By: Mollye Rhea
When people think of cause marketing, they picture companies selling directly to consumers with campaigns that raise money for charities at supermarkets, restaurants and retail stores. CSR isn’t just for B2C companies. B2B companies are discovering that investing in cause marketing can be an effective tool for them in today’s purpose-driven economy.
More consumers and employees expect companies to take a leadership role in solving important social issues. There is a trend toward greater alignment between corporate giving and business priorities and strategies, including CSR.
Research shows that companies that invest in corporate social responsibility tend to perform better financially. B2B companies are quickly jumping on board. 74% of B2Bs consider purpose to be relevant in business growth (Time Marketing’s 2017 State of Purpose in B2B report).
Here are 3 Key Reasons:
- Sustainable business practices allow businesses to reduce cost and improve productivity while protecting the planet
- The next generation of employees are seeking employers who are focused on people and making the world a better place
- Strong community involvement is a business advantage
CSR Strategy through the Supply Chain
There is a greater emphasis on the relationship between procurement and CSR as companies consider reputation and social responsibility when choosing business partners for their supply chain. Consumers are demanding transparency and are looking beyond the surface to ensure that the products they buy are not causing harm. They are increasingly boycotting companies that fail to do their due diligence. Nearly two-thirds of millennials and Gen Z express a preference for brands that have a point of view and stand for something (Kantar’s 2018 ‘Purpose 2020’ Report).
Companies continue to dig deeper into what they buy and sell. Supply chain audits and ethically sourced product lines and packaging are become the standard. 73% of millennials are involved in product or service purchase decision-making at their companies (Merit’s 2017 B2B Report on Millennials).
Retaining key employees is just as important as attracting the best talent. If employees feel personally connected to a company and its corporate values, they are more likely to stay. Nonprofit partnerships that provide opportunities for corporate volunteerism help create a sense of purpose, build teamwork and foster relationships throughout the company.
While purpose should be at the center of what you do, it’s important to “be yourself” and support causes that resonate with your employees and your customers. Align your mission with your brand in an authentic way. If you are a tech company, it’s more natural to support STEM causes than hunger initiatives. If you are a regional company, partner with a nonprofit that shares your geographic footprint and will help advance your business objectives. You don’t always have to choose a cause that matches your industry, especially if you are trying to stand out from your competitors. However, make sure it is one that you are passionate about and that your employees and customers can rally around.
One example of an unconventional cause campaign that garnered attention was the “See a Demo, Get a Goat” campaign by Formation Data Systems (FDS). Goats and data storage seem like an unlikely combination. FDS partnered with nonprofit OXFAM to donate a goat to a needy family every time a business watched a demonstration of their product.
“Take Back the Lunch Break” is a campaign closely aligned with a company’s products. It was launched in 2018 by Tork, a brand that manufactures napkins, toilet paper, hand towels and soap used in offices and restaurants. The company conducted a survey to show that taking a lunch break improves workplace engagement and satisfaction. Survey results, along with a fact sheet and infographic, were made available to Tork’s corporate and restaurant clients.
B2B companies are starting to realize that they can’t afford to sit on the sidelines and focus solely on their products. Having a CSR program is vital as companies increasingly weigh corporate social responsibility when choosing business partners.
Remember, it’s important to set business goals and track results in addition to “doing good.” Give your brand a voice. Your customers will respect your values and business relationships will be strengthened. Making CSR a priority and incorporating it into company culture, business planning and customer experience is a formula for B2B success.