Marketing Secrets: Cause-Based Marketing/ August 15, 2016
There are a lot of marketing secrets out there, and as you develop your own strategy, you might discover that cause-based marketing could be your new secret weapon.
This statement could change your financial future forever:
Nonprofits and charities aren’t the only organizations that have causes.
Entrepreneurs and businesses often do good in their communities, and most business owners have some kind of cause they’re passionate about.
Consider Cause-Based Marketing
Why did you start a business or a blog in the first place?
It’s okay if you have to think about it for a minute.
Sometimes we all lose sight of the bigger picture when we’re so bogged down with the daily details of running a company.
Take a second right now.
Think back to the day you finally decided to take the leap and launch a new business venture.
What did you want to accomplish?
Were you only interested in creating another stream of income?
Or were you out to change the world?
True, not everyone is an idealist, and starting a company strictly for the profit potential is perfectly honorable.
But some of us have something more in mind, and this is a post for those people.
Do You Have a Cause?
Let’s start with the dictionary definition:
Cause: a principle, aim, or movement that, because of a deep commitment, one is prepared to defend or advocate.
The key here is that “deep commitment” that “one is prepared to defend or advocate.”
A real cause is almost part of your DNA, that thing that gets you out of bed every morning excited to rise to the day’s challenges.
It consumes your thoughts.
It shows in every decision you make.
Of course it’s one of your most potent marketing secrets, but it’s also a driving force behind your other business decisions.
Whether you talk about it or not, it’s your company’s heart, because your business is a tool to achieve that one, all-important thing.
Perhaps you’re passionate about animal rescue, so you started your company to make enough money to fund your local animal shelters.
Or maybe you’re out to change the way the fashion industry addresses overweight men.
Not everyone has something like this that drives them.
But if you do, don’t make the mistake of keeping it to yourself.
Don’t Let Fear Hold You Back
When your brand is intrinsically tied to a meaningful cause, your marketing potential and power are basically unstoppable.
So why do so many brands keep their marketing messages so blandly vanilla?
The short answer is this:
Most companies are afraid of expressing any opinion at all, let alone a deeply held conviction.
Their marketing secrets are things like “don’t offend anyone” and “appeal to the lowest common denominator.”
Aside from businesses which really don’t have a true cause (other than a desire for profit, which is a worthy cause, but doesn’t inspire people to follow you) there’s a lot of discomfort involved in cause-based marketing.
For one thing, it takes a lot of courage to stand for something.
Whenever you stand for an ideal, you’re automatically standing against a lot of others.
Here are a few examples:
- If you stand for the adoption of shelter dogs, you’re standing against breeders who believe that purebred animals and specific bloodlines need to be preserved.
- If you stand for nonviolence in all situations, you stand against people who believe in self-defense training, military superiority, and eye-for-an-eye justice.
- And if you stand for more entrepreneurship and personal advancement, you stand against people who appreciate job stability, the standard work-life balance, and economic sameness across the population.
If you express a conviction, you’ll attract people who hold similar beliefs.
But you’ll also invite criticism and challenges from those who hold opposite beliefs.
That’s not always easy.
The Myth of “Selling Out”
Some entrepreneurs hesitate to use cause-based marketing because they believe it is somehow immoral to make money from their convictions.
There are a few problems with this way of thinking:
If your cause is true, and your business is actually a tool to achieve those ends, then you should have no qualms about telling your customers what they are supporting.
Plus, there are probably millions of other people who want to participate and help you reach that big, lofty goal.
As long as you’re going to use (at least some of) your profits for good, you might as well tell people.
Besides, money is neither moral nor immoral.
It’s a tool.
The way we earn profit and the things we do with money can be positive or negative, constructive or destructive, but the money itself has no conscience.
The truth about the “selling out” myth is this:
It’s an excuse people use because they’re scared of being challenged.
They’re afraid that someone is going to question the validity of their dreams, worried that people will disagree and criticize them.
People will challenge you.
That’s actually a good thing.
If you really do have a conviction, you’ll rise to those challenges and your position will be even stronger.
If you don’t have that deep commitment which you’re prepared to defend and advocate, though, you’ll drop the topic as soon as someone makes a negative comment.
Or you’ll make excuses like “I don’t want to be a sellout” and never get started to begin with.
Cause-Based Marketing Basics
Sharing your convictions and causes could be the most powerful of all your marketing secrets.
When your brand is linked closely to a cause, you’re not just attracting customers.
You’re building a community.
You’re leading a social movement, giving people a chance to belong to something that’s bigger than themselves.
On top of that, you’re tapping into deeply held emotional beliefs, appealing to core values.
