Bite Size Strategy: Marketing With Heart – Cause Marketing Partnerships Should Provide Benefits For Both Parties

I co-delivered a pilot workshop today on cause marketing and ’Benefits To Both Partners’ was a central theme.

We gathered a small group of for profit business people and not for profit directors to experience a portion of our workshop content and provide feedback to help us shape future workshops .  When we presented the topic of benefits in general, and provided a short list of benefits to businesses and began to talk about Revenue and Brand exposure, an interesting shift happened.   The not for profits chimed in and said that historically these were not subjects or even words that they brought up when talking to businesses.  In fact, it went a bit deeper into a conversation about how, over the years, not for profits tend to show up already undervaluing themselves and as a result possibly get about one third of the dollars they could have received.

Having been on the business side of the table for years, I so appreciated and valued the openness of this conversation today. I will tell you that I have been in many awkward conference room conversations related to cause marketing.  Typically, it is during or at the end of an intense business planning or budgeting meeting and the HR director or Director of Marketing or fellow executive brings up a recent lunch or cause they would like the company to support.  In those rooms, there is a similar shift, except it is not always so altruistic.  After rounds of negotiation on hard costs, revenue projections and tough decisions to produce profit – the subject of supporting a favorite cause often is perceived and presented as a ‘we should do this because it will feel good’ rather than a strategic imperative to extend brand and produce revenue. Many times, these campaigns and relationships are treated with kid gloves, are supported by only a small group within the company, are not selected based on their merits and are not measured well for value. All of this magnifies the gaps.

The not for profit people shared that they did not want to offend donors or maybe their board members and went to great lengths to avoid looking or sounding like a business.  Fascinating to me, because most board members are active or former business leaders as are many donors and not for profits fight for a bottom line and budgets – just like their business counterparts, every day.  The for profit business wants to work with a not for profit that will help them increase brand exposure, increase customer loyalty and ultimately to produce revenue and reach new markets. All of these are business issues.

From the business attendees, the light went off as well when we talked about adding cause related marketing to your overall marketing mix to recognize cost savings as well as brand extension. Even if the business partner stands to take more financial risk, studies show that consumers are more likely to purchase a product that is tied to a cause, in some cases up to 41%. “I’ll take those odds”, as my dad used to say. The businesses also avoided using business terms AND also avoided using not for profit terms, in order to not offend or look less knowledgable to their not for profit counterparts. The thought kept echoing in my head from my Toastmasters group – if you want to connect to, motivate or persuade your audience – speak their language.

That is why I love the area of cause related marketing because it is based on a business deal tied to doing good, and is not philanthropy.  It also lays a great framework to support a shift in the conversation, the presentations and eventually the negotiations towards making a sound business decision for both parties.  It empowers a not for profit to identify, articulate and be recognized for the valuable assets they bring to the table.  It also forces businesses to approach cause related marketing conversations as opportunities to build partnerships based on  revenue generating, sustainable relationships and away from half-hearted, soft, we really should do this attitudes of the past. If we continue to seek common ground, common language in these conversations just think of the powerful partnerships that can be created.

And this is not easy stuff.  Lots of history, lots of need, lots to work on all compounded by constant changes to navigate in the marketing world today. Not to mention, the economy. No matter how you look at it, not easy. But, worth the time? Yes. But how?

One of the best tools I have found for principled negotiation of win-win partnerships is “Getting To Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In ” by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury.

Their method of principled negotiation is based on four propositions:

Separate the people from the problem. Focus on interests, not positions. Invent options for mutual gain. Insist on using objective criteria. Another element of the method talks about knowing when to walk away.  It is referred to as knowing your best alternative to a negotiated agreement or BATNA. This is a confidence builder and a powerful tool for both sides. If you have done the prep work to understand and present your value AND know when to walk away – you can be more selective and confident in the end result.

Next Post:  Foundation #2: Identify not for profits that align with your business and personal goals and connect with your consumers.

My not for profit co-pilot for these conversations and workshops is Jane Kuechele from Kuechle Consulting. More to come…

Joni Kovarik | BizDev Consulting | Blog

3 thoughts on “Bite Size Strategy: Marketing With Heart – Cause Marketing Partnerships Should Provide Benefits For Both Parties

  1. Great analysis. I remember participating in an ask for a non-profit. I encouraged the development director to emphasize the visibility the sponsorship would offer. We got a larger donation than the organization had ever received.

    Love how you translate business negotiation to cause marketing.

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