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Marketing with purpose

Does it feel as if October, when retail stores traditionally marked the change of season with orange decorations, has suddenly turned pink? Have you been inspi(red) to buy red? Then you’ve been affected by cause marketing.

Cause marketing can take several forms. One of the most notable is October’s breast cancer awareness month where hundreds of companies and their products sport the now ubiquitous pink ribbon to support the cause.

Along with some notable corporate sponsors such as Dell, Apple and Gap, Product Red has raised over $140 million for The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

TOMS Shoes is one company founded with a cause in mind. For every pair of shoes you buy from TOMS, they put a pair on a child in a developing nation.

Many companies support a cause because they care. But a company can also benefit from being associated with a charity. If you think it’s time to put your name behind a cause, consider this:

Some products and services, such as TOMS Shoes, have a natural relationship to a cause. Or maybe your customers have a propensity to be affected by a particular cause. Whatever the case, match your company values to the nonprofits you support. Get your employee buy-in by asking them if there are certain causes they appreciate.

Once you have narrowed your list, get to know the nonprofits. Interview them and see how you may be able to help. There are several likely ways to get involved.

You can do something as simple as donating a portion of your sales. Target gives a percentage of all of their sales to local school projects. Or you can give a percentage of your sales on a special day, such as a dine-out-to-help-out event. Sponsor a nonprofit’s high-profile event, put together a team for a walk, or simply encourage your employees to volunteer on a regular basis.

Whatever you do, consider making your involvement unique and extraordinary. Why? While you’re giving, you don’t want to forget the marketing aspect. This is an opportunity for great publicity—and hopefully increased awareness and revenue—for your company.

Run a special promotion around the cause. Get your local media involved. Make sure people know that you’re doing your part to make a better community. Encourage your employees to spread the word through social media channels. Create a special page on your company website to show how you give.

Remember, it’s okay for your company to gain while you give, as long as you’re being authentic with your charity.