Establishing a presence and favorable reputation in your local community is one of the most rewarding marketing moves you can make. When your company is visible in the community in which you operate, you can more easily build brand awareness, attract new customers, increase brand loyalty, and grow sales. Consumers that know and think positively of your company are primed to receive your outbound marketing efforts more warmly than they would the efforts of an unknown firm.
There are many ways to establish a positive presence in your community. In fact, there's an entire industry — public relations — that's devoted to this very thing. But you don't need to hire public relations employees to help you burnish your local reputation. By developing a cause marketing strategy, you can begin to build a favorable and memorable reputation in the areas where you work.
What is Cause Marketing?
Companies that engage in cause marketing support a charitable enterprise or social issue (a "cause") and gain marketing benefits while doing so. For example, a business that sells pet supplies may also support local animal shelters through financial contributions. As the public becomes aware of their efforts, consumers may feel more favorable towards the pet supply store and more inclined to purchase from them. The acts of goodwill may also generate positive news coverage, providing free marketing, building brand awareness, and potentially attracting new customers.
The best cause marketing efforts involve supporting charitable causes and social issues that are natural extensions of the company's business or are otherwise authentically connected to the brand or company leadership. A pet food store supporting animal shelters makes sense to the consumer and demonstrates that the owner is not merely interested in profiting from animals but also showcases genuine love and concern.
A business may also adopt a cause not directly connected to the brand but are personally important to the owner. For example, an owner from an impoverished background may credit public radio with providing them education and the perspective necessary to pursue entrepreneurship. As a result, they may sponsor public radio programming and support anti-poverty causes. If the founder or owner shares their story publicly, consumers may understand and appreciate the company's devotion to a local public radio affiliate and contributions to an area food bank.
However, for companies to receive marketing benefits from cause marketing, consumers must trust that the desire to do good is, in fact, genuine. Many companies have failed to reap the benefits because they have picked causes with no connection to their brand and appeared merely to be "supporting" in a transparent effort to endear themselves to consumers. Others have overpromoted their efforts and appeared disingenuous as a result. Still, others have promoted social issues and then faced backlash when former employees and reporters publicized that their stated support of these issues and values did not match their practices.
The Benefits of Cause Marketing
If you select a cause aligned with your brand, values, and practices and avoid overpromotion, you may receive many marketing-related benefits. Consumers today want to do business with brands that do good. A recent study found that more than 60 percent of consumers want to buy from brands aligned with their own values. When you engage in cause marketing, you can attract new customers and increase sales through the publicity you may generate and the promotion of these efforts you undertake. You'll also reinforce your brand's prominence in the minds of many consumers contributing to top-of-mind awareness, and you may deepen the loyalty customers feel towards your brand.
When you establish a stronger community presence, you may glean insights about your existing and prospective consumers that help you develop more effective marketing strategies, and even give you ideas for new products. Cause marketing also adds credibility to your brand.
Take the case of the business owner with a difficult upbringing. A consumer encountering their business for the first time may even see a company-sponsored food drive and cynically believe that the company is trying to endear itself to the public on the backs of struggling families. However, when that same consumer hears some of the business owner's story in a public radio sponsorship message or reads about it on the company blog, they may be more trusting of the company's intentions and, therefore, more receptive to the company's marketing outreach.
How to Engage in Cause Marketing
There are several ways to engage in cause marketing. One of the highest-profile methods is to raise money from consumers for the cause by asking them to donate at the point of purchase. This method is popular because it's relatively easy to implement, and many consumers do it automatically. However, it's challenging to meaningfully connect the cause with the company to consumers at the point of purchase. Therefore, it's hard to reap many of the benefits of cause marketing.
A more effective method is partnering with a local nonprofit to co-market their cause. By speaking out with your nonprofit partners about the issue, you can boost their credibility and reach — and your visibility — in your community. Some cause marketing tips: make in-kind contributions to your partner, such as facility space for their events, and donate your staff's time to work on their projects. The latter can indirectly boost your brand-building efforts. Consumers from segments you'd never considered targeting may strike up conversations with your employees who are volunteering at your partner's in-person or virtual event. Accordingly, this approach can boost your referrals and word-of-mouth significantly.
Using public radio sponsorships to drive awareness of your company or brand can be especially effective given that public media listeners are more civically engaged than radio listeners at large. Sponsorships are seen as cause marketing by listeners who appreciate sponsors for supporting nonprofit public radio. Further, public radio listeners equate the quality of the programming they hear with public radio sponsorships. Sponsoring your local public radio affiliate is an excellent way to build visibility and presence in your community.
Cause marketing can effectively communicate your brands message and positively affect your bottom line. By identifying a cause that is a natural extension of your brand and engaging in hands-on efforts to support a relevant local nonprofit, you can help make a difference. By supporting public radio via sponsorship, you can help boost local visibility, and by extension, your sales, while engaging in cause marketing that the influential public media audience will appreciate.