Cause Marketing (Part 1): Standing Out in a Crowded Marketplace

For the past few years, I’ve been a member of the Board of Directors of Cleaning for a Reason, a non-profit foundation founded by my friend and business colleague, Debbie Sardone. The purpose of the organization is to provide free cleaning for women undergoing cancer treatment.

Most people that hear the story immediately connect with it, as most of us have been touched by cancer in some way. Debbie owns a residential cleaning company in the Dallas area. Several years ago a woman who had cancer called to see if someone could help clean her house. Unfortunately the woman couldn’t afford the service and was wondering if Debbie could donate the cleaning. Debbie’s first reaction was to say no, and immediately upon hanging up the phone, regretted it. She thought to herself, “Why can’t I clean her home for free? I own the business, and that is my decision.” So from that day on, Debbie made a decision that if any woman battling cancer reached out for help again, she would not be turned away.

The phone call also gave her the idea to start Cleaning for a Reason, which has since grown to over 1000 participating maid services throughout the United States and Canada. As of this writing, the residential cleaning companies that participate in the program have provided more than 17,000 cleanings with a value of more than $4 million in donated cleanings.

Setting aside our personal reasons for participating in a worthy cause, from a marketing perspective, our participation is called Cause Marketing. It is a type of marketing involving the cooperative efforts of a for-profit business and a non-profit organization for mutual benefit. It’s also a unique way to differentiate your business from all the other similar businesses in your marketplace.

Here are some other examples of cause marketing that you may recognize:

  • Dawn Dishwashing Liquid uses pictures of animals they’ve saved from oil spills. For every bottle purchased, Dawn contributes $1.00 to aid wildlife preservation.
  • Cadbury Chocolate partnered with Save the Children to raise funds for Save the Children and other focused community programs, which benefited the cause and Cadbury’s corporate image.
  • Yoplait Yogurt’s “Save Lids to Save Lives” campaign in support of the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure of Breast Cancer. The company packaged specific products with a pink lid that consumers turned in, and Yoplait donated $.10 for each lid.

Cause marketing is a valid business strategy. When you select a potential non-profit partner that has a natural affinity with your for-profit business, the result can be more media exposure, stronger public relations, plus additional revenue. And these three will more than likely serve both partners.

Large corporations use cause marketing very successfully. Small businesses can learn a lot from them, and work to duplicate what makes sense for your business in order to reap greater profitability.

Cause Marketing Differentiates Your Business

How do you differentiate your business from your competition? Competing for price is a no-win situation. Providing a guarantee is commonly done by many. Saying your quality is top notch is all too often touted. None of these claims truly stand out. Cause marketing can create that ultimate differentiation to make your company and the cause you foster memorable.

When you link your company to a cause, the cause should be something about which you are genuinely passionate. The cause you select has to come from your heart if you want it to make sense to those who see what you are doing. If Dawn dish soap didn’t really care about wildlife, consumers would spot it in a second. The message you want to convey to your clients should be along these lines: “We aren’t so focused on just making money that we don’t take time to do something nice for others.”

In Debbie’s case, her primary business is Buckets & Bows Maid Service. Her heartfelt cause is helping women with cancer through her company’s participation in Cleaning for a Reason. By leveraging the fact that her company provides free cleaning for women undergoing cancer treatment when marketing her business, it makes her business memorable. And the fact that Debbie is the founder of this nationwide foundation, results in even more publicity for her cleaning business.

Another important aspect of cause marketing is to do more than just give money. As business people, we frequently become so focused on business essentials and challenges, we forget all about doing something nice for someone else or just doing good for the community. Adding cause marketing to your business mix allows you and your employees the opportunity to “do good”. In fact, in the case of Cleaning for a Reason, the cleaning technicians of the participating companies love to do the cleaning for women with cancer so much that they vie to be at the top of the list to do these cleanings. They feel a genuine connection to these women and they feel as if they’ve served a higher purpose through their participation in the cause.

