Cause Marketing Matters to Your Customers

Making a social mission for your business, is what is called Cause Marketing and it matters to your customers.  It is good for your business and creates the emotional connections with your customers that are critical for purchase decisions. Because we buy on emotion not need.  The recent Toronto Social For Good Conference in Toronto, hosted by Leigh Mitchell of the Women in Business Network, was full of great stories and many inspiring moments of positive emotional connections with customers.  We have selected our top 5 tips from the fabulous speakers and from the winner of the Social For Good Award, Marcia Nozick.

How does all this apply to you and your company?   We’ll get to that, too.

Tip #1 – It’s All About Your Customer, Not You.

Laura Hearn, Senior Manager, Community Investment Marketing, Telus Business talked about how Telus has re-engineered its business to put the customer first, linking business objectives with giving back.  It started in the fall of 2010 with the Telus “Go Pink, Pass It On Campaign”.  In this initiative, Telus donated $1.00 for breast cancer research, for each Facebook pink profile. 820,000 people responded by turning their Facebook cover pink.  It became one of the most effective cause marketing campaigns in history. At the same time they sold a record number of pink Blackberry phones, outselling the I-phone 4 in the first two weeks of the campaign.

telus give where we liveTheir focus on “giving where we live” continues.  And it isn’t just dollars, it’s showcasing work others are doing in the community to inspire more facilitators.  Telus has three areas of giving back that resonates with their customers, Health, Education and Environment.   In 2015 one of their education initiatives was a twitter campaign donating $25.00 per tweet to Futurpreneur Canada (an organization promoting young entrepreneurs). over a two week period.   All it took was a tweet using the hashtag #MyBusiness Tip.  That’s a 1 minute effort by those who cared and a generous contribution by Telus.

TELUS Business

How much funding does your #business really need?  Each #MyBusinessTip = $25 to @Futurpreneur

In terms of business, this concentration on cause marketing has resulted in a sales uplift of 35% in 2011, 50% in 2012 and 52% in 2013 and continues.  Because Telus customers feel connected to both Telus (because they care about their customers) and Community, they also have the lowest churn rate (customer abandonment) in the industry.

Telus now campaigns “Give Where You Live”, and the “give” is highlighted by the community engagement by the Telus staff.  This combines team building with community outreach, a win for the employees and the community it’s serving.

Tip #2 – Tell Your Story For Customer Engagement

anek grace

Before the conference, there was a mini trade show outside the meeting room.   At one of the booths were two young ladies selling colourful jewelry.   Glancing around the meeting room at the beginning of day one, I noticed many women wearing the jewelry and wondered why.  After we heard the story of the jewelry I’m sure they sold out.   Why…..well because of the story and here it is!

The owner of I Am Just One Jewelry, Krista Jefferson, is also an award winning photographer.  Her journey began when she took a picture of a young cancer patient and a clown at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto that won her a trip to Uganda as a prize in a photography contest.  Off she went to Uganda to photograph people in different villages.   During this trip she heard the stories of Ugandan women, like Anek Grace, who had been abducted and forced to be child soldiers.  Many were child soldiers for up to 8 years, after which some were abandoned and some escaped.  More than a few had children.  Once back in their villages, these women had to make a living for themselves and their children.  So they started to make colorful jewelry from PAPER, which they rolled into shapes, painted and strung into stunning necklaces and bracelets.

When Krista came back to Canada, she was so inspired by these artisans, with whom she had shared tears and laughter, it gave her a new purpose and she started her on-line jewelry business.  A large portion of the proceeds is returned to Uganda to help these women become self-sufficient.

With each piece of jewelry, Krista adds the story of a child soldier on a card inserted in the box.   I carry this card in my wallet and I wear my necklace a lot, because it is an opportunity to share the story and inspire someone else to buy the jewelry.  This story makes emotional connections and inspires women to buy.

Tip #3 Understanding Your Customers And What Motivates Them

Care Canada has increased its focus on how to help women through different programs, because women are their core customers.  Women give 20 times more than any other demographic and advocacy by women for women makes great strategic sense for Care.  Their goal is to fight poverty by empowering the world’s greatest agents for change:  women and girls. Their focus is how to develop programs for women because of two important reasons

1) Poverty and discrimination affect women and children the most.

2) Poverty can be overcome when women and girls are an important part of the solutions


In alignment with this philosophy Gillian Barth, President of Care Canada, shared their VSLA (Village Savings and Loan Association) initiative in developing countries.  This cause isn’t about donations, but is a platform that is self-managed by women.  Women in villages borrow from each other to support women’s causes.  The women pool their resources and money and invest in each other’s initiatives.  This could be buying livestock, returning to school or buying material for dressmaking.  The members vote on which initiatives they support.  When the money is repaid, another investment is made.  Once the men in the village see what the women are doing to be self-sustaining, they are more likely to help, so it is a win/win for the community.

Women resonate with helping other women, and although Care Canada isn’t solely focused on women, their women’s support programs are a direct emotional connection to their client base.

Supporting children is near and dear to everyone’s heart.

