Doing Well By Doing Some Good for the Community

By Sonia Ricotti
February 10, 2006

Sonia Ricotti has many years of management experience with prominent health club organizations. She is a speaker, sales and leadership trainer, and is the founder of Club Training Forum, a training and development consulting firm. She can be reached at (416) 804-1974 or at sonia.ricotti@sympatico.ca

As each month goes by, we attempt to find new and innovative marketing ideas. How do we increase sales? How do we attract new members? Having sat through many brainstorming meetings in the past, I realize how frustrating and tiresome these experiences can be. The truth is, we are missing the boat. As health clubs and businesses attempt to differentiate themselves from their competitors, the timing couldn’t be better to incorporate cause-related marketing initiatives into your business plan. Cause-related marketing can give clubs a powerful marketing edge. Loosely defined, cause-related marketing is a mutually beneficial marketing campaign/relationship between a company and a charity and/or a social cause.

The market of socially conscious people is rapidly growing. Paul H. Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson, authors of The Cultural Creatives—How 50 Million People are Changing the World, say the fastest growing segment of the population is “cultural creatives,” people who are looking for a life of less stress, more spirituality, better health and purpose. At present, they represent more than 50 million in the United States alone.

By demonstrating to the public that they care, a health club or business can rapidly increase sales. In light of all the tragedies that have occurred around the globe, people feel the need to make a difference and contribute. To identify themselves with a business that makes a difference just adds to their fulfillment. Let’s face it. People would prefer to bring business to a company or health club that stands for something more than profits. Statistics from a 2002 Cone Corporate Citizenship Study reported that 84 percent of Americans said they would be likely to switch brands to one associated with a good cause if price and quality were similar.

As cause-related marketing takes the business world by storm, many companies are reaping the financial benefits from this innovative and socially conscious marketing strategy. For instance, Bruce Poon Tip, CEO of GAP Adventures, an adventure travel company, has adopted sustainable tourism as his company’s cause. GAP has also developed the Planeterra Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to giving back to the people and places they visit.

“It has always been our philosophy to practice sustainable tourism. That is the core of how our business model began,” he says. “As the years passed and the company grew, it was very important that we gave back to local communities and also have local business be successful as we became successful. There is no other reason other that it's the right thing to do, and we were passionate about it.”

Goodlife Fitness, the largest health club chain in Canada, has been heavily involved in several cause-related marketing ventures including creating the GoodLife Kids Foundation. The foundation was created to teach the benefits of getting fit, eating right and self-esteem to 5- to 12-year-olds. CEO David Patchell-Evans said the goal of the program was to help the children before they needed help. Patchell-Evans is also the founder of the Kilee Patchell-Evans Autism Research Group (named after his daughter with autism), a non-profit organization that focuses on finding the cause and a cure for autism.

Other well-known companies involved in cause-related marketing practices include The Body Shop, Ben and Jerry’s, Johnson and Johnson, and American Express. No doubt, these practices and their caring attitudes have contributed to these companies’ immense financial success.

Here are six ways to begin developing a cause-related marketing plan.

1. Create a focus group with both employees and managers.

2. Get employees involved as much as possible. Get their feedback. If you involve them in the decision making, they will take pride in being a part of this initiative.

3. Decide on a cause that fits your business and resonates well with your potential members and existing members. If you are truly passionate about the cause, it will engage you, your staff, your members and the community as a whole.

4. Ensure that you clearly define all your objectives, goals and expectations. Determine what role each side will play. Think win-win, and keep in mind that business is business. Will they mention your company in their newsletters or have a link to your Web site? Who will issue the press releases?

5. Develop a solid marketing plan.

6. Ensure you maximize the opportunity, and use as many guerilla marketing avenues as possible to get the word out (flyers, word of mouth, e-mails, newsletters, press releases, special events, etc.)

Cause-related marketing can and should become a cornerstone of your overall marketing plan. Not only is it a proven successful tool in increasing a company’s bottom line and improving its image, but it also benefits society. Overall, it is the right thing to do.

Benefits of Cause-Related Marketing

  • Increases sales
  • Positively sets a company apart from the competition
  • Increases member loyalty
  • Increases exposure in the community and the development of strong community relationships
  • Increases employee retention and motivation
  • Attracts quality potential employees
  • Increases positive club image and brand positioning
  • Increases positive media coverage