Think about it:
Would you rather buy a tee shirt that looks nice, or a tee shirt that looks nice and helps overweight men make a bold statement to an industry that treats them like crap?
Cause-based marketing changes the dynamic between you and your audience.
Instead of the standard relationship – your company on one side selling things to consumers on the other side – the situation becomes you and your community standing together for something bigger.
Your audience transforms.
Customers become fans, and fans become evangelists.
Your new efangelists carry your message far and wide, because they care about the cause. They’re proud to be a part of your movement.
That’s a powerful shift.
Here’s how you can pull it off:
How To Use Cause-Based Marketing
Of course, your marketing strategy will be unique.
You have to consider your own brand, products, audience, and personal strengths in addition to your cause…
So think of this as a Getting Started Guide for your newly updated cause-based marketing strategy.
1: Test Your Cause.
In order for this strategy to work for you, your cause needs to be genuine.
Faking a cause for the sake of marketing isn’t only morally reprehensible – it’s bad business.
Your audience will intuitively pick up on little inconsistencies and sense your insincerity if you try to force a belief where there isn’t one.
The same holds true in cases where you’re not 100% sure of yourself.
You might believe that an ideal is positive and beneficial, but your personal insecurities or lack of critical thought keep you from being a true advocate.
In some cases, you’ve just adopted someone else’s conviction without really examining your own beliefs.
And in other situations, you might be conflicted about your own beliefs.
Before you decide to include your cause in your marketing messages, ask yourself this question:
Will it stand up to scrutiny?
Is this really a deeply held belief, you’ll be ready to defend it.
Which is important, because the next step is:
2: Be Ready To Take Criticism and Challenges.
Your convictions will be tested.
Remember this, though:
In every business venture, you’re going to be challenged. People are going to make critical comments.
Entrepreneurship takes a thick skin to handle.
Responding to negativity and criticism is a vital skill for every business owner, no matter your marketing strategy.
The difference here is this:
When you lay your heart on the line and share your deepest, most dear beliefs and values with your audience, those challenges feel intensely personal.
Cause-based marketing is not for sensitive people.
It’s not a battle, even though sometimes you’ll feel like you’re under attack.
But it’s also not an easy strategy.
Cause-based marketing is for people of sturdy character, those who need to build something bigger than themselves.
Once you’re sure you can handle the emotional strain, you’re ready to start building your marketing.
3: Practice Communicating Your Cause.
There are “mission statements.”
And then there are mission statements.
If you’ve actually got a mission, you should be able to write a concise, powerful, bold mission statement.
Your audience will become followers and efangelists if they can clearly understand how your business’s success contributes to your cause’s success.
In order to make that connection, they need to know:
- What your cause is
- What they can do to help
- Specifically how their purchases and actions further that cause
- What else, if anything, you’re doing to succeed in your mission
Get good at making your message powerful, concise, and clear.
When your message is honed to perfection:
4: Keep The Goal Visible At All Times.
Remind your employees, partners, audience, customers, and efangelists what you’re working towards.
And then remind them again.
Cause-based marketing doesn’t mean you share 1 blog post explaining your mission statement and add a section on your FAQ page about your goal.
If you want to lead a movement, it’s a full-time job.
Your mission should come up on your product pages, in your blog, on every page of your website, and in every email you send.
Talk about it with strangers.
Support organizations with similar objectives. Yes, even competitors.
If your cause isn’t central to everything you do, your potential followers will never get around to following because you’re not really leading.
Keep talking about the dream, and then:
5: Celebrate Progress.
Whenever you have a little success, celebrate with your audience!
Remember, they’re on your team now, so be sure to congratulate them for everything you accomplish together.
Nobody wants to work endlessly without seeing results, so don’t expect your followers to.
Now that you’re using cause-based marketing, their purchases are part of the work.
They’re doing their part by commenting on your posts, sharing your links on social media, and wearing tee shirts with your logo on them.
Thank them regularly, of course.
Giving them a chance to celebrate their success, though, is vital.
Did you make a donation to the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation?
You got an opportunity to appear on a podcast to talk about why competent financial education should be taught to middle schoolers?
Publicly congratulating and thanking your supporters is vital.
You might decide to offer discounts as a thank-you gesture, or maybe you’d rather invite some of your best customers to take a tour of your headquarters to celebrate a big breakthrough.
Whatever you do, make sure you share the success with the people who helped make it happen:
Think back to the days before you started your business, then answer these questions:
- How did you feel about entrepreneurship? Do you feel the same way now?
- Why did you want to start a business?
- Have you achieved your initial goals?
- How have your intentions changed?
- Did you then, and do you now, have a cause?
- If you could achieve your cause, but it would mean that you would have to close your business and do something else, what would you do?
Feel free to share your cause in the comments!