The Hidden Power of Cause Marketing in B2B

One of the more significant effects of social media is how it gave a platform for everyone to voice out their own social commentary.

And while it has led to an easily-offended world with a battalion of keyboard warriors, it has also nurtured people’s interest and involvement in various social causes that actually matter.

People are increasingly looking to add more meaning to their lives.

Part of this has manifested in the way buyers have developed a tendency to support causes with their purchasing decisions. According to the 2017 Cone Communications CSR Study, 87 percent of respondents said they will likely purchase more from brands that advocate something they care about.

Businesses have been quick to notice, as they integrate cause marketing more and more into their strategies. And while it used to be limited to B2C, B2B companies have gotten in on the act – realizing the importance of this shift to the “purpose economy.”

What Is Cause Marketing?

In the most basic sense, cause marketing is a collaboration between a for-profit business and a non-profit organization to support a particular cause.

Take Lacoste’s recent stroke of cause marketing genius:

As reported by Inc., for a series of 1,775 shirts (each sold for $183), the company replaced their iconic crocodile logo with different endangered species, as a way to raise funds for the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

This brilliant execution of cause marketing by Lacoste allowed the company to draw attention to their line of limited edition shirts with a marked shift to the look of their iconic shirts, without alienating both its customers and the brand.

And while cause marketing isn’t exactly a new concept (with campaigns like Dove’s Real Beauty dating back to the mid-2000s), it’s only been fairly recently that B2B companies have been found to utilize the strategy more and more.

Why It Matters To B2B Companies

According to Time Marketing’s 2017 State of Purpose in B2B report, 74 percent of B2Bs consider purpose to be relevant in business growth.

As well, 53 percent of the 109 respondents (composed of CEOs, CMOs, CCOs, and other senior executives) indicated that they are planning to become purpose-driven in the future, or are already in the process of doing so.

Here are some of the benefits cause marketing brings to B2B companies:

1. Improved brand reputation

It’s natural for brand perception to be elevated when it’s associated with a good cause.

This is evidenced by the 2017 Cone Communications CSR Study, which found 92 percent of consumers saying they have a more positive image of a company when it supports a social or environmental cause.

On the flipside, 28 percent of US adults have stopped using a brand because of something negative they learned about in the news.

While business decisions are less emotionally driven compared to consumer’s purchasing decisions, people are still behind businesses – people that, more than likely, harbour positive emotional connections.

2. Increased employee engagement

Cause marketing is also a clever way to get your employees more involved.

If you find a cause they can rally around, your customers will feel that energy. The better your employees feel, the more likely they are to communicate your brand to their own, personal audiences. Content shared among peers has a much higher engagement than corporate marketing, and it extends your brand’s reach.

According to the Harvard Business Review’s The Business Case for Purpose, 89 percent of the B2B executives surveyed said a strong sense of collective purpose drives employee satisfaction.

Additionally, you can provide them with branded physical and virtual tools to further promote the cause. Your employees get to feel good about supporting a cause that matters to them, and others will know that your company supports that cause. It’s a win for everyone involved.

3. Strengthened customer relationship

Similarly, you can increase customer engagement with cause marketing, making them happy they did business with you and further strengthening your relationship with them.

As noted by Time Marketing’s 2017 State of Purpose in B2B report, purpose-driven B2B’s report higher customer engagement and satisfaction scores.

Learn more about the people working for the companies that buy your products – are there charities they support? What do they post about? This will give your company insights on what causes you can tie up to your marketing strategies.

4. Differentiates you from competitors

Effective cause marketing campaigns can make your competitor’s customers rethink their business decisions and give your company a fresh look.

When you find a cause that your target can support, it marks a line of differentiation between you and your competitors, ultimately bringing positive returns to the bottom line.

5. Raise brand awareness

Apart from making your employees and customers feel good about the cause you’re supporting (and your company), cause marketing also tends to give you the added benefit of getting more press – often, for free.

You support the cause, and the cause will support you back – this is an organic cycle that has made the purpose economy thrive, and an added reason for B2B companies to join the fray.