When companies have a passion for a cause, and ensure their participation is mutually beneficial to both entities, then the result is often more loyal customers and more loyal employees. And the bonus is more attention for your business due to the social impact you’re making in your community.

In Part 2, I’ll discuss how to use public relations to increase visibility for your business and your cause. 

About Jean Hanson

Jean Hanson is a long-time entrepreneur, co-founding two commercial cleaning companies, running a virtual assistant business, and in 2005, launching a business portal for commercial and residential cleaning business owners. She serves on the Board of Directors of Cleaning for a Reason, a non-profit foundation that provides free cleaning for women undergoing cancer treatment. In 2013 Jean became an Authorized Consultant for the world-renowned Duct Tape Marketing System. To learn more about her marketing consultant business and to apply for a free marketing audit, visit

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Does This Street Entertainer Practice Better Marketing Than Your Company?

On a recent trip to Boston, I was enjoying Quincy Market, when I came across a delightful street entertainer.  I don’t know about you, but I love a good street entertainer – you know, one that engages the audience, is exceptional at what they do, and makes you want to stop and watch. What was of particular interest with this street performer, though was how much he made at the end of his gig.  I estimate that:


And let me tell you, he was talented, but he also used some great savvy marketing techniques to help him along the way.  It got me thinking, “if he can incorporate all of this in 30 minutes, shouldn’t we as small business owners be able to incorporate them daily as well?”

1) Location…Location…Location

It’s not surprising that location matters in marketing, yet often we forget. Well this performer picked his location well. He set up at the end of Quincy Market, where people are typically exiting armed with something to eat. It was a nice open area with staggered steps that meant everyone could sit down and easily enjoy the show.

2)  Timing

It was lunch time. Peak time for large number of visitors to be found at a popular Boston destination known for its lunch fare, and a time when people are taking a break and looking for a bit of entertainment while they enjoy their culinary delights.

3)  Viral Marketing

Before you even knew he was there, you could hear the crowd cheer, making you curious as to the origin.  He was great at getting the few first attendees to promote for him and as a result, increased his target audience tenfold!

4)  He Delivered

It’s one thing to attract customers, but in the service industry, you need to deliver or you won’t get paid. He wowed the audience with his skills and daredevil antics, while keeping it light and full of humor. In other words, he made it worth my time and money.

5)  He told a story while he performed his service

You probably already know I’m a fan of stories in marketing. He had an impressive background that made you realize you weren’t just watching any street performer. In his story, he shared his credible details in a humble format. He’s been doing this for 10 years, all over the world, but Boston is his home and (of course) his favorite place to perform.

6)  He asked for what he wanted and showed the value

Not only did he come out and justify donations but he named his price. In a world where $2 is probably the norm, he asked specifically for $5 if they had it, pointing out, “where can you get entertainment for 1/2 an hour for as little as $5.”

His marketing paid off.  After he finished his performance, I counted a good 50 people who came and donated (including myself).  I can tell some gave him more than $5 from his response and I assume some gave him less, so I think I’m conservative in estimating he made $200.  Not bad for 30 minutes of work.

I know that we are encouraged these days to take advantage of so many of the great marketing tools out there like Social Media, SEO, Google Adwords and some still successful offline tactics.  But every now and then, it’s refreshing to have someone remind you of the good ol’ fundamentals of successful marketing.  I urge you to take a quick look at the foundation of your own marketing and see if this street entertainer has perhaps nailed the basics better than your firm.

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About Cidnee Stephen

Cidnee is a sought after speaker and Duct Tape Marketing Consultant specializing in what she calls Credibility Marketing. Her content focuses on the 3 key pillars of success for service-based businesses – online marketing, content marketing and referral marketing. Besides blogging for Duct Tape Marketing, Cidnee is also a regular contributor to Constant Contact and BPlans. She also publishes the popular marketing ezine, the Marketing Excelerator. MOST IMPORTANTLY – Cidnee is an avid skier, golfer, traveler, and her son David’s biggest fan.

