Where to Look for Cause Marketing Opportunities

A lot of people ask me how they can get into companies such as Target, Starbucks and Walmart. I tell them don't bother and instead focus on companies such as iParty, Ocean State Job Lots and Finagle a Bagel. If they live outside New England they have no clue what I'm talking about because these businesses don't operate in their area. My point is this: don't go after the big, national companies where your chances are slim. Focus on the smaller, mid-size companies that are native to your area. You'll have more success. As I like to say, Don't sell to the hard ones. Sell to the easy ones.

I was reminded of this when I came across the Top 200 Special Report, a ranking of the foodservice industry’s largest restaurant chains and companies by sales and unit data. It looks like you can buy a copy of the report if you want, or you could do something else: just look around your area. Another option is to consult your local business journal for their annual book of lists. Most major cities publish one. Boston does.

The Top 200 Special Report focuses on restaurants, but you can focus on any type of business from department stores to fast lube chains. Look for smaller chains that haven't been sacked by the bigger charities. And even if they have, maybe they would be open to working with a local nonprofit doing something good in their community.

You'll find businesses like these:

Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers

This Louisiana-based chain has nearly 120 busy locations. I've never heard of them, but maybe they are in your backyard!

Yard House Resaurants

I learned something here as there are two locations here in Massachusetts! But the real potential is in California where 17 of the chains 35 restaurants are located.

Dickey's Barbeque Pit

If you're a nonprofit is located anywhere near Dallas, you must know about Dickey's Barbeque Pit. They have 235 locations in 43 states, but dozens of restaurants are in its home state of Texas.

Your success will vary with smaller chains, but at least you'll have a chance. Dig deeper and look for chains with fewer than 25 locations that aren't on anyone's radar screen. Stop asking your local Starbucks to do a pinup campaign for you and head down the street to the hometown coffee shop with six locations.