Photo courtesy of Michelle Tribe on Flickr

By Serhat Pala

This week’s marketing tips are focused on doing altruistic deeds, and how those can also be good for business and marketing. Who says businesses have to self promote all the time. You will be surprised …

Sponsor a Cause: Choose a cause for your business to support. It can be related, even tenuously, to what your business does, like a water treatment company supporting clean water causes in Africa, or a bakery supply store or restaurant supporting initiatives to feed the homeless. Or, it can be unrelated but a general good cause (like supporting the fight against breast cancer or Alzheimer’s, or supporting veterans).

Whatever cause you choose to support, these points are important to remember:

– It should be something you and your team members really care about and can be passionate about. By rallying your business efforts behind a good cause, not only will you be doing a good thing, spreading good will and getting good residual value for your business, but also motivating your team members. They will be doing something good, feeling better as people and feeling great about working in the company. So, you might as well chose something your business believes in and believes is significant. (If you think Organic Pet Food is a great cause that is under served, make sure your team members agree, otherwise your support from them will be less than ideal, and this will become solely your pet project (don’t pardon the pun).

– The cause should be applicable to a large audience, otherwise it will stay marginal when you do social media promotions etc.

– It should not be a controversial subject. What you do as an individual is your personal business. But if you want to involve other team members and be applicable to a large audience stay away from those controversial subjects where the public is divided 40-60 or 50-50. The more obviously positive a subject is, the better your chances to succeed in helping a good cause while still building your business relations.

– Assign one person to drive this initiative in your organization. When everyone is responsible for success, no one is. The best case scenario should be a situation where you can work closely with the person that drives the process.

So you’ve selected the cause you want to support. Now what?

– Raise funds, sell something and give 100% of the net proceeds to your chosen cause. Create a custom version of a product that people can buy that is related to your cause, like a hat or shirt and either sell it or give it away when people purchase a certain amount or a certain product or service. Give a fixed dollar amount per each sale to your cause. Do a pre-launch announcement, build a landing page on your website with pictures and an explanation of your cause. Include a buy button, and if you can, include a counter of how much money has been raised so you can keep referring to where you are in your social media communication.

– Find a partner organization to work with. Do online searches to find an organization you can work with. Guidestar.org is an excellent source with great search capability. You can use keywords like “homeless”, or search by city to find a good organization.

Some good criteria to keep in mind when you are looking for a good organization to work with:

– A good online presence, and a large Facebook following. (It does not have to be a huge organization but if the Facebook following is more than 1,000, that is good. Anything less might not be enough.)
– It’s better if the organization is local, with less than 4-5 branches rather than a big national corporation. This will mean less red tape, more flexibility and more support from them since they need funds. You can do more good with less resources for smaller organizations most of the time.
– It provides a good, supportive relationship, with at least one key decision maker understanding what you want to do, and being willing to provide support.

– Sponsor an event. Especially if your business is local this is a great way to get exposure. If you find a good organization you can work with, support one of their main upcoming events by announcements to your customers and entering a team if it’s a walk or some other similar event and, of course, support them monetarily.

– Conduct interviews with key people about that cause and post them on your corporate blog. It gets you exposure, good SEO links, and increases to your Facebook and Twitter following.

– Conduct competitions. People love to create, so try to center your competitions around creating a logo, tagline or anything that can help the organization/cause you are supporting. Competitions are great for increasing outreach.

What will you get at the end:

(1) Karma; a soft, warm, fuzzy feeling inside; and better, more positive corporate culture
(2) New customers, new potential partners, improvement of your brand’s image
(3) Good value for your website and social following. Your website will get more links, your Twitter/Facebook accounts will grow, your blog will get more visitors, your email newsletter will get more subscribers

Above all else, though, this is about doing something good. The benefits you reap as a company are just fringe benefits. The real reward is the satisfaction that you’re helping a good cause.

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About Serhat Pala

Serhat Pala is the President and founder of RhinoForce and 3DPrinterStore.com. Prior to that, he ran several online retail businesses including TestCountry.com, which, under his management, was recognized as one of the Inc. 500 fastest growing privately held companies.

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