Got an email on Tuesday, July 8 from Cyndia Zwahlen a contributing columnist to the Small Business Report at the Los Angeles Times (that's their building on the left) who asked about "about small business and the mistakes they make when it comes to cause-related marketing, in particular developing and sustaining a relationship with a charity."
Here's how I responded:
I'd say that small businesses make 4 basic mistakes when it comes to cause-related marketing:
- They pick a charity that's a poor strategic fit. There's a lot of potential reasons for why a small business might undertake a cause-related marketing campaign for a cause. Maybe their customers are school-age kids so they pick a local school. A restaurant might choose a hunger cause. But if you're a local welding shop, you better have a pretty good reason to support the Susan G. Komen
Breast Cancer Research Foundations; a reason your customers will easily and
quickly understand. That's because research clearly demonstrates that both
parties get the most bang for the buck when there's a clear strategic fit.
- They don't give the CRM campaign enough support. Times are tough right now
and the first impulse of plenty of businesses is to retrench. But if you're going to do a cause-related marketing campaign you need to give it proper resources. Transactional cause-related marketing (buy this and $x goes to the cause) is a promotion. And like any promotion it requires an appropriate amount of support, and I'm not talking just about money. There are ways to support a
CRM campaign using low-cost guerrilla marketing tactics. But even low-cost
efforts require a commitment of time and mental energy.
- They're in the wrong kind of business to really do cause-related marketing.
While I see plenty of what I call 'B2B cause-related marketing,' research
suggests that companies that advertise are the ones most likely to benefit in
terms of increased profitability from a cause-related marketing campaign. If you run a small cabinet-making operation that doesn't advertise, cause-related
marketing isn't likely to help make your company more profitable. However, if
you run a salsa-making enterprise that does advertise, it might.
- They pick a charity that's too big to be helpful. The biggest charities doing cause-related marketing bring in several hundred million dollars a year using just CRM. They run dozens of CRM campaigns a year using hundreds of staffers and volunteers. Some (but not all) won't be able to offer the kind of
recognition or help with a CRM campaign that a small business might want or
need. Now some small businesses might be OK being a minnow in a big lake. But small business owners that aren't OK with that should probably choose to support smaller charities.