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Cause marketing for the small shop

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In part one of this series we took a look at sponsorship and some of the things holding back the small shop in that area. In this article, we are going to turn our attention to cause marketing for the small shop.

Cause marketing defined

Simply put, cause marketing is an activity that brings a company and a charity together in a way that promotes a marketing activity by aligning that company with that charity or cause.

I think of cause marketing as a tool to trigger a purchase based on connection to a cause close to the customer’s heart. Under the broadest definition, all of corporate fundraising is technically cause marketing but in this case I am referring to things like “buy product X and we will donate $X to charity X.” This can be in the form of a product purchase, a point of sale pinup campaign or a social media campaign.

How can a small shop do this type of development?

If you think that this type of fundraising can only be done in big shops, you’re wrong! Will a major national brand use a small local charity as its main focus for a national campaign? Sometimes, yes! But rather than looking for a major partnership between your small charity and a major national brand, focus on leveraging your local brand power instead.

I have built cause marketing campaigns for small organizations with a regional presence that have involved product sales, social media campaigns and everything in between.

Case studies!

Rather than focus on theory, let’s look at some case studies that are based on small shops with a regional presence.

Local point of purchase campaign

The organization I was working for relied heavily on government funding and grants and focused on social justice issues. Not exactly a good candidate for a cause marketing campaign right? Wrong!

We noticed that we attracted a strong following of local business owners, stores, restaurants and cafes. We pulled together a group of the most active supporters and asked them how we could engage the community in general and their network specifically.

We landed on a typical “buy this product and $X goes to the charity” program. The item sold for $14, $1 coming back to the charity. In order to make $10,000 we would have to sell 10,000 units. Not a great ROI and a ton of work!

Here’s what we did:

We brought together a larger committee around the core group. Those committee members together knew every shop owner in our city! They got dozens of retailers to sell our product at their stores at the point of purchase. We then sold low level sponsorship on the product and displays to local service providers and wholesalers, who sold products to the stores featuring our products.

The store owners got to show their customers that they cared about a local cause, and the service providers got to show the store owners that they cared about a cause important to them. And the charity?We raised $50,000 with a local, time limited cause marketing campaign. We did sell 10,000 units in the end but by adding sponsorship to the mix, we raised five times what we would have otherwise!

I have run national cause marketing campaigns that raised half of that amount. This was a big victory for a small shop, and everybody in the city heard about our cause.

Social media case study

While working with a very small regional chapter (think .5 FTE!) we connected to a marketing company with an equally small local presence. Their goal was to grow their regional presence but they didn’t want to work with a charity where they were one of a 1,000 corporate supporters.

We met for coffee to talk about their goals and we decided that we would run a social media campaign together. For every “like” they got on Facebook they would give $1 to our charity to a max of $2,500.

The company did their research and knew this charity appealed to their target demographic and so they used the brand of the charity to grow their database.

The result? They got over 5,000 likes! The charity got $2,500 as promised…and 1,000 Facebook likes themselves, which they converted into attendees at their next big event (well, not all 1,000...but a good portion of them).

Did the charity undersell themselves? Perhaps, but both parties were happy and five years later, that marketing company is a major supporter of that (now much larger) regional charity.

Give it a try!

Here are some suggestions to land your first small shop cause marketing campaign:

1. Start with your prospect. Something you will notice here is that both of these case studies didn’t start with the charity creating a campaign and then shopping it around. In fact, it was the opposite. We went to our prospects and asked them what they valued, who they wanted to reach and how we could work together.

2. Know your value. It’s important to know what you are comfortable selling your brand for. Don’t be influenced by the million dollar campaigns you hear about. Instead, focus on what feels right for you and your organization.

3. Set a minimum and maximum Even if the campaign isn’t successful, you should still get paid (unless you don’t fulfill your end of the bargain)! Setting a minimum recognizes that your brand has intrinsic value and benefits the company, even if the company never makes a sale. Setting a maximum protects the company, so expect your prospect to ask for one, though they don’t always.

4. Know when to say “no”. If it sounds too good to be true, it is! If it sounds like too much work, it will be. If it demands that you sell products yourself, walk away. If it doesn’t fit your ethics, say no thank you.

5. Get ready to work. Be ready to engage and mobilize your database. This means that there is a natural cap as to how many campaigns you can take on as you can only go to your database so many times. You want to be able to show the company that you did everything they asked you to do…and they will ask you to do a lot, so be ready!

6. Measure and report back. The other reason you are going to do everything you said you would is because at the end of the campaign, you will prepare a report outlining everything you did to make the campaign a success. This includes things like social media impressions, web traffic, product sales, media interviews and everything else you promised.

Cause marketing is a lot of fun, builds your presence in the community and is one of the few remaining sources of unrestricted revenue for charities. Don’t miss out because you see cause marketing as primarily a “big shop” strategy. In fact, why not get started right now? Book a meeting with three corporate prospects just to talk about how you can work together to build their brand - don’t bring a proposal, just grab a coffee. I bet you will be surprised by the outcome!

Chris Baylis is a sponsorship, cause marketing and corporate fundraising expert. Chris has managed the entire spectrum of the sponsorship process, raising millions of dollars for charities, events, associations and not for profits and is a board member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Connect with Chris via The Sponsorship Collective, or on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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