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Top 5 Online Marketing Tactics to Focus on in 2014

As the New Year approaches, many small business owners will be taking time to reflect on their marketing strategies for the New Year. This year their timing couldn’t be more perfect. With the changes to Google’s new Hummingbird algorithm settling in, companies need to look at a fresh new approach to their online strategies.

Gone are the days of using services that either create or provide shoddy content and link that content to substandard, irrelevant sites.

Gone are the days of just focusing on keywords.

Gone are the days to ignore the importance of content and online marketing.

This is good news to those of you that feel you are good at what you do and should be recognized in Google rankings for providing quality information to your target market. Now the key question becomes where should you focus in 2014?

After spending considerable time reviewing suggestions from today’s top though leaders, I’ve compiled a list of what I believe to be the Top 5 Online Marketing Tactics to Focus on in 2014. These tactics to me, go beyond just the benefit of increasing your SEO Rankings in 2014.

They are solid tactics that will more importantly help to:

  • position you and/or your company as experts in your identified niche
  • provide valuable content to your target market, and
  • attract more qualified prospects to your company

It’s important to note before we get started, that tactics only work effectively if you can clearly answer these strategic questions:

  1. Who is my ideal client?
  2. What makes my company/products/services different and unique?
  3. What type of information is my market seeking online?
  4. What type of content can my company provide to our market that showcases our strengths, personality and values?

1. Keep Your Website Relevant

While keywords may have lost some value, both Google and your market still need to know what your site is about.  Today that means relevant rich content.  You will want to make sure your Page Title, H1 tags and content explain what your site is about, but in 2014 you want to make sure that the keywords aren’t overused (spammy), are unique and relevant to the page and that you pay more attention to other long-tail phrases your market might use.  In other words, use a more conversational tone.

Eric Enge summarized a lot of the “New School” ways to optimize your site in this great diagram.  Use it as a guideline to keep your website relevant.


2. Keep Your Website Fresh With New Content

It’s a no brainer that you need to ensure your website pages are current and up to date, but more importantly, you want to make sure you have a vehicle to continuously add great content.  This vehicle is your blog and adding engaging content to it regularly is key in 2014.  This can be a mixture between great content that you have created, along with curated content (content from other writers and sources out there on the web).   What’s interesting about the content you create is the evolution of the blog post itself.

Whereas years ago the average was around 500 words, today the average is over 1000.  In fact studies show that longer blog posts are read more and shared more.  Other elements such as engaging photos and videos also increase readers and engagement.  That doesn’t mean everything you create needs to be lengthy however.  The increase of smartphones, dictates that some posts still need to be more digestible and therefore shorter.

Long story short, the average length of your content needs to be longer (1000 words) and you should include pictures, videos and Infographics for better engagement.

3. Make Sure Your Site is Mobile & Share Friendly

If you website is not yet “responsive” or you don’t have some sort of plugin likeDudaMobile that helps make it mobile and tablet friendly, then make it a priority for 2014.  I have seen this very simple change increase traffic to a website by up to 30%.  Mobile also plays nicely into Google’s new algorithm.  For example, when someone has activated their current location and searches for a “hairstylist nearby,” Google will respond with possible locations.  If your website isn’t mobile friendly, you can lose a possible customer.

Just like ensuring your site is mobile friendly, you need to also make sure it can be shared.

Part of your online credibility comes from others sharing your information.  This is hard to do if you don’t make it easy for the reader to do so.  I’m astounded how often these are missing, especially on blog posts. This is going to be even more heavily weighted in 2014, so make sure you have this feature added to your website, if you don’t already.

