Have You Tried Cause Marketing?

To help promote your small business or professional practice, consider tearing a page out of the corporate marketing playbook. For years big companies have partnered with nonprofits to co-promote their brands. And it has worked well because they keep doing it.

In fact, since 1990, cause related marketing (also called corporate partnering) has grown 800%, according the Cause Marketing Forum. It's expected to reach $1.8 billion in spending in 2005.

So, could this be something that might help your company?

There are plenty of studies and reports that show consumers will support businesses that support charitable causes. You can see some them at www.CauseMarketingForum.com.

But, beyond studies and reports I think it makes sense to partner with a local nonprofit for several reasons.

First (and most important) it's good thing to do. If it's something you believe in and they do good work then your support makes sense. Plus it feels good!

Second, word of mouth is the best advertising for most local businesses. Think of the positive word of mouth promotion you could generate by being actively involved with a well-respected local nonprofit.

Third, we are inundated with offers and advertising and all types of marketing messages. People are becoming numb to much of it. They are making their buying decisions based on more emotional and substantive factors. I think local businesses that show they are contributing to their community have a big advantage over those that do not.

Fourth, it's a great way to develop a stronger connection with your customers. By partnering with a nonprofit they believe in you can offer your customers more than just your product or service. You're offering them another way to contribute to the betterment of their community.

And last (but certainly not least) it's easy to do.

So, how might a small business begin partnering with a local nonprofit?

Before you jump into anything, make sure you're willing to commit to at least a year (preferably more). This is NOT a short-term project. This should be something you're willing to do on a long-term and ongoing basis, as long as it meets the needs of your company and your nonprofit partner.

Start by seeing what nonprofits are active in your community. Then pick a few whose missions you strongly believe in. If you can't be passionate about their mission then don't put them on your list.

At this point you might want to prioritize the list and focus on only the top choice. Or you might want to meet with several of them before you decide which one you'd like to partner with. Of course, the final decision depends on how interested the nonprofit is in working with your company.

Your message to them is that you'd like to discuss some ways you can work together to help them continue to accomplish their mission. The details of how you do that are up to you and them.

Here are some things you might incorporate into your partnership:

*Co-branding: include the nonprofit logo and message in any advertising and promotions you do.

*If you have a retail location, use it to help collect donations for them. *Co-host an event or fundraiser.

*Find ways to get your customers and vendors involved with your nonprofit partner.

*Use your existing communications (newsletters, emails, website, etc.) to tell people about your partnership.

It's best if you and your partner establish some goals for the partnership and map out what each organization will do to help achieve the goals. Then you should meet on a regular basis to monitor and adjust as necessary.

If you'd like to get better results from your marketing, consider cause marketing. It can be an effective way to promote your company while you help improve your community.

Kevin Stirtz is a successful entrepreneur, writer, trainer, speaker and mentor. He is a published author of over 150 business articles and he has been featured in local, regional, national and international business publications. He currently writes a marketing column for AllBusiness.com and he is writing his first book, which is due to be published in March of 2006. He can be reached at 1-952-212-4681 or http://www.KevinStirtz.com

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