Why Small Businesses Should Care
The term “doing well while doing good” often surfaces with cause marketing. And with it, we’re back at that win-win situation.
Your customers want to know what your brand cares about. They want your brand to care about the same things as they do. Everyone wants a business who gets them.
Customers are a-changing. On all sides- left and right, up and down, crisscrossed – people have found passions in our world and in local communities. They’re willing to pay more if they feel like they’re supporting a cause near and dear to them. And they’ll continue to connect with your brand if they feel they can support those causes by supporting you.
When your small business opts for cause marketing, you’re able to support a cause you care about and your customers will care about (and should know about!) They will form a connection both at point of purchase and on social media between your brand and the cause.
If you’re wondering about cause marketing, you likely already want to support nonprofits. Why not get a little strategic about it for everyone’s benefit?
To learn how to put cause marketing to work for your small business, check back at the end of August for our 5:25 video and in-depth how-to post.