6. The numbers

There are plenty of numbers that support the increasing power of cause marketing. Some of the more significant numbers include:

  • Compared to profit-driven B2Bs, 117 percent more purpose-driven B2Bs project high growth (>10 percent) in net profit over the next three years.
  • 100 percent more purpose-driven B2B’s reported high growth (>10 percent) in the last three years.

On the customers’ side:

  • According to the Global Strategy Group’s Business & Politics: Do They Mix?, 84 percent of Americans believe that businesses have a responsibility to bring social change on important issues.
  • A study found that 75 percent of millennials would take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company.

What You Need To Keep In Mind When Running A Cause Marketing Campaign

Choose wisely

This doesn’t mean that it has to match your line of business. What this means is that you have to keep your target in mind, finding out which causes actually resonate with them on a personal level.

It’s equally important that the entire company is able to commit to the cause – with your efforts coming off as authentic as can be. Sometimes, being passionate is almost more important than what the cause is.

Set goals

As with most marketing strategies, it’s important to have set goals and objectives tied up to your cause marketing campaign. Whether it’s to increase brand awareness, strengthen customer relationship, or increase employee engagement – having a clear set of goals enables you to focus your cause marketing efforts.

Keep a social mindset

The power of social is crucial to the success of all-cause marketing campaigns, with 75 percent of B2B buyers said to be influenced by social media.

Hashtags and influencers are an extremely effective way of not only making a campaign go viral but also in getting even more people involved. Even those who have no clue what it’s about will be curious whenever they see a trending hashtag or whenever a popular influencer speaks about a particular cause.

Make sure that when you distribute digital materials, you make it as shareable as possible. Let everyone know what you’re fighting for!

Drive emotions

The importance of creating emotional connections has been alluded to earlier, but it bears repeating. The most successful cause marketing campaigns tap into people’s emotions, their need to connect, and their search for deeper meaning in their lives.

Whether it’s by providing inspiration, or simply making them laugh, tap into anything that people can relate to emotionally.

Show and tell

Aligned with attaching a social mindset to your campaign, highlighting your cause is a vital part of a campaign. People, and not just those involved, should be made aware. When you reach certain benchmarks, celebrate it.

Investing in cause marketing entails a lot of efforts and resources from different parties – not showcasing your efforts might put a damper on everyone’s spirit.

Get visual

As you saw with the Ice Bucket Challenge from years ago, video is an extremely powerful tool when it comes to cause marketing. And with the plethora of platforms available these days, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t utilize them.

Apart from video, Stories, and live videos are also effective tools to catch and keep people’s attention.

B2B Cause Marketing Done Right

See a demo, get a goat

Formation Data Systems (FDS), a software-defined storage firm, took an unusual –albeit, effective – approach to their cause marketing campaign. Essentially, FDS would donate a goat to a needy family every time a business agreed to watch a demo of its storage solution. According to a 2016 report, FDS has donated over 100 goats.

As discussed earlier, the cause need not match the industry you’re in. What’s important is having a passion for it.

Zoom’s ‘Put your dongle away’

Zoom’s “Put your dongle away” campaign may not be tied to much of a cause (save for offering solutions to remote virtual meetings), but it stands as a great example of playing to people’s emotions—in this case, humour, with this hilarious video.

Zoom also encouraged virality by encouraging netizens to contribute to #DongleJokes.

Takeaway

Cause marketing has proven to be an effective tool for many companies, as it plays to people’s heightened search for meaning in this oft-madding life.

But like most marketing strategies, a deeper understanding and assessment of all the factors involved are needed for a campaign to truly take off. Take the time to delve into those and you might find being a purpose-driven company works for you.

Think about a cause you’re passionate about. Do you think it can translate into a catchy cause marketing campaign people will care about?

About the Author

Jolina Landicho is a freelance writer and marketing strategist working with various brands online. She is devoted in helping businesses bridge relationship gaps by providing in-depth, actionable advice on online marketing, business development, and growth hacking.

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