Businesses love cause marketing. And what’s not to love? By supporting a good cause, your business gets to help an organization in the community and, in the process, experience stronger sales.
Cause marketing is defined as a special relationship between a business and a charity that benefits both. When done right, companies make their customers feel good, get the sale, and promote a worthy cause all at the same time.
Developing and executing an effective cause marketing program can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are six tips to make sure your cause marketing program is a success.
1. Choose the right cause for you and your customers.
Think of partnerships that are closely connected with your business and aligned to what your consumers and employees care about. What is a hot button issue for you? Does the cause strike a chord with your customers? If young people and their education is a passion for you and your clients feel strongly about it too, giving a corporate gift to support a non-profit’s youth mentoring program shows a commitment to that mission.
2. Do your homework.
The non-profit you support is a reflection of your brand’s reputation. Take a look at several non-profits and causes. Make sure the non-profit you choose has the infrastructure to partner with your business and can handle any increase in donations, inquiries, volunteers and Web traffic without crashing or losing track of funds.
Research their overhead percentages — how much of the money raised actually goes to the people they serve — and the credibility of executive and board members.
It’s also important to make sure their track record is above-board. Nothing can damage your brand more than launching a campaign that turns out to be a scam.
3. Start small and set reasonable, measurable goals.
Keep it simple. If you are a small business, stay away from the huge non-profits. Instead, find a local organization you can get excited about. Choose one or two measurable objectives in the first year. At year’s end, evaluate your progress.
4. Promote your partnership and campaign.
One of the most common mistakes is not spending enough time, money, and energy on promotion. Successful partnerships require a commitment to getting the word out. Cross-promote your campaign with reciprocal website links, blog posts and articles in each other’s newsletters. Your website and blog are great places to promote the partnership. But don’t indiscriminately ask for donations. Cause marketing campaigns are like every other kind of marketing: provide value and you’ll build credibility.
5. Involve your employees.
Your entire team needs to be on board with any cause marketing campaign. Find out the issues that are important to them. Then get them engaged and motivated once you’ve picked a cause. Consider giving employees paid “volunteer” time. For example, allow them an hour each week to volunteer at local charities or with your company’s non-profit partner. Remember, once you’ve made a partnership, the cause is part of your business strategy.
6. If it goes wrong.
Sometimes partnerships don’t work out. If a partnership falls apart, take responsibility and be honest and transparent with customers about what went wrong. If you find out your non-profit partner isn’t performing like they promised, tell your clients. Then vow to find a way to keep supporting the cause. Honesty and transparency is the best and only policy to follow.
Cause marketing can be susceptible to an ingrained preconceived notion that brands will use non-profits to get more cash and profits. But when done properly, your partnership can make a real difference.