Whatever your business is, whether you are a fitness centre, a virtual assistant, an IP provider, restaurant, or a security firm, if you pick a local charity that helps children, it is a great choice.   And, you don’t have to be a large company to make a difference.  Because the health and welfare of children resonates with all of us.  Try to find a program in your local area for greater impact.

In our community,  the Hamilton/Halton area of Ontario, there is a fabulous charity, Food4Kids.  This charity flies under the radar because it doesn’t get any Government funding and doesn’t have a publicity budget.  Its donations come from the local community it supports.   Food4Kids provides food for children on the weekends and during the summer.   This is for hard hit families in the region who for one reason or another don’t have enough food for their children.   Money could be tight because of job loss, medical complications of a family member or a single parent situation where there simply is not enough income to support the family.  The program is initiated by the local schools in conjunction with the families in need. Food4Kids provides the nutritious meals the children to take home for the weekends or the summer.

How could you get involved in a charity like this?

  1. Raise money in the community by putting on an event with proceeds going to the charity.  A local fitness studio put on a great competition that raised $1,000.  The fitness instructors donated their time and local businesses donated prizes for the spinathon.
  2. Volunteer your time packing food
  3. Volunteer to drive the food to the schools on Fridays
  4. Encourage your staff to donate their time and involve them in giving back
  5. Inviting your clients to help you pack food for the weekend program or the summer program
  6. Inviting your clients to one of the Food4Kids events and paying for the table

When you invite your staff or customers to participate, they will feel the connection both to the community and your business.   The young entrepreneurs YPN committee, part of the Burlington Chamber of Commerce, chose to support Food4Kids.  It provided these under 40 entrepreneurs a truly an emotional connection.  For the millennial generation a connection to a cause is very important and can be a deciding factor in their choice of where to work.

Tip #4 – Increase Your Price by 1% and Give It Back for A Cause


Marissa McTasney of Moxie Trades says her business isn’t about the work boots, it’s about the women who wear them.  Her aha moment came when she enrolled in a trades course for women.   She asked the facilitator where she could find pink work boots, the response …”I get asked that question all the time”.   That was the start of a whole new business; work wear for women in the trades.  Once you help yourself, you can help others.   Marissa’s first goal was to make the business profitable so she could give back.

Moxie Trades is a successful business that finds ways to give back to the community, by supporting women who have shown Moxie in their own business or lives, through the annual Moxie awards and Moxiest First Responder Program. Marissa’s whole business is about women and by magnifying the success of other women, she is serving her own community of customers .  She is careful about her partnerships and affiliates, seeking out companies that align with the Moxie brand.

Moxie Trades has found a unique way of weaving social for good into their business model.  In response for requests for donations, Marissa developed a “Charity Auction Pack Program”.  Happy to donate to a charity a pack of women’s work wear, she limits this to one pack per month.   Once a donation has been made for the month, she encourages charities she has turned down to be first in line the following month.

Tip #5 –  It Takes Courage to be a Game Changer but it can change your business

Marcia Nozick, founder Embers in Vancouver, was the award winner at the Social For Good Conference.  She and I sat at the same table at the conference and I was moved by this diminutive, soft spoken, socially driven dynamo.  Embers is Canada’s only socially responsible non-profit temporary staffing agency located in Vancouver, B.C.  They provide companies with high quality blue and white collar temporary workers in sectors such as construction, specialty events and warehouse staffing.  Employee training and support enables their temporary staff to have the skill sets to do the work, because the workers they hire are not from ordinary circumstances.  They have all suffered setbacks that previously prevented them from being employed.   These difficulties could include alcohol or drug abuse, mental health issues, or a prison record.

When Marcia founded Embers in 2008, she had a vision of a socially responsible staffing agency would work, but during the early stages, the business was reliant on Government grants to operate which was precarious for business survival.  Her Board wasn’t convinced that a business model for a temporary staffing agency based on hiring at risk workers and paying them higher hourly rates, without charging clients more, could be self-sustaining.  Over time, with changes in the Board, a clear business plan, and a lot of hard work, Marcia made this social enterprise succeed.  To-day, not only does Ember have a temporary staffing division, it also grown to include Embers Charity, Embers Ventures, Embers Green Renovations.  All based on the model of “changing lives, creating solutions” and centered on a social mission.

Social For Good Award Winner, Marcia Nozick

Social For Good Award Winner, Marcia Nozick

A key insight from Marcia:

“We’re the intermediary between the worker and a company. So, they [the company] don’t need to know the histories of the people that we send out to work. Customers depend on our judgement about who we send to different sites. We live and die on the quality of our service. . . We know our workers’ backgrounds, we provide them coaching, and we screen our workers. They [Embers Staffing Solutions clients] just trust that when they order temporary labour that you’re going to send the right person to the job. And, in that way, people who have come out of prisons are able to get their foot in the door [without] which they never would have been hired otherwise. And then, if they prove themselves on the job, they may get hired on full time after a few months. We have literally hundreds of people who have found permanent work that way”.

“EMBERS walks like a charity; runs like a business”

Are you inspired yet?  It’s important that your own personal, authentic values guide your business decision making.  Is a social conscience part of your mission statement?  It can help you make emotional connections with your customers.  Our passion is mentoring startup businesses, especially women led enterprises and fostering entrepreneurism,what’s yours?

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