At this very moment we are contemplating the fuchsia rubber wrist bands we wear each day that are inscribed with "One Tribe . One Prayer . One Miracle." We wear them to remind us to stop and say a prayer for a dear friend who is going through a time in her life that no one should ever have to go through.
Our wrist bands keep us focused on what's important. We have at one time or another worn a yellow LIVESTRONG bracelet (we bet you have, too), a pink one for Breast Cancer Awareness, an orange one for Hunger Relief, a blue and white one for Hurricane Relief, the red, white and blue one that we bought to support our troops, the blue one that encouraged a “yes” vote on a local school referendum, and the green one that reminds us to take care of the environment. Over the years our wrists have been multi-colored and with good cause: each of these little rubber bands represents a cause that is important to us. And we’re not alone: millions of Americans place their hearts on their wrists. We all want to do our part to make our world a better place.
As retailers, you used to merely compete for the customers wallet; that’s why we’ve always encouraged you to host one major and two to three minor in-store events each month. The goal being to build traffic and sell more stuff. That was the easy part – now you not only compete for the customer’s wallet, but for their hearts as well. That’s why some of the events on your promotional calendar need to focus on Cause Marketing.
Cause Marketing Events draw attention and raise funds for a specific cause or charity. According to the statistics, 77 percent of consumers who participated in a Cause Related Marketing program said it positively changed their behavior or perceptions towards the company or brand involved. So while you are giving back to the community that supports your business, you are also helping yourself through added exposure and sales. Cause Marketing is the classic win-win situation.
There are so many causes you can get behind. There are plenty to choose from and they all need your help. We’re here to help, too with promotional ideas and things to think about when planning your own in-store Cause Marketing Event:
1. Choose a Cause; Choose a Date
Sometimes you choose a cause and sometimes the cause chooses you. Perhaps you have been personally impacted in some way, so you know right away which charity needs your help. Or perhaps you’re open to new causes. You might check with your vendors to see if they support a particular cause – they will be strong partners later. Give your local Chamber of Commerce a call to inquire about your community’s favorite charity. Keep your eyes open for neighborhood calls for help and ask your customers what’s important to them. And make sure that the date(s) you choose for your event does not conflict with another major event in your community. After all, one of your goals is a big turnout.
2. Create Your Promotional Event
Your choice of event is only limited by your imagination. Order pizza for all and gather your staff together for a brain storming session. That’s what we did to build this list of our favorite Cause Marketing Events!
Parking Lot Olympics: Imagine games of various challenge levels right in your own parking lot. Customers pay $1 to try and make a page in under a minute or assemble a floral arrangement or create a wreath in less than five minutes. Set up an easy to maneuver obstacle course and a game to toss ping pong balls into fish bowls. Throw in a few “Guess and Win” games like guess the number of pennies in a jar and win a prize. Build a “Toilet Toss” where players lob a rubber ball into an old toilet you’ve gussied up to look like a work or art. Entry fees for each event cost $1 per guess/race/contest or six chances for $5. Consider three categories per contest: one for the men, one for the ladies, and another for children.
Create for a Cause “Rocking Grandmas”: You know those rocking chairs that are so much fun to sit in outside of Cracker Barrel Restaurants? Get (or borrow – find a furniture retailer you can partner with) a bunch of those rockers for your own store and put them near the front door (inside or out). Then invite customers to dress up in traditional grandmother attire and create for a cause while they rock. Add a few extra rockers for folks who happen to walk by and want to participate. You can sell what the Rocking Grannies create and you can host a marathon where participants get people to pledge a dollar amount for each hour of participation, proceeds of course, go to your charity. You can even move your rockers – and the rocking chairs – around town for extra exposure. Your rockers can represent your store in malls, banks, restaurants – just about anywhere!
Children’s Chain for Charity: Here local children set up shop at a table near the front of your store. Give them pre-cut strips of construction paper because they’re going to create a giant paper chain. Customers pay $1 to add a link – let them add a personal message if they like. Do this each weekend for a month. At the end of the month invite a representative from your chosen charity to come to your store. Surround the rep with the kids and wrap him in your paper chain before your present him with your cash donation. This is a definite photo opportunity!
Another kid idea: Ask kids to make ribbons in a color that represents your cause. Partner with elementary school teachers – you supply the materials, they supply the kid power. Sell the ribbons in your store for $1 a piece.
And our favorite for kids: Have those same children create their own line of greeting cards that will be sold exclusively in your store. You provide the supplies. When they’re complete, place a spinner rack right next to your check out counter and fill it with the cards. Sell the cards for a couple of bucks a piece, give a portion to the charity and a portion to the school or classroom.
