How Small Businesses Can Use Cause Marketing to Do Well — and Good

Social Cause Marketing

I wrote earlier this month about what cause marketing is and why small businesses should care.

To recap: Cause marketing is an agreement between a for-profit business and a non-profit 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 non-profit 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.”

Today more than ever before, businesses — even small businesses — are expected to show their support of something bigger than capital gains. Customers want to know what your business stands for, and they want your business to stand for the things they care about too. They’re even willing to spend more money or go out of their way to support businesses who support causes that resonate with them.

This social responsibility can feel overwhelming at times. But it can also be inspiring. It can also provide an avenue to support causes you care about on a bigger scale than you could alone.

And cause marketing helps you do this — while also doing well for your small business.

How can you incorporate cause marketing into your business plan?

  1. Be authentic. Align your brand with a cause that makes sense and that you truly care about.

For many small businesses, an owner has already experienced a call to do something more, to provide solutions to a set group of people that never existed, to dream bigger. Small businesses are born out of passion — and your cause marketing partnerships should be too. Click To Tweet

Do choose a cause that you are personally passionate about. But also, find a cause that makes sense with the brand you’ve created.

Arby’s, popular fast food restaurant, partnered with the Share Our Strength nonprofit to help fight childhood hunger in America. Through their cause marketing campaign, they asked customers to consider donating just $1 to their orders, which would help feed kids in America.

Social Cause Marketing

  1. Do choose a cause that will resonate with your employees and your target market too.

When you’re picking a cause to support, also remember the people you care about too: your target market and your employees. Will your customers support the same cause? Will they jump at the opportunity to help you help a cause? Will your employees wear your social do-good with pride?

Your brand and your own opinions are big — but for a better chance of success, be sure to align with a cause that will align with your business’ core values, your employees’ core values and your target market’s core values. Don’t be afraid to support local causes, and don’t shy away from supporting bigger causes either. Do what works for your brand and your target audience.

  1. Develop a win/win cause marketing strategy.

If you don’t remember from our first cause marketing blog post, let me remind you: Cause marketing is not the same as corporate philanthropy. Direct gifts, while good, don’t leverage the eagerness and drive of your customers. Large donations are ways to help a cause, but they don’t allow you to spread the word about the cause.

When you create a cause marketing strategy, you are benefiting the cause, your target market — and also your own business.

Some people stop me right here and say, “Samantha! Isn’t giving back about them not me?”

Yes. But running a cause-related marketing campaign can enable your brand to support a cause better than you ever could alone — with the power and backing of your customers and your employees. It’s really just an added benefit that you can profit as well.

Your cause marketing campaign will look differently depending on your cause and your goal. Some examples include:

— Specially branded products (see Exile Brewing)

— Asking customers to make a small donation at the cash register when they’re buying your products

— Cobranding a special event or program

— Buy one, give one (they buy a product and your brand gives that product to people in need)

— Social advocacy (think Dove campaign for real beauty)

Pampers partnered with UNICEF, promising “1 pack = 1 life-saving vaccine against newborn tetanus.”

Social Cause Marketing

  1. Share the love with press releases, partnered blog posts and partnered social media posts.

You are supporting an amazing cause — one that will excite your customers. So tell them about how they can help support the cause too!

This is a big part of your marketing strategy, but overall you should:

— Incorporate press releases into your campaign that news outlets can pick up. In them, introduce your brand’s partnership with the cause, the meaningful reason why your brand is supporting that cause and how your customers can help.

— Write blog posts promoting your cause marketing campaign before it starts, while it’s going and after it has finished (with promises of chances to give again next year).  

— Share social media posts on your pages that promote the cause and show how your brand is helping.

— Share the nonprofit’s posts on social media that you are supporting.

— Use point-of-purchase signage, like posters or flyers or cards, that explain what your customers’ donations will help the cause achieve and why this is an issue they should care about.

  1. Make your cause part of your long-term plans.

For the last eight years, Starbucks has contributed more than $14 million to the Global Fund with their RED campaign. For the last six years, Coke has raised awareness and more than $3 million in donations to support the conservation of polar bears. For the last five years, Walmart has run its Miracle Balloon campaign six weeks of every year and raised about $122 per minute for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

Cause marketing campaigns are not your average one and done tactics. When you put your support and advocacy behind a cause, you must stick to that cause year after year for utmost effectiveness.

Maybe every December, you support your cause with Christmas shoppers donating a dollar at checkout. Maybe you have a large annual event that you cosponsor or completely sponsor for your cause. Whatever you decide to do, be sure to incorporate it into your next year’s plans.

Are you ready to develop a cause marketing strategy for your small business? Need some help? Send me a note.

[Let’s get started.]

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