4. Engage on Multiple Social Sites

Social media sites certainly have mixed reviews.  Since 2012-2013 we have definitely seen the shift from “should I be on Social media” to “which sites should I focus on.”  Generally business owners have gravitated to maybe one or two sites.  In 2014, you will want to expand your social media presence, as social engagement plays a more important role in not only Google rankings, but also how people interact online.  If you are wondering where else to focus beyond Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter – take a closer look at Google+.  More specifically:

  • fully create your Google Profile for your business
  • encourage people to add Google reviews
  • look for ways to have readers +1 your content
  • start engaging on your Google+ channels

5. Add Credible Links

Last but not least, look for ways to add rich, relevant links back to your website.  This means sites like junky article submission or blog posting sites should no longer be part of your strategy.  Instead you want to look for credible guest blogging opportunities and other credible PR opportunities.

Chuck Price created a great Quick Start Guide to Guest Posting that outlines a great approach to take to start increasing your reach and relevance online.

If you are wondering if online PR submission is still worthwhile, I would say yes.  However you need to change your approach to a more conversational tone and watch your formatting.  In other words don’t jam pack your press release full of a keyword and have the anchor text go to an irrelevant link on your website.  Your press releases and links need to be newsworthy and helpful.  You should also pay more attention to the authority of the PR Site you are using.  A good rule of thumb is to look more at sites like PRWeb that require a fee to submit a release. Typically they rank better in authority and not surprisingly, could get you actual media exposure.

I’m sure as 2014 unfolds, more and more online marketing tactics will continue to present themselves.  To keep things in perspective and to not become overwhelmed, remember – Google is trying to ensure that people just like you and me get good quality results when we search solutions online.  So if you provide quality, helpful content to your audience, regularly and in an authentic conversational tone, you will continue to survive and thrive in Google’s online world.

About Cidnee Stephen

Cidnee is a sought after speaker and Duct Tape Marketing Consultant specializing in what she calls Credibility Marketing. Her content focuses on the 3 key pillars of success for service-based businesses – online marketing, content marketing and referral marketing. Besides blogging for Duct Tape Marketing, Cidnee is also a regular contributor to Constant Contact and BPlans. She also publishes the popular marketing ezine, the Marketing Excelerator. MOST IMPORTANTLY – Cidnee is an avid skier, golfer, traveler, and her son David’s biggest fan.

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Narrow Your Focus to Grow?

This is a great question because at first glance, focusing seems counter-intuitive. However, as you’ll see by reading below, there are several reasons that going into a niche can make a business highly successful and far more profitable. Read on.

6 Reasons to Narrow your Focus:

Be seen as an expert. If you’re a carpenter who specializes in staircases, then you’re likely to be at the top of the list for a contractor to call for a tricky staircase. A general contractor doesn’t want to risk having a difficult project done wrong and appreciates the value of hiring an expert. Which brings us to the second point…

Charge more. When your customers appreciate your specialty/core differentiation, they are willing to pay more. By contrast, if you don’t specialize, then you don’t stand out from the competition and are more likely to be asked, “How much?” early on in the conversation. And there’s always someone willing to price a project lower.

Don’t spread yourself too thin. You can’t be everything to everybody, but you can burn out trying to be. By focusing on a niche (or two), marketing and client delivery become easier. When you do the same type of work consistently, you become more efficient and better at what you do.

Provide a better customer experience. You also meet the needs of your clients better when you are more adept at a certain type of work versus doing it once in a while. While you may be fully qualified to install tile roofing, if a particular product has is more challenging to install, then you’re more likely to make an error and/or take longer to complete the job. I would argue that you might be better off referring that project to someone else who is an expert. In doing so you may save your reputation.

Create top of mind awareness. When you’re unique, you’re easier to remember. In BNI, members are encouraged to get specific about what type of referral they are seeking as they share with the group. A poor example of this would be a handyman saying that anyone with a house is a good referral for him. Well, that applies to a huge part of the population. Instead, I know he would have gotten a better response if he had said that he was looking for someone with a honey-do list that’s too long. In a referral group, giving fellow members something specific to listen for keeps you top of mind. And even if you’re not in a referral group, sharing with your network what your niche is leads to top of mind awareness (and find out what others are looking for too! You can look like a hero when you connect just the right expert with someone).

