Cause Marketing for Small Businesses
What are we talking about?
Do you have a cause or social issue near and dear your heart? What if I told you that you could grow your business along with helping forward your cause? Breast Cancer Research, MS, Autism, Invisible Children; whatever your cause is, there is a way to grow your business along with it. Let's be up front with this, you are not giving away hundreds of dollars of business for naught, nor are you a horrible monster. You are in a symbiotic relationship with your cause. You look good, because it looks good. Your cause makes money, you make money. It would be irresponsible to place your business' finances at risk without an ROI. There's a fine line between using a cause and being a part of it.
Here are the facts >>
- In 2011 Huffington Post reported that 94% of Consumers would switch brands to support a cause.
- "Doing Well by Doing Good" shows finding on how companies founded on a strong cause are more prosperous because of the cause, not of their product. (read the article, it's great)
- The ROI for such things is harder to pin down, since it depends on the company you choose to sponsor, your geographical location, and your promotion and PR.
How taking up a cause can affect your customers
If I was to hold out my hand and demand $25 dollars from you, for an ambiguous tax, you may be upset. On the contrary, if I demanded the money from you and told you it was going to be used on medicine for sick children, the financial pain would seem lighter. It is the psychology of such things. I think Adam Smith said it better, but it is not the amount we must part with, but the recipient's intent for the money we must justify to ourselves. The same is true for your client.
A word of caution, aligning yourself with a cause can be quite political. By selecting a cause your tethering your business to them, such as LiveStrong, various church charities, the Pink Ribbon Campaign. These affiliations come with strings attached. Perhaps someone already has a preconceived notion about a company. Perhaps the company you've attached yourself to for years is now defrauded. Maybe your religious charity goes against their religious charity. So, there are issues in this and if you wish to avoid these you may want to simply sponsor an event like the Sunflower State Games or PrairieFire Run (these are Kansas Examples). Promoting health is never bad, but no one gets as caught up or awesome PR for sponsoring simple events.
How taking up a cause can affect your business
Okay, let's all picture the cause we're thinking of in our heads. We know the history of it. We're 100% behind it. We know this will bring us more customers and better PR. We're not going to go into all the steps for such a campaign as that would need to be specifically tailored by yourself, or hopefully a professional who specializes in these things.
Food for Thought
5K for Autism, Walk for MS, and other such events are very local and generally draw a large crowd. These are fantastic events to sponsor. You must do so enough to get your logo on one of the large event banners or t-shirts. This is constant advertising. The event banners are great for brand recognition, but the logo on the shirt is more of a subconscious ad. You're not only helping those in your community, but probably garnering favor with them and their families. Word of mouth is a huge driver of small businesses. Even just doing this once to gauge ROI is a good idea. If you're stuck, and advertising hasn't worked, pick up a torch.
Coats for homeless children, the Angel Tree, Food Pantry drop-0ff point. Charity drives cost you literally nothing, with providing heavy foot-traffic. While a radio add might be necessary to facilitate knowledge, sometimes a church that is hosting the drive with purchase one, naming your store as a drop-off point. You need only place for the collection. Not only will you get foot-traffic, but you have essentially tied yourself to the cause, making purchasing from your store synonymous with helping others in the mind of those participating. You're helping children, or what have you as well as building great social rapport.
Take the 5-Hour Energy commercials, as horrible as they are. When Breast Cancer Awareness month rolled around their products, like many other companies, were slathered in pink labels. "With every purchase, we donate a dollar to breast cancer research." Okay, so if you buy one for $4 dollars, their usual price, the company makes 3, and breast cancer awareness gets $1. Win - Win. Their sales will probably increase, customers justifying the purchase as "Helping", and they may not feel the loss of that $1. Although, assuredly they will. They've helped a social cause, perhaps they had people try their product for the first time and they now have a regular user. But your mind has now forever associated 5-Hour Energy with their declaration of war on cancer, and that's valuable to building a brand.
If you're a super small business, look for local causes to sponsor in your area. These will be best for ROI if your primary customers are foot-traffic.