Want to be More Successful? Stop Focusing on Cause Marketing

Lately, I've been thinking of two things. First, the role of technology in achieving our goals. Second, what the future will be for my favorite tool for corporate social responsibility, cause marketing. I started thinking about technology when Google+ arrived. Many of you have spoken very well of it and I've enjoyed using. But my gut reaction is a loathing that I will have yet another social network to learn, use and update. Another tool that I'll have to lug around but will probably rarely use as I wait for the rest of the world to "catch up." I'm starting to question if being the early adopter is really such a good thing.


On the cause marketing front I've been thinking about Simon Mainwaring's post on contributory consumption. Simon rightfully points out that cause marketing is perhaps the most successful form of corporate social responsibility. It's good to hear someone else say this and not treat cause marketing as a dirty thing - like finding out that your neighborhood store makes most of its money from cigarettes and scratch tickets, not milk and bread.

Simon's goal for corporate giving and cause marketing is ambitious. He believes that "We need many more corporations to participate in a focused and concerted attempt to transform ordinary consumerism into a permanent motor of social advancement."

In the comments section of Simon's post, Bryan de Lottinville, President of Benevity, commented that increasing business and nonprofits partnerships is an "execution" issue, something his company is hoping to address with a donation platform that can be embedded on business (mainly shopping) web sites.

Bryan is hopeful that technology can "fix" cause marketing and achieve Simon's vision of supercharging consumer giving.

I love Benevity, but piling on the tools is not the answer.  A nail gun is better than a hammer but not if you're pouring concrete.

But that's what companies and causes try to do every day.

We have all these tools, but we don't know how they work, or what they're for. Or we expect them to do things they can't do. A hammer doesn't make a home. Its job is to pound in nail. It's a tool. But we wield it like Thor's hammer expecting wonders.

We need to set aside our tools and focus on what will truly build our success. Only then can we choose the right tool for the work ahead.

  • Take a good look at your brand. It's the number one predictor of cause marketing success. I've learned the hard way that cause marketing doesn't build brand and technology will mostly just communicate it.
  • Analyze your assets. What is it about your cause or company what makes it truly special, unique. What do you have that others would die (or give you a really good fight) for.
  • Focus on things that work - the tangible, the measurable.
  • Work on developing your story.
  • Build your foundation first before you try to construct or innovate anything.
  • Stick with the basics. They work!
  • Start with ideas. They'll drive your success better than any tool.
  • Focus on a lasting value. Something that shines through and permeates everything you do.

With your help, I'm sure there many other things we could add to this list.

A house divided against itself cannot stand. Cause marketing and technology are tools that need to be backed by ideas, purpose, identity, results and values. When we say a house has "character" we recognize the craft and art of the maker, not the tool that made it.

What will you be, a builder or a hammer?

Better Cause Marketing with SEO

Before you read this post you and I have to agree on some basic things.

  1. You should be doing cause marketing. (And not knowing what cause marketing is isn't an excuse.)
  2. If you're doing cause marketing, you should be discussing and promoting your program online via a website or blog. It's good for you, for your corporate partners and for business development.

Now that we're agreed on these two key points, here's my pitch for using SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to achieve better cause marketing results.

But first: what is SEO? Wikipedia has a clear and simple definition:

Search engine optimization is the process of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a web site or a web page (such as a blog) from search engines via unpaid search results [as opposed to paid ads].

We should all be focusing on SEO because people rely on search engines, mainly Google, to find the things they need. It's that simple.

Looking for details on the side effects of the latest prescription the doctor gave you? Google it. Need an address? Try Google. Looking for a company's web site? Don't bother typing it in. Just Google it.

Lately, I've been trying to read as much as possible on SEO and I've found a great teacher in Jason Falls. Last week I stumbled on his post A SEO Experiment: Targeting One Keyword.

In it, Jason sought to own one search term: “Social Media Monitoring Services.”  Targeting these primary keywords he did just that, and goes on to explain how he accomplished it. I suggest you read the post, especially if you're like me and don't know a lot about SEO. It's very helpful.

My takeaway from it is that if I can better target primary keywords in my posts I can own more search terms and potentially drive more traffic to my site. The ultimate goal, of course, is to better promote my nonprofit's cause marketing program, the topic I spend most of my time posting on at Selfish Giving.

If I can do this as well as Jason did, think about the potential for me, my nonprofit and my corporate partners. If my site tops more searches that means more companies may seek out my services. I may sign up more nonprofits for my Six Figure Cause Marketing program, which benefits my nonprofit. More reporters may call to write stories about my program or my corporate partners. In general, when I'm #1 on Google my credibility and opportunities soar.

Now think about those very same benefits and how you, your organization and your partners could reap the rewards. That's powerful stuff.

So I decided to replicate Jason's experiment and try to win my own search term. Like Jason's, my term--"Low Budget Cause Marketing"--wasn't a particularly competitive one. He and I were both riding the long tail of search. But I was convinced by my research that this is a term people are searching on and one I want to own.

Prior to publishing the post, here are the search results for "Low Budget Cause Marketing" on Google.


After writing the post on Headway Themes, which John Haydon tells me is one of the best themes out there for SEO, I ran it through Scribe SEO, which Jason and others have praised, to optimize the content.

Forty-five minutes later my post 5 Tips for Low-Budget Cause Marketing was the #1 search result on Google!


A few hours later it dropped to the third entry--still respectable--and added an additional entry at the #5 spot. But this changes from hour to hour. Check out where I am ranked right now.


It's not enough for your nonprofit to just be doing cause marketing. You should promote your program online and optimize your visibility for search engines.

I recommend a Wordpress blog with a Headway theme and Scribe SEO to accomplish your goals.

Don't hesitate to leave me a comment if you have any questions. You know how to reach me. But if you forget, just type Joe Waters into Google. While my name is a fairly common one, this Joe Waters is the #1 result.