Create for a Cause Marathon: Picture a bunch of creative types in your front windows making items of your choice for hours, even days. They can cross-stitch, knit, create floral arrangements, crop or paint – your store type will dictate what create. Customers can pledge a dollar for each hour of the marathon or you can “Keep 'em Creating for the Cause” as long as the pledges keep coming in. Offer their creations for sale; you might even auction the items – hold the auction right in your store and keep the doors open after the event. You don’t want to stifle a store full of customers in a buying mood!
Hand Crafted with Love Contest: Have customers make the craft of their choice and bring it to your store to be publicly displayed. Customers chose a winner (or winners if you do categories) by popular vote and the winner is awarded a prize, perhaps a gift certificate to your store. At the end of the contest you can sell or auction the entrees and donate what you make to your cause.
Big Night Out for a Big Cause: Host a fabulous open house in your store complete with food, entertainment, demos, makit & takits, prizes and giveaways. Invite other businesses to participate as well: Pamper your guests with manicures and pedicures, have a fashion show, mini-seminars on various topics and more. You can stretch this event into several events by doing one night for ladies, another for couples, singles night, one for pet lovers, even a kids' day.
We recommend that you sell tickets to your event. Charge a lower price when the ticket is purchased in advance, slightly more if purchased at the door. People tend to show up if they’ve paid for their ticket in advance. Even a nominal fee, like five bucks can help ensure their presence.
Lunch Break for a Cause: Sell tickets and serve up some box lunches along with noon time entertainment. Customers can create while they eat and proceeds go to your charity of choice. Give them Bounce Back Coupons to bounce them back when they can stay longer.
3. Start a Tradition
A one time event is good, but a one time event that becomes an annual event is even better. Back in 2002 Camille and John Akin, owners of Ever After Scrapbooks in Carlsbad California, began a new tradition when 55 people participated in their first 24-hour Survivor Crop. It’s a highly anticipated event: over the past six years the Akin’s Survivor Crop has earned in the high six figures for the San Diego Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Survivor Crop 2010 raised $78,000! Not bad for a single scrapbook store and its amazing customers.
4. Set a Goal
Setting a goal – a dollar amount – of how much you’d like to raise it will help keep everyone involved focused on what’s important. As “Chief Keeper of the Event”, your goal will help keep you on track. It will also help keep everyone motivated to participate.
5. Plan, Plan, Plan, Plan, Plan!
Did we mention that you need to a plan? You have lots of choices to make: Will your event be one day event or held over several days? Will it happen during regular store hours or on a special evening? Will you send personal invitations to a select group of special customers or is your event open to the general public? Can you comfortably fit a large number of people in your store at one time or will you have to move your event to another location? How many staffers will need to be on duty to properly serve customers? Will you have in-store specials? How about refreshments and entertainment? And don’t forget about door prizes and raffles.
6. You Can’t Do This All By Yourself
Make a detailed list of things to do then assign a store associate to each item on your list. If you don’t have enough staff members, ask your regular customers to pitch in. We’ve seen many customers step up to the plate and volunteer. Trust us, they’ll be glad to help!
7. Spread the Word
Begin to market your event at least six weeks before its start date. You can use Bag Stuffers to get the word out, send e-mail blasts, talk it up on Facebook, Twitter and on your blog, hang signs in your windows or even run an ad. Ask your charity to advertise your event as well. And don’t forget to encourage customers to spread the word! You know how that works: we tell a friend who tells two friends who tells four more friends, etc. To make an even bigger splash, you might even want to get in on the latest marketing trend: Forehead Marketing. We don’t make this stuff up – people are actually paid to walk around with an advertisement temporarily tattooed on their foreheads.
Another really cool thing to do: put a huge bow in your cause’s color over your front door. Even better, “wrap” your entire store like a big package – skip the wrapping paper, just add a giant bow. We’ve seen this and it’s incredible. People – and reporters – come to the store just to see the big bow. You know what to do once they get there!
8. Alert the Media
Alerting the media to your wonderful event will involve professionally written press releases. You will want to send out a press release out prior to your event and again just before your event. You will also want to send a follow up press release after your event. You can fax, e-mail or use the US Post Office to get your message out. Call around to collect contact names and to find out each medias preferred method to receive PR. If you mail your press release, we recommend you throw in some candy – food always gets their attention – remember our motto: Food is Good! You may even want to follow up with a telephone call. If you need help creating a press release, drop us an e-mail and we’ll send you our easy to use template.
In-store events of any kind are easy to talk about and hard to do but they are necessary today in order to compete. So as you fill in your promotional calendar for the rest of the year and beyond, be sure and pencil in a few Cause Marketing events. Remember: Your good deeds are good for your business.
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