Embrace Your Inner Grinch and Steal Business from Other Causes

Regardless of what industry you work in we all have competitors. Like it or note, even causes compete against one another for donations. In cause marketing I compete with The Jimmy Fund and Children's Hospital here in Boston. I also compete with a slew of national causes for time at the register. They range from Komen to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital to Children's Miracle Network.

I learned years ago that it's always easier to to sell someone something if they already own one. When I worked at public television in Boston it was hard to sell underwriting (public T.V.'s fancy word for advertising) to a business that had never bought advertising. Businesses that didn't advertise simply didn't appreciate the value of it, much less a niche branding product like underwriting on public television. But a business that was spending good money on print, radio and T.V. understood the value of advertising and was an easier sell.

The same is true of cause marketing. It's much easier to convince a business to try a register program or cause product if it's already working with a cause. The reason is simple. They get it. Of course, what they may not be getting is the full potential of the cause marketing program. That's where, Grinch-like, you stroll in to town.

Here are a four ways to tell that a business is ready for a new or additional cause marketing partner.

No real commitment to a current partner. I always ask a business how they came to work with their current cause partner. At least half don't have any good reason to work with their current cause except that they always have. The cause may have been a handover from a previous owner. Or maybe it was the only cause that ever asked them to do cause marketing. I hear this a lot about MDA Shamrocks, which have been around for decades and businesses just do them year after year.

No enthusiasm for the program. No conversation is necessary here. Just look around. Are there stacks of unsold pinups at the register that the cashier is expecting consumers to magically snap up and say "Can I buy one of these?" We all know it doesn't work that way. Neither does tucking coin canisters behind the rest of the "counter clutter," or displaying cause products on the bottom shelf. Nothing is accomplished without enthusiasm. Use your enthusiasm to show the business owner a better way to execute cause marketing programs.

No local activation. You know I love register programs, but causes that don't tie these programs to events, sponsorships and social media are not realizing the full potential of these program. Business owners understand this and it explains some of their reluctance to sign on for register programs: they're in-store programs that target existing customers. Linking register programs to events, for instance, broadens the appeal for sponsors and delivers a much larger audience.

No year long program. It's not uncommon to see businesses executing cause marketing programs for a couple weeks each year. But few have year long programs. If a business is hosting a program for St. Jude in December what are they doing the rest of the year? iParty hosts four programs for my organization each year. Ocean State Job Lot host two. Finagle-A-Bagel has a year-long program.

There's room for a business to support more than one cause, or to support one cause more than once a year.  As a cause, you need to take heart that introducing yourself to businesses that already have partners is good for your cause and probably for the business.

No business should be working with a cause that isn't meaningful to them, stirs no enthusiasm or delivers a cause marketing program without breadth and depth. Why should a business settle for a cause with a heart two sizes too small?