Women at Work: Is cause marketing right for your company?

These days, being a good business means more than just offering a quality product or service.

Most consumers also want to know that they're supporting a business that cares about more than a profit; consumers are looking for companies that will invest in their employees, the local community, the environment and deserving causes at home and around the world.

As an article from Entrepreneur explained, "Cause marketing is now the norm, and customers who visit your website and see your advertising want to know that you share their desire to make the world a better place by supporting an important cause."

Customers care
:The effect of cause marketing on business profits and growth is greater than many business leaders may realize. When a company supports a cause, 93 percent of consumers said they will have a more positive image of that business, with 90 percent being more likely to trust the brand, and 90 percent stating they'd be more loyal to that brand. On the flip side, 89 percent of those surveyed said they would be likely to switch brands in order to support a company associated with a good cause.

Employees care
:And this issue goes beyond a company's consumers. More than 75 percent of Americans stated that they consider a company's corporate citizenship before deciding to work there. Additionally, 70 percent of employees said they want their employers to be committed to social causes, with 85 percent stating they'd quit their jobs if their employer was socially irresponsible.


Do what's right for your business
:There's no doubt that cause marketing is important to a business' success, but you have to choose the right cause. According to the Harvard Business Review, "A cause that connects with a company's businessgoals, competitive context and specialized expertise has the best chance of increasing the company's competitive advantage while also having a social impact."

Also, for both the company and the nonprofit to benefit, the cause must be something that everyone, including the business leaders, employees and customers, are passionate about.

Make sure it's a good fit
:Even beyond finding the right cause, you must find the nonprofit that's the best fit for your business. And, for the best results, your business should also be the best fit for the nonprofit. From the time you make the initial contact with the organization through every cause marketing effort you undertake, there must be clear, constant communication between the two of you. Disingenuous cause marketing can have a very negative impact on your company, from bad publicity to customer outrage, so make sure you're clear on what the nonprofit needs and how you're going to help.

Think beyond money
:Donating a set percentage of your profits is always a great way to support your designated cause, but it's not the only way. In fact, the more ways a business can exemplify its support, the more impactful cause marketing will be, which is especially helpful if you're a small- to medium-sized business that doesn't have the cash flow for large donations yet. So, encourage employees, and even customers, to volunteer and give the gift of their time with you. If applicable, donate your company's specific products or services. Or, provide the opportunity for individual employees and customers to also donate money to support the cause. Plus, contributing together by volunteering or donating can help build relationships with employees and customers.

While using your business to help make the world a better place is a wonderful, admirable thing to do, your efforts must be strategic and well orchestrated. As Entrepreneur pointed out, "The challenge is to make your socially responsible efforts a winning proposition for the nonprofit group you support, the community and your business."

Finding the winning combination isn't impossible. Many companies have been able to meet the challenge, such as Express Employment supporting Mayo Clinic Children's Center along with Olmsted Medical Center's Support for Prenatal and Infant Care. There's a cause for every size and every kind of business, from local community campaigns to life-changing efforts across the globe. You might be surprised how easily your business could become a local hero thanks to a little cause marketing.

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