Your marketing budget (of money and time) goes farther. When you’re focused on a specific niche or ideal client, your efforts will reach more of the right people when they are easier to find in a crowd. For example, if you’re going after work with owners of mid-century homes, then targeting neighborhoods or identifying online groups becomes easier and more affordable.

Have you narrowed your focus? If so, I’d love to hear how it’s working for you.

About Ann Gusiff

Ann is an Certified Duct Tape Marketing Consultant based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her ideal client is a business owner in the building trades who understands the importance of standing out from the competition. A firm believer in the Duct Tape Marketing principle of “Strategy before tactics”, Ann helps her clients leverage strategy so that marketing efforts are more profitable. She is also a Constant Contact Authorized Local Expert and is an active speaker. Ann is the founder of Clothes The Deal, a Los Angeles-based 501(c)3 nonprofit that provides interview clothing to needy job seekers. She earned an MBA from UCLA Anderson. A little-known fact is that Ann speaks Mandarin Chinese and studied at Beijing University.

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Five Tips For Making Better Marketing Videos

Video is one of the most powerful and versatile marketing tools available to any business, but like any tool, it needs to be used properly in order to work well and produce quality results.

Apply the following tips to get better results from any type of video.  If you’re already using videos in your marketing, these are all things that can be done very easily with little additional effort on your part.

Keep it short

Unless you have a very specific reason not to, you need to keep your videos under two minutes in length.  Even at two minutes, many people will stop watching before the end of the video.  We have very short attention spans, and unless your content is especially interesting, people simply aren’t going to watch a video for longer than a few minutes.  The one possible exception to this rule would be “how-to” videos, where you are demonstrating a particular product or process.  Even in that case, for videos longer than five minutes, you might consider splitting it into two parts.

Include a call to action

Your videos should always contain a call to action–a “next step” that someone should take if they want to learn more, or get what you’re offering.  A good call to action is specific, can be completed immediately, and involves no risk to the person watching the video.  For example, visiting a website and downloading a free report or e-book would be a good call to action.  Another good, and often-used, call to action, is to start a free trial of a product or service. A bad call to action would be asking someone to buy a product, because that involves a risk on their part.  You haven’t built enough trust yet to make that request.

If possible, you should make the call to action at the beginning and the end of the video.  That way, if someone stops watching the video halfway through, they will still get to hear it, and if they do watch all the way through, it will be the last thing they hear.  At the end of the video, you should never “fade to black”–there should always be a screen with your contact information and the call to action spelled out in words or graphics.

Use the lower third

The term “lower third” refers to the bottom third of the screen in a video.  It’s a great place to use text in the video to introduce the person appearing on camera, or to reinforce your call to action.  For example, you could have the URL of a website appear when the speaker on camera mentions the website.  Any video editing program should be able to do this quite easily.

Use an external microphone

Regardless of what type of camera you are using, you should always use a good external microphone to make your videos more professional.  Never use the built-in microphone on the camera–they’re just not very good, and it’s a dead give-away that the video was produced by an amateur.

Use videos to create additional content

When you plan your video, think about how you could use it to create additional content.  For example, could you take the audio from the video and use it to create a podcast?  Could you have it transcribed and use it to create a blog post?  By thinking strategically, you can really get a much bigger return on the time you invest in producing a video.

Last but not least, don’t forget to have fun producing your video!  Viewers will be able to sense your passion and enthusiasm, and it will help them identify with you as a person and not just a brand or a business.  Once that happens, gaining their like and trust is much easier and you’ll have won half the marketing battle before you even meet them.

About Kevin Jordan

After a short career as an airline pilot, I started my own e-commerce business in 2010. I learned the skills I needed to make that business successful, and in 2012 I began teaching those skills to small business owners. I now offer several comprehensive training and coaching programs for small business owners who are serious about improving their marketing.

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