It might sound crass, but some people are starting to get tired of the seemingly incessant pink tie-ins trying to increase breast cancer awareness. But that doesn’t do anything to blunt the effectiveness of cause marketing as a cost-efficient and loyalty-building promotional tool.
Here in Wichita, we have seen Dawson Grimsley of Davis-Moore Auto Group successfully employ cause marketing as a tool to obtain and retain customers. The company has made safe driving its pet cause, going so far as to make safe driving the main topic of many of its radio and television ads. But what makes the community-focused cause marketing even more effective is the well-known high level of financial giving and involvement of the company and its principal owner.
For small business owners, this kind of marketing makes perfect sense for a few reasons.
First, it’s usually money you’re going to spend, anyway, because the cause is important to you. Therefore, the out-of-pocket expense is like leverage, rather than redundant spending.
Second, when you choose the right causes, it’s a great way to send a message to your core audience that you care about the same things they care about. The marriage of passion and desire for profits is a powerful combination. Think about a company like Patagonia, which supports naturalist and outdoor causes. Or Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby, which close on Sundays. People buy from these companies loyally because their values are aligned.
Third, it’s a strategy that’s relatively easy to execute, especially in a Web 2.0 world.
Here are a few ways to boost your small business image and profile with cause marketing.
1. Create a cause on facebook by visiting http://facebook.com/causes. You can even invite others to give and ask them to raise money for the cause by inviting their friends to give.
2. Put a facebook badge or Web link for an existing cause on your small business Web site. It’s easy.
3. Whether your small business sells online, at the cash register or over the phone, offer your customers the opportunity to make a donation to the cause.
4. Publicize the fact that a portion of the proceeds from sales to your small business goes to the cause.
5. Sponsor events and put your small business advertisements in publications for your causes, e.g. newsletters and event programs.
There are a few guidelines that can help your small business be more effective in cause marketing.
First, make sure you have true strategic alignment. That means your values, your small business values, the cause values and your customers’ values all line up.
Second, just because it’s a good cause doesn’t mean you should just throw money at it. You still want to stay within your budget.
Third, cause marketing is measurable and you should track your return on investment compared to your goals.