Cause Marketing Success is Won at the Front

Photo by qmnonic

Hands down the most successful type of cause marketing program on the planet are point-of-sale (POS) programs that involve store cashiers asking shoppers at the register to donate a dollar or more to a cause. These simple transactional programs can raise thousands of dollars for local charities, and millions of dollars for national organizations.

Just last December fashion brand Ann Taylor used POS to raise $4 million (a 40 percent increase over the year before) for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Frontline employees (i.e. cashiers, sales associates, etc.) are a key part to the success of these programs. Here are some of the things you can do to make sure employees are on board and soliciting shoppers.

Involve them from the start.

Make a point to speak directly to as many frontline employees as possible about the program. This will give you a chance to tell them about your cause and how the program work, to answer any questions, and, of course, to say thank you.

Show them how it impacts them.

One of the reasons cancer causes are cause marketing powerhouses is because the disease impacts just about everyone. One in three Americans has cancer. We all know someone who’s struggling with this terrible disease. That’s a powerful connection that drives employee participation.

But if you’re not a cancer cause, you have to find that personal link with your cause that will motivate frontline employees to support it. Sometimes they’ll do it for themselves (e.g. they have diabetes or love animals), or for that one co-worker that’s impacted by it (e.g. domestic violence, muscular dystrophy, an autistic child). Don’t let them regret for not doing more just because you didn’t connect the dots between your cause and its relevance to them.

Don’t stop managing them.

A cause marketing program is like any other in-store promotion. Managers need to train employees in it, encourage them to promote it, reward them when they do, and measure the results so they can be compared to the performance of other store locations. Giving a cause marketing program “special treatment” tells the rank and file that it’s not special at all.

Incentives work, sometimes.

I’ve written on the topic before so I won’t bore you. But the bottom line is that small incentives work best. And where there is no motivation, incentives won’t help. But they will further motivate employees who are already excited to do a good job (i.e. incentives are the icing on top of the cake!).

Keep it simple.

The ask at the register has to be one-sentence that the customer can understand and act on. When I used to work for a Boston hospital, our one-sentence ask included the name of the hospital. Unfortunately, this confused a lot of shoppers who were unfamiliar with our name. Instead, we switched to, “Would you like to donate a dollar to feed a sick child?” It’s hard to say no to that.

Don’t make them choose between making money and helping you.

A lot of times frontline workers are rewarded for signing shoppers up for the store’s credit card, upselling them an additional service, etc. During your cause marketing promotion, offer your own rewards, and get management to suspend other asks for the duration of your program. Employees will appreciate the fact that you didn’t add to their workload and deprive them of rewards.

My experience is that frontline employees want to help good causes. But you have to give them a reason to and make it easy for them to ask customers to give.

If you don’t, they’ll mark your program “No Sale.”