B-to-B Cause Marketing

A lot of people come to my blog for cause marketing advice, but Tricia Wilkerson, Senior Marketing Specialists at Conifer Health Solutions, found inspiration. While my posts didn't uncover exactly what Tricia was looking for, they did get her thinking (she told me afterward) and I'm thankful she took the time to share with me the cause marketing program Conifer created. As a a company that works with over 100 hospitals nationwide, Conifer was searching for a cause marketing program that would put the power of giving in the hands of their customers.

To achieve this goal, Conifer turned to TisBest to produce a custom charity card.

TisBest works by allowing pre-donated funds to be loaded onto charity gift cards, in the same way that traditional gift cards function, which is then “spent” by the recipient on the charity they select.

Tricia explained how Conifer's new charity gift card was smartly executed at an industry event.

We targeted our program launch for our industry’s largest healthcare finance conference in late June - Healthcare Financial Management Association annual conference – attended by approximately 2,000 professionals. Originally located in Nashville, the historic Tennessee flooding in early May nearly cancelled the conference before it was hastily relocated to Las Vegas. This conference crisis, in addition to the emerging crisis for the Gulf states and flooding in Arkansas, reinforced our commitment to forgo the traditional conference giveaways (iPads, Wii, etc.) and booth-supported sales efforts.

We pre-donated $10,000 to be distributed in increments of $5 on each charity card. To physically house the charity card for distribution during the conference, we developed a branded “pocket card” brochure that included details about the cause program and brief information about Conifer. The pocket cards were then distributed to conference attendees by Conifer’s conference street team who explained the concept and answered questions. To keep the focus on charity, we did not include sales pitches or direct people to our booth (we chose not to have a traditional conference presence) – to the surprise of many seasoned conference attendees.

Ironically, the program stood in perhaps starker contrast to other marketing efforts at the conference because of the relocation to Las Vegas (not always synonymous with charity efforts) and the intra-community concern for Nashville due to the flooding. We heard numerous comments about the “freshness” of the program and excitement about the opportunity to spread a little good selflessly. And we’re happy to report that we have already seen cards being “redeemed” for charities.

There's a lot to like about this program, and I have one suggestion that might have made it better.

Cause marketing isn't just for B-to-C. Although I'm pretty guilty of thinking of cause marketing as only B-to-C, it can work for B-to-B as well. B-to-B cause marketing works more like a percentage-of-sales program in that the donation is "seeded" by the company. But with Conifer's gift card the cardholder gets to choose which cause gets the money.

Conifer sent the right message at the conference. They wisely let their charity efforts do the talking and didn't try to push sales. When done well cause marketing distinguishes you from your competitors. While some types of marketing give you visibility that needs to be activated with a sales pitch, cause marketing delivers a favorability that has a built-in persuasiveness that is powerful and independent. You can leave the hard sell back at the office.

Check-in for charity on Foursquare. To gather intelligence on conference attendees active on social media, I would have added a location-marketing promotion for smartphone users to check-in at Conifer's Cares at HFMA on Foursquare and Gowalla. After showing their check-in to a street team member, they'd receive a second charity card. To involve more attendees you could extend the promotion to anyone at the conferences who used the hashtag #conifercares on Twitter or Facebook.

I'd love to hear about some more examples of B-to-B cause marketing. I got Conifer thinking about cause marketing and now they have me thinking about the possibilities for B-to-B cause marketing! What other programs are out there? And what does this mean for my definition of cause marketing? Do we have to adjust it? If so, how?