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Are Your Cause Marketing Programs Driving Results?


The following post was written by our friend, Lloyd Melnick, Sr. Director of Customer Experience at Zynga.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review, "Making Charity Pay," by Michael Norton and Jill Avery, shows how business can use cause marketing programs to improve profitability. They point out that charity can enhance customer loyalty, brand awareness, and even sales. To impact metrics positively, however, you need to implement cause-based initiatives appropriately.

Successful and Unsuccessful Charitable Initiatives

Norton and Avery analyzed both successful and unsuccessful charitable initiatives and determined that success is driven by companies aligning causes that resonate with their customers in a way that drives business results.

Aligning The Cause With the Customer

The first part of the equation is aligning the cause with the customer. With most successful initiatives, it means looking beyond causes that are important to you, the leadership team or maybe even your local community. You need to talk to your customers and understand what causes are important to them. One simple technique I have found particularly successful is surveying your customers and asking them to rank the causes you are considering for the initiative. Just ask people at check-out or leave a book near the door on what are their most important charities.

Ensuring The Initiative Drives Retention 

The second part of the equation is ensuring the initiative drives retention, customer satisfaction, sales, or other metrics that improve customer lifetime value. While you may get a great reaction from your customers by simply supporting charity, if the program is not structured well, that's the only benefit you will see.

For example, if the goal is to drive sales, then be clear to customers on how a purchase will help their cause. Tom’s Shoes does this well; they make it clear that if you purchase a pair of their shoes, they will also provide a pair to someone in need.

Similarly, if the goal is to improve retention and customer satisfaction, make sure your customers are aware of how their involvement with your business will support their favorite causes. Causely is a great example of this, as they make a clear connection between checking in on Facebook and supporting a charitable program.

Don't Forget The Analytics 

Finally, remember that cause-based initiatives are similar to other initiatives and features that are used to improve metrics and thus should be reviewed and analyzed. You should apply the same rigorous analytics to your cause-based initiatives that you do to all other aspects of your business.

Done well, a charitable initiative can drive sales and retention. The key is structuring the initiative so it achieves your goals and does not simply make you or your team feel good.

Key takeaways:

  1. Cause-based charitable initiatives, or "cause marketing" can improve loyalty, satisfaction, and sales. If you're seeking how to improve customer retention, cause marketing is one of the best things you can do.
  2. The initiative should be structured so that it appeals to your customers' interests and the causes they care about.
  3. To succeed, the initiative needs to be structured so it moves the metrics you are trying to impact.

Want to establish cause marketing programs at your business?

Learn how other businesses are doing good while building brand awareness.

To read more of Lloyd's work, visit his blog, The Business of Social Media

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John Rougeux

John is co-founder and CMO at Causely. When he's not trying to build the most philanthropic company in the world, he's probably hanging out with his wife and three daughters in Lexington, KY. You can also find John on Twitter and LinkedIn.


Matthew Watson

Matt is Customer Success Manager at Causely, where he does everything in his power to help our customers succeed. He loves sports, his wife, his dog, and the great outdoors, but not in that order. He may love his dog more than sports. You can find Matt on Facebook and Twitter.


Sarah Werner

Sarah is a writer, marketer, and brand specialist. She has experience in both non-profit marketing and financial development as well as for-profit content marketing and social media. She holds degrees in English and Art from Asbury University. When she’s not writing content for Causely, you’ll find her outside with a book or camera enjoying the company of trees. You can also find Sarah on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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