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Some Unsolicited Cause Marketing Advice to Some Friends Planning a Business Conference

I had dinner with some self-described geeks the other night, two of whom are planning a local business conference on the business benefits of blogging. They’ve already lined up speakers and sponsors and are finalizing the arrangements for details like the room and the flyer and other promotional vehicles.

In short, there’s still time to add a cause-related marketing ‘overlay’ to the event.

Here then is an open letter to Jason Alba (Jessica’s cousin!) and Matthew Reinhold (who may be, for all I know, Judge Reinhold's cousin).

Hi Guys:

Thanks for the chance to jaw with you at geek dinner Thursday night. I felt like I got more than I contributed. But my specialty…cause-related marketing… is slightly esoteric even though it represents about 10 percent of the $13 billion sponsorship market.

What is cause-related marketing? Just imagine the lid on a cup of Yoplait yogurt or the box top on a product from General Mills. When you clip that box top and send it in, a dime goes to local schools that you designate.

That’s cause-marketing. It’s generally a tactical promotion, but doesn’t have to be. In both those examples cause-related marketing is a strategic part of how General Mills (which owns the Yoplait brand) does business.

You guys previewed your blogging conference targeted to businesses. I recommend that you add a cause-related marketing component. The simplest way to do that is to give a portion of each paid registration to a cause that your audience has some affinity for (the more affinity the better). Or, if the cause was, say, the food bank, you could offer a discount to people who bring with them a can of food. But there’s a whole lot of other possible iterations.

Why would you want to add a cause marketing component?
  • Academic research and real-world experience demonstrates that cause-related marketing can and does move the sales needle.
  • The right cause can help promote the event. A few might even spring loose their own database list.
  • Increasingly, customers (even in the B2B category) expect it.
  • It gives another hook to promote around in your advertising and public relations.

What cause should you choose?

  • It’s easy to pick one of the big single-disease charities… heart, lung, cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, leukemia and the like… or the local United Way. They have considerable resources to bring to bear and most can offer a fair amount of affinity. For instance, nearly 21 million Americans have type II diabetes.
  • Another approach is to partner with a cause that is a strategic fit with the purpose of the conference.
  • You could also pick a cause for which you guys personally have affinity. If the cause isn’t well-known then make sure you can easily explain the cause’s mission and purpose.

Where do you start?

  • If you want something from the cause (their logo, list, help writing and distributing press releases, etc.) then you’ll need to contact the cause directly. And the sooner the better. It’s a curious fact of life that most charities in the States seem to move at about half speed. One reason; charities rely on consensus, which is often s l o w.
  • But you could certainly donate to a cause without their direct participation. Just make sure you do exactly what you said you’d do in your promotional materials. When the conference is over, send the cause the check.

If it’s a lot of money (and here’s hoping it is) you can expect to hear back from the cause.

Need some suggestions or help? That’s what I’m here for.

Warm regards,

PS Hey Jason, maybe you could put in a good word to Cousin Jessica that she
needs to pose more often in something beside a bikini. I had to go 10 pages deep
in the photo browser to find a picture of her in an actual dress!


Paul, this is really thought-provoking. Thanks for putting it up!

Regarding Jess, anytime I write something to her it doesn't get to her. Could be the e-mail body guard, jealously keeping my notes from her. :(

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