Money put into advertising doesn't always work very well.
There are even times when it backfires, such as when it turns out that people find some aspect of a message obnoxious or offensive. At the same time, consumers are getting better at tuning marketing out as they browse the Internet or watch television.
This combination of factors means that companies are better off looking for more creative ways to boost their public image. Focusing on charitable causes can serve both as a way to boost your company's image and as a way to benefit the area where you live and operate.
Get People Talking About the Right Things
Getting business done requires building relationships, and one way to do that is to let people see that you're giving back to the communities that support you. Rather than simply writing checks or donating food to good causes, companies are becoming a force for positive change while enhancing their customer appeal and long-term competitiveness. Some have reconceived their products to address social issues while others have transformed their supply chains.
Walmart’s fleet of fuel-efficient trucks has cut the company’s fuel costs while saving thousands of tons of CO2 emissions. Campbell’s developed a low-cost, nutritionally fortified soup product that sells for a reduced price to people who live in undeveloped regions.
Don’t think that just because you might own a small business that you shouldn’t participate either. In 2013, online giving grew by 13.5%, while overall charitable giving grew by 4.9%. And corporate/business giving held steady at $16.76 billion.
How can your company apply this? Make storytelling a central part of your charitable marketing efforts. Tell your company’s and your founder’s stories on the website, and tell your customers’ stories through testimonials and case studies. Use photos and video to complement each narrative as much as possible.
Green Initiatives Can Save Money
If you pick your positive actions well, they can be both good publicity and good for the bottom line. Many green initiatives call for an upfront investment that may be very large, but they'll usually end up saving a lot of money over time.
How can your company apply this? Reducing packaging, for example, can mean spending less on buying raw materials while also being able to advertise a new and more environmentally friendly package design. Modifying an office to be more energy efficient can reduce heating and cooling bills.
Adding solar panels to the roof of a warehouse can generate electricity and allow you to buy a lot less energy from the local utility company. HardwoodBargains.com partnered with American Forests, in one such green initiative, to give back some of what they take every year.
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Developing the Market
Some kinds of giving can also be regarded as charitable investments. Technology companies often support organizations that seek to provide more children with the opportunity to learn about computers. This is a charitable action that brings them a lot of good press, but it's also good for the industry over the long term.
They need a base of customers who care about using technology and feel good about it, and they need access to employees with the right skills to produce value for their organizations. By putting money into helping kids to develop these interests, they're encouraging them to grow up into the sort of people who will be good students, employees and customers.
According to a Pearson Foundation’s survey, more than six in ten college students and high school seniors agree that tablets help students to study more efficiently (66% and 64%) and help students to perform better in classes (64% and 63%).
How can your company apply this? Donate your old laptops, desktops and tablets to organizations specifically setup to provide refurbished computer equipment to kids. Laptop.org, LittleGeeks.org and other similar charities exist throughout the country for that exact purpose.
In business, being charitable doesn't have to be an act of pure sacrifice. The companies who go out of their way to give back to the community and to make sure that people feel good about being their employees or customers get a lot of benefits back in the process.