When you’re selling to consumers, the advantages of cause-related marketing are clear. By aligning with a popular cause, organizations show that they are good citizens, and at the same time boost the bottom line. Coke and its support of polar bears through the World Wildlife Fund, or the Body Shop, with its long history of supporting activism around the globe, are good examples. Today, more than ever, consumers want to feel good about the products they buy, and the companies they buy from.
What role should cause-related marketing play in a B2B marketing plan?
You might think that in the B2B world, other criteria like price, service, etc., are more important to purchasers than a company’s causes, but that’s not always the case. Consider these results from a 2019 survey of senior execs across North America, Europe, and Australia:
- 86% of business leaders consider the values of an organization when making major buying or partner organization decisions
- 80% of business leaders would end a relationship with a supplier based on a failure to properly manage a high-profile issue
When B2B companies choose a supplier or partner, they’re assuming a risk – a risk that the solution or product won’t deliver as promised, that the supplier might go out of business, or that they’ve chosen the wrong solution entirely. Today, a good risk assessment also includes knowing where potential partners stand, on social issues, climate change, etc. From the Me Too movement to Black Lives Matter, the world has never been so socially aware – and so ready to articulate and act on our beliefs. ‘Cancel culture’ and the Facebook advertising boycott are just two examples that show the power of perception in today’s marketplace.
Benefits of cause-related marketing for B2B
So should your B2B organization publicly support a cause? As you consider how you might engage in cause-related marketing, think about these benefits:
1. Cause-related marketing can help improve your corporate reputation and your brand.
2. The causes you support are a kind of shorthand for your organization’s values, and they make it easy to see that you are engaged and involved with the world in a positive way. Cause-related marketing can give your employees something to rally around and support. Your employees want to know that they work for a company with values they can support. It’s also a way to unite people, have fun and benefit your community or cause.
3. Cause-related marketing can help differentiate you from your competitors. Your causes are an important part of the story you tell about your organization. Your involvement helps to position your organization as engaged, responsible and caring.
Choosing the right cause
It’s important to think strategically and long-term when you’re choosing a cause to support. First, think about what you want to get out of the partnership – do you want to improve your reputation, give employees the opportunity to support a local project, or align your company with an important cause?
Keep in mind that there’s a risk to attaching your organization to a more ‘political’ cause. If public opinion is already inflamed, your company could end up getting burned. Choose a cause that you can support for the long haul – you lose momentum when you skip from one cause to another. And don’t opt for your CEO’s son’s pet project – if your CEO leaves the company, you can end up stuck with a cause that no one really supports.
Should your cause match your company or industry? It doesn’t have to, but a clear link can be very powerful. For example, Aliaxis is a global provider of solutions for water and sanitation. The company has chosen to support clean water and sanitation for all, as well as climate change, through a variety of projects. They’ve got the expertise and knowledge to support these projects, and help people in need.
TOMS Shoes offers an example of a multi-faceted approach. The company is known for its program of donating a pair of shoes for every pair sold. Now, during the pandemic, the company is donating $1 USD (about €0.85) from every $3 USD it makes to the TOMS COVID-19 Global Giving Fund. On the TOMS website, the company lists the organizations that the Global Giving Fund supports, and how. These organizations include Americares, Crisis Text Line, International Medical Corps, Partners In Health and WaterAid.
Transparency is key
This kind of openness is critically important. Claiming that you’re donating ‘a portion of the proceeds’ from product sales or an event is not enough information. Be very specific about who you are helping, and how.
Once you choose your cause, and determine how you’ll support it, promote your involvement as widely as you can. Add it to your press release boilerplate, talk about it on social media, and promote it on your website.
If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of cause-related marketing for B2B, including how to choose a cause to support, we’d be glad to help. Call or email us at +32 55 591 007 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org, to find out more.