Keeping Your Cause-Related Marketing Relationships Fresh

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It’s fair to say that most marketers are likely to grow tired of their marketing long before their customers do. So after a few meaningful years it’s easy to look at your cause-related marketing relationships and wonder how to get out of them.

In most cases, that’s a mistake. Just as acquiring customers is more expensive than keeping them, so too with your cause-related marketing relationships.

Moreover, unless you’ve spent tens of millions of dollars on your cause-related marketing campaigns for a dozen years, chances are a big chunk of your customers still don’t know about it.

When I was at Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) every person on the staff had at least five anecdotes about individuals who had mistaken CMN for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. This despite the fact that CMN dwarfed Make-A-Wish, got good publicity, was associated with 170 children’s hospitals and 210 TV stations, and had a telethon that aired for 21 hours each year.

I’d bet money that after decades of advertising there is still a substantial minority of people who couldn’t tell you in a test of unaided recall that the Energizer Bunny fronts for Energizer batteries.

The real problem isn't that customers grow tired of your marketing, but that your marketers do. A new VP comes in and, wanting to leave his mark, changes everything. That's dumb.

The other danger is that the relationship between the cause and the sponsors grows stale. It’s just as likely to happen on the charity as the corporate side. Perhaps one party or the other takes the relationship for granted. Maybe less competent account reps take over. Whatever the case, the relationship can certainly sour.

There’s structural things the charity can do like switch around account reps. By nature, that’s probably what the company does. You can make sure that reps are closely supervised.

I would argue that the most important thing is the realization that these relationships can go south and that vigilance is the price of lasting relationships.

I would also argue that you have to treat these relationships like a marriage. Marriages grow stale when the partners quit working on the relationship. Only a fool quits telling his wife she’s beautiful. In the 7 Habits Stephen Covey wrote that business relationships were like marriage and that you need to keep making deposits such that the account balance is greater than the inevitable withdrawals.

What does this mean practically? It means that you have to keep coming up with new ways for the relationship to benefit your partner. Naturally, you need to start with a clear understanding of what it is that your partner wants from the relationship. And, just as in marriage, that’s a moving target.

Agree? Disagree? Weigh in with your opinion now.

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