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Small Brands Can Do Cause Marketing Too

June 18, 2012

For most small brands and businesses, the word cause marketing has an expensive ring to it. “It’s for the big guys,” they think, “the ones with Corporate Social Responsibility departments. Entire teams dedicated to donating millions of dollars to some wonderful cause–that’s not for me.”

Cause marketing comes in many shapes and sizes, but the beauty of it is that it actually can be shaped to any size business that wants to participate in the nonprofit ecosystem and make a difference while also gaining a valuable marketing tool. From asking patrons for donations to a particular cause you’ve aligned your company with to donating a portion of proceeds from particular items or promotions to causes, there are feasible, tangible ways that your business can participate in a cause marketing program without breaking the bank.

Of course, the intangible benefits of cause marketing are easy to see. It feels good to help, plain and simple,and knowing that your business is contributing to a larger cause is a great way to boost morale. But as it turns out, if you’re a marketer, there’s an even more compelling reason to start cause marketing initiatives: they drive business. Your brand gets exposure to a new audience of people–the supporters of the cause–and may get a second glance on a crowded shelf due to your association. Check out these statistics from Cone Communications, a leader in the cause marketing research space:

  • 83% of Americans wish more of the products, services and retailers they use would support a cause.
  • 41% of Americans say they’ve made a purchase because it was associated with a cause or issue in the past year.
  • If associated with a cause…
    • 19% will buy a more expensive brand.
    • 46% will try a generic or private-labeled brand.
    • 61% will try a new brand or one they have never heard of.

So if you’re a smaller business or brand, how do you start a cause marketing initiative that will help elevate your brand, increase sales and make an impact on a great cause? Here are some tips to get you start thinking about it:

  • Allow your customer to have a direct impact. There are a couple of ways to do cause marketing: you can pledge a donation from your business, or you can donate a portion of proceeds from a customer’s purchase. Most Americans say they prefer that they be able to directly impact a donation by tying their purchase to money sent to a cause, rather than just knowing the company they support will be sending a lump sum.
  • Allow your customers to have a say. A recent study of young adults demonstrated that one of the most important things to Millennials in getting them to make small donations was having a connection with a cause. It follows logically that giving your customers options about where their money will go is an excellent way to help engage them in the process and amplify your campaign across several different audiences. (That said, don’t spread yourself too thin–you want donations to have an impact, so limit the beneficiaries.)
  • Work with smaller nonprofits. If you’re a smaller business, it makes sense to work with smaller nonprofits. Here at GoodTwo, we see many small nonprofits looking to just raise a few hundred or a thousand dollars for a project by partnering with brands willing to donate a portion of sales to their cause. By working with someone smaller or local, your dollars will have a bigger impact, the cause will be more personal and you’ll have the opportunity to connect on a different level than if you work with a larger organization.
  • Find a cause that aligns with your business. At GoodTwo, we are part marketing machine and part matchmaker. We try to find merchants that make sense for the causes we have onboard and causes whose audience of donors align with our brands and merchants. For example, if you sell pet products, find appropriate pet-related organizations like shelters to work with. If you’re a health food store, is there a healthy kids initiative in your area with which you can partner? Think like a marketer as much as you think as a do-gooder: which causes are your customers most likely to support, and which causes most likely have supporters you’d like to turn into customers?

If you’re a small business that’s run a successful cause marketing campaign, we’d love to hear from you on how you did it. There’s more info and stats on running a cause marketing campaign for businesses and brands on our website,, as well.

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