In today’s rocky economy small businesses may have the most to gain from integrating cause marketing into their marketing efforts. As always, I define cause marketing as "a relationship that bridges commerce and cause in a way that benefits both parties."
Cause marketing has been shown to improve sales, brand and increase customer loyalty. It can help a small company stand out from competitors and improve employee recruiting and retention. And it does one or more or all these things while helping a cause. And, as you probably know, in this economy nonprofits in the United State are the thin red, white, and blue line between even greater social distress. For businesses large and small cause marketing is like exercise. It feels good and it’s good for you.
Here then are ‘7 Ways to Fire Up Your Small Business Cause Marketing Effort.’
- Pick an appropriate cause. Consider not only a cause’s appeal, but its capacity to support your effort. It may be that the best cause marketing fit for your small business is a small charity.
- Weigh the option of weaving cause marketing into your overall business strategy. General Mills’ Boxtops for Education campaign, which benefits tens of thousands of local schools nationwide, has gone on year-round for a dozen years. It’s a key part of their business model. Galactic Pizza in Minneapolis donates a portion of the proceeds from one of its pizzas to the local food bank. The promotion is printed right there on their menu.
- Don’t ‘causewash.’ We all know what greenwashing is. That’s when you make false or overstated claims about the greenness of your product, service or company. It's a no-no. So, too, is causewashing. Your customers are savvy. And if they begin to distrust your intentions or the authenticity of your cause marketing campaign, it will backfire on you.
- Consider doing cause marketing for a small business peer in the developing world using Kiva.org or another microenterprise lender. You know what it’s like to finance the startup and ongoing operations of your small business. So too do millions of existing or budding entrepreneurs in the developing world. With an outfit like Kiva, your business and your customers could pick a fellow entrepreneur in the developing world to support, and then follow their results.
- Make your cause marketing offer really compelling. When you buy a pair of TOMS Shoes, the company gives away another pair to a child in the developing world. TOMS Shoes does precious little advertising. They don’t have to. Their word of mouth has been so good they’ve gotten more exposure than they could have purchased.
- 'Activate' your campaign. That is give your cause marketing campaign a fitting amount of promotional support. You don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money promoting your cause marketing campaign. But you do need to support it. And as every small businessperson knows, time and money are almost interchangeable. You just have to decide which you value most. Let’s say you own a small fly fishing shop and you’re offering $5 to Trout Unlimited when they buy $100 or more worth of gear. You could post that on your blog, website or FaceBook page, put up a sign in front of the register, send out a press release, Tweet it, include it in your newsletter, etc. Remember, one of the benefits of cause marketing is that it gives your business a new story to tell to customers, prospects and the press. Take advantage of that opportunity.
- Finally, proceed cautiously if your business doesn’t face the consumer. The research is clear. Companies that advertise benefit the most from cause marketing. Now there is such a thing as B2B cause marketing and it can really benefit your B2B business. But to pull that off you probably need some professional help. Feel free to contact me at aldenkeene @ gmail dot com.