museums&MORE Winter 2014
Cause Marketing

Working hard to raise sales and charity dollars

As retailers, you are bombarded with a million tasks on your to-do lists. Thinking about others is not always top of mind when your immediate list of goals to accomplish seems never-ending. However, there’s one addition to your list that should never fall to the bottom, and that’s cause marketing.

Cause marketing expert Joe Waters, author of the book Cause Marketing for Dummies,” suggests providing “one, two or three nonprofits to support and politely decline the rest.” Taking this first step can deliver a relief to busy retailers who often eliminate cause marketing entirely since they don’t know where to draw the line among the endless requests for charity support. By narrowing down your store’s choice cause to one, two or three, you can take control of how much or how little you can support a worth wild initiative.

Waters, whose website dives deep into more thoughts on cause marketing, identifies cause marketing as a partnership between a nonprofit and a for-profit for mutual profit. In the case of a museum, hospital gift shop or other potential retailer who may also be nonprofit, you can still create a winning plan to help support a cause of your choice.

When working together, your goal should always be to know exactly what you plan to offer your charity and likewise, what kind of support you may expect from them. Additionally, you want to be sure that the charity of your choice is one that you will be interested in and committed to.

To help move forward with your cause marketing plans, consider the following:

Be Clear on What you Plan to ‘Give’

Giving can be done in a variety of ways. Often, this may simply mean providing your store space as a destination for an event hosted by a charity group. Other times giving may entail providing volunteers to help in an off-site location for the charity of your choice. And yet other times, giving may in fact mean giving monetary donations, gifts or other tangible goods.

It’s important to be very clear with your charity of choice on how you plan to support them so there is no misunderstanding on either side of this partnership.

Support a Cause Close to Your Heart

Waters suggests that “if you love a cause — no matter what it is — go with it.” His advice is based off the idea that if you feel strongly about something, you are more likely to do a better job at supporting it. In the case of cause marketing, it often makes sense to identify a charity that resonates with your museum or specialty shop.

For a children’s museum, for example, supporting a charity that supports children in any way would make sense. For a shoe museum, it could make sense to support a charity such as, a Tennessee based nonprofit that collects new and used shoes and clothes for poverty stricken children. Ultimately, you want to pick a charity that makes sense but will also motivate you to want to do good for them.

Start an Annual Event or Tradition

Repetition impacts consumers, plain and simple. When customers can expect something, they are more likely to get excited and involved. If your store makes a commitment to host an in-store event for the American Brain Tumor Association, for example, do so with the plan to make it better and bigger each time you do it again.

Word-of-mouth marketing helps bring awareness to these events, and your time investment will go further should you repeat the event again and again. As you plan for any charity support, always take good notes so that as you move forward in your partnership, you can lean on past efforts to support future efforts, as well.

Set a Realistic Goal

If your plan is to raise money versus offer other support to your charity of choice, then there’s no time to waste. Identify a dollar amount of how much you’d like to raise in an effort to keep your store team motivated to help achieve your goal. Create a countdown calendar leading up to your event or deadline, tracking each dollar earned. Set prizes for peak goals met, encouraging your entire team to get excited and on board with your cause marketing efforts.

Get the Media Involved

Local newspapers, national publications and online media love sharing feel good news. Make sure you jump on this bandwagon and share your cause marketing plans with the media, increasing your chance for visibility and success.

Whatever you do, however, do not wait until the last minute to do this. Create a plan of attack for your media outreach, sharing your event or other cause marketing support no later than six weeks in advance with them. Additionally, be consistent in your media outreach so that you are constantly on their radar. Write a formal press release and be sure to follow up with each press release sent.

Invite Current Customers to Attend

Good old-fashioned snail mail is a great way to invite customers to your event, but that can add up. An easy, more affordable way to share news of your cause marketing efforts can include bag stuffers and email blasts. Both are relatively affordable and can make a huge impact on bringing awareness to your event or cause.

Don’t forget to ask your choice charity if they can also promote your event or other efforts in support them. Often, they have committed followers who would be thrilled to support their cause — no matter where or who is hosting it.

As the new year approaches and welcomes a calendar to be filled with a variety of events and other marketing efforts, don’t neglect cause marketing. You just may be surprised at how your efforts here can reward both your charity of choice and your store.

Nicole Leinbach Reyhle is the founder of Retail Minded, a quarterly publication and online destination to support independent retailers. Additionally, Reyhle is the co-founder of the national Independent Retailer Conference, held annually in New York. In Spring 2014, Reyhle will release her first book to be published by McGraw-Hill about the business of retail.

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