Social Entrepreneurship

Marketing Your Cause

Written by Tim Morral for Gaebler Ventures

Cause-related marketing isn't just something that nonprofits do. Social entrepreneurs at for-profit businesses are learning how to market their social causes in tandem with marketing their core products and services.

Much of a social entrepreneur's work involves promoting or marketing their social objectives to the general public.

Marketing a Cause

But what kind of impact does cause-related marketing have on consumers, and will your efforts increase sales or send your bottom line into a nosedive?

Marketing and small business go hand in hand. So it should come as no surprise that socially-minded small business owners approach marketing as a viable resource for achieving their companies' social goals. Yet at the same time, business owners recognize that their marketing campaigns have to attract new customers in order to remain cost-effective.

The line between advancing social goals and attracting new business can be tricky to navigate, especially since the wrong cause-related marketing campaign has the potential to turn off your customer base. However, many social entrepreneurs successfully employ marketing techniques to promote both their company and their cause. Here's how they do it . . .

Affinity Marketing

Like many other forms of marketing, cause-related marketing isn't necessarily designed to appeal to the entire marketplace. Instead, social entrepreneurs use it to attract the attention of the market segment that shares an affinity with their social objectives.

For example, green entrepreneurs realize they are never going to be able to convert everyone to their cause. They can promote their cause by including strategic tidbits of environmental information in their ads, but for the most part, their marketing campaigns attempt to forge a connection with those who are already have a level of concern about the environment. Although your marketing efforts can (and should) be informative, it's usually a good idea to avoid being overly confrontational or "preachy".


Cause-related marketing can also be used as a tool in differentiating your company and its products from the competition, especially when your social commitments result in higher pricing. Instead of allowing consumers to make their purchasing decision based on a simple price comparison, a well-crafted marketing campaign can simultaneously justify the price differential and create a preference for your products since your company is acting more responsibly than the competition.

Brand Loyalty

Some entrepreneurs have used cause-related marketing to create brand loyalty in their customer base. This requires two ingredients to be successful. First, your social commitment needs to make your company unique. If the entire industry is onboard with your cause, it will be difficult to elicit loyalty based on your cause. Second, your marketing program needs to demonstrate a sense of urgency and impact to your customers. Your company's cause is an urgent social concern and by consistently purchasing your products, customers are helping in the battle to avert a full-blown social catastrophe.

Sincerity & Honesty

Today's consumers are professionals. They've been bombarded with so many marketing messages that they can now spot an opportunistic agenda a mile away. For social entrepreneurs, this means that unless your social marketing initiatives literally ooze sincerity and honesty, they have little chance of success in the marketplace.

Tim Morral is a veteran business writer who specializes in helping entrepreneurs launch and grow their companies. Based in Rochester, NY, Tim has worked extensively in the areas of brand communications and small business content creation.

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