veteransday2009Check out what restaurant’s like Applebee’s, Golden Corral and McCormick & Schmicks, Outback Steakhouse and others are doing to honor our awesome Veterans on Veterans Day.

A few weeks ago, one of my clients, The Priory Hospitality Group honored veterans of the Afghan and Iraqi wars a FREE Winter White Wedding! And, another one, 1902 Tavern in Pittsburgh’s Market Square is doing its part too.

There are a ton of examples of brands who give back to the communities in which it does its business such as Campbell’s Labels for Education and McDonald’s  Ronald McDonald House and more. In fact, U.S sponsorship spending on cause marketing is estimated to reach $1.57 billion in 2009, per the IEG Sponsorship Report, Chicago.

But can you do better by doing good? Absolutely.

While I first believe that everyone should do his part in helping others without expecting anything in return – pure charity – it’s best to strategically think of your cause marketing in terms of how it best connects with your brand’s cause and concerns of your constituents.

For example, a local restaurant may provide a benefit to Veterans today because everyone at that restaurant benefits from the freedom our Vets have protected for them.  Digging deeper, providing for a local school, emergency workers in the restaurant’s local trade area makes just as much sense because those people are likely current and potential customers and everyone is part of the same community.

As you’re planning for 2010 put a cause marketing initiative (make it part of your corporate DNA) on your calendar and you’ll find that you’ll do better in business when you’re doing good things and being a good corporate citizen.

You’ll also discover that:

  • Your staff will feel better working for you – corporate pride will rise
  • You’ll attract people because most prefer to work for caring companies
  • You’ll be more welcome and respected in your community
  • People will more readily recommend your company’s products and services to friends and family
  • People’s trust and favorability ratings for you will rise

Being a better corporate citizen is a key business strategy today and it will set your brand apart from your competitors. However, keep in mind that doing good doesn’t simply begin and end with promotional tie-ins. You also need to focus on:

  • Demonstrating how you value and care for your employees
  • Following ethical, open, honest and responsible business practices
  • Delivering over and above required safety and industry performance standards
  • Ensuring that your advertising is accurate and true
  • Treating your environment well
  • Having open channels of communication
  • Being an active member in your community
  • Embracing diversity
  • And more…

Certainly, one cause may not be enough of a rallying cry for all of your employees since everyone has personal pet charities that are only special to them. So, get your folks to contribute their thoughts in the planning stages. One end solution could be a corporate matching fund initiative.

In the same way, a single cause cannot possibly impact all customers equally (i.e., improve their emotional experience).

Also, you’ll find differences between public and private companies.  For example, some people do not believe that publicly traded companies should be using corporate profits for social causes, but you can stll be a good corporate citizen by being ethical, environmentally responsible, honest etc.

When you first undergo a cause marketing planning process it can seem daunting and you’ll have difficulty figuring out where to start with so many worthwhile charitable causes.

When this happens, remember these words from Mother Theresa, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

Just get started and do something.

Believe me, you do reap what you sow in life.

When you do good, others will do good by and for you too.