Cause marketing has been gaining traction for years with large organizations and now small businesses are starting to understand the value of combining their passion to help with their drive to succeed. Learn more about how your small business can effectively leverage cause marketing as part of your overall marketing strategy while making the world a better place.

What is cause marketing?

Cause marketing is a type of marketing involving the cooperative efforts of a for-profit business and a non-profit organization that is mutually beneficial to both. The term is sometimes used to refer to any type of marketing effort for social and other charitable causes, including in-house marketing efforts by non-profit organizations.  There are many examples of cause marketing to get your creative juices flowing. Below are a few examples:

How to get started with cause marketing

Though the examples above are some larger organizations, any business can and should get involved in cause marketing. The first step to starting a cause marketing campaign is to decide what kind of cause truly resonates with your small business. The cause must really speak to the heart of your organization, though it doesn’t necessarily have to align with what your business does. Just because you are a small hardware store doesn’t mean your cause should include building or repair. The only way your cause marketing efforts will be effective and mutually beneficial to both you and the organization you’re supporting is that you must truly believe in the cause and have a passion for it. The next step is to decide which type of cause marketing you want to do. There are several types to choose from, so consider the following to see which is the best fit for your small business.

  • Portion of purchase – with this model, your small business commits to donating a portion of the proceeds or profits from the sale of a product or service, or donates a small set donation amount for a set of products or services
  • Buy one, give one – this is mostly leveraged by businesses that are selling products, but it can work for services too! An example would be a toy business:  every time one toy is purchased, a second toy of equal or lesser value is donated to an orphanage or children’s hospital.
  • Point of sale – think of this model as a tip jar for charity. Many businesses will ask people to donate when they are making a purchase. For some, that’s “rounding up” their purchase price with the change going to charity. For others, that might be a set amount of $1, $5, or $10, etc. that a customer adds to their purchase, and the amount goes to a charity.
  • Proud supporter – a small business publicizes a large lump-sum gift through advertising, public relations, or other channels. Many small business owners may shy away from this, but no gift is too small if it benefits the cause you’re supporting.
  • Event sponsorship – this is a great way for a small business to get involved in their community and an effective way to get started in cause marketing. You can sponsor a run, a fundraiser or any number of local charitable events. The organizing charity usually develops sponsorship tiers which offer varying levels of brand prominence during the event at different prices.

Is cause marketing really an effective marketing tactic for a small business?

If your business or brand doesn’t stand for some kind of cause, consumers may turn to your competitors. Customers want to see the human side of the company they do business with, not a company that’s simply in it for the profit. The number of consumers who say they would switch from one brand to another if the other brand were associated with a good cause has climbed to 87%, per a Cone Cause Evolution Survey. To really show your small business’s commitment to the cause, you should consider more than simply putting money towards the cause. For many small businesses, cause marketing involves donating products or services in addition to raising funds. This can help form even stronger consumer associations between what you offer and the good work you do and can help build strong ties in the community.

How your business will benefit from supporting a cause

Of course, there is a feel-good benefit of contributing to a cause your business cares about. However, there are added benefits to cause marketing that, when done with sincerity and in the vein of truly wanting to make a difference, can elevate your small business brand. First, your company becomes more known in your community when you sponsor or support local charities. This is especially important for local businesses looking to really become a part of the community. Second, it is a powerful public relations vehicle. When your small business commits to cause marketing, you have something substantial to target for your PR efforts and should dedicate the time and resources to leverage the opportunity.  This can include digital and traditional media efforts and outreach, and showcasing it on your website highlighting your small business’s giving with links to share and like on social channels. When you let your clients know your business is caring and socially involved, you serve your local community and your company at the same time. Cause marketing is a powerful small business marketing tactic. Take the time to invest in cause marketing for your small business now to reap the benefits.

Patty Hughes
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