When launching a star up, teams often have a lot on their plates. Between finishing development, executing various marketing strategies, building sales teams and collateral, and optimizing your product from Beta feedback, partnering your startup with a cause might not seem like a priority. But, to be honest, it should be. Yes, it takes extra team members—mostly event and partnership marketers—or, at least, extra time, but simultaneous cause-partnership and product launch can offer big returns for your fledgling business.

Allow me to explain.

From a business perspective, startups should partner with a cause to for:

  • Increased, organic PR exposure
  • Reduced marketing costs (due to brand mention in all cause marketing efforts)
  • Increased social engagement and product adoption
  • A more human face that’s likely to convert more potential customers at the get-go

The logic behind cause partnership:

Although, in some ways, the logic behind cause partnership is obvious (just look at the above benefits), there are some not-so-obvious benefits as well. Remember our article on why Coke succeeded in 2014? We argued then (and I still maintain) that their success wasn’t because of personalization but rather because they created a product experience that offered both tangible goods (the Coke) and a social experience.

Rather than selling Coke, the “Share a Coke” campaign sold the act of giving something: a social, charitable act. For those startups whose products don’t create an obvious social value (a great new CRM platform, while exciting, won’t necessarily get people talking on Twitter), cause partnership (and, as a result, cause marketing) create the buzz, prompt the social engagement, and getting customers and potentials alike connecting with your brand on a personal level.

And, I don’t think I have to tell you that personal brand connection is exactly where you want to be. After all, there’re only two ways to climb to the top of the current tech bubble: building a product so innovative it’ll be acquired right out of the gate or developing a marketing strategy that takes your product social.

While we’d all like to believe that ours is the app that’ll make it (and who knows? Maybe it is!), stacking the deck with cause-marketing-based social- and cost-share strategies is just smart.

Finding the cause that’s right for you:

Unfortunately, cause partnership isn’t quite as easy as picking a cause. Well, it is but it isn’t. For real success, the partnership should be authentic; there should be a logical connection between the business and the cause. When there isn’t harmony between these two, audiences drawn toward your product because of the cause tend to remain loyal to the cause but not necessarily the brand. And that’s not a win for you.

Instead, sit down with your product, marketing, and executive teams to discuss the following:

  • Who are your audiences? Which customers do you want to attract? Where are they in their lives (i.e. single, married, with or without children, etc.)? What kinds of causes are they interested in / responsive to? Utilize your marketing personas for this and get a deep understanding of the psyche of your customer.
  • What is the abstract value of your product? Do you help people connect? Do you give access to something? Are you providing an escape from something?
  • Is there any sharing/giving process baked into any aspect of your product that you could focus on?
  • Is there anything in the cultural moment that concerns your company or your audience? Stepping up with a relevant cultural contribution is always a great idea.

After answering these questions, look for the overlap. The question becomes, basically, the same one you asked yourself when you first started out as an entrepreneur: what does my audience want, and how can I provide it in a way that makes sense to me and to them?

There’s a 100% chance that, while answering the above, you and your team have already started generating ideas about who you’d like to partner with. But before you divvy up the list and start reaching out to the foundations, there’s a final step, a final question you need to answer:

What, concretely, will your cause partnership achieve?

You know, like, what will you do? What’s your goal?

PR experts I’ve worked with always offer the same advice on this topic: commit to doing something that creates an actual impact. For example, don’t partner with them to abstractly “combat violence in schools” and, instead, propose something concrete like “creating educational resources that high schools can use to combat bullying” or “providing on-site training for New York Public School Guidance Counselors in the ways technology can be used to combat bullying.” You know, something like that.

And finally, go to the foundations and pitch.

Once you have everything in place, your corporate position, a clear action plan, a reasonable budget (I know I didn’t mention that, but c’mon, you were thinking it), get out in the field and talk to the foundations you think can help you reach your goals.

Then, let marketing have a field day, and reap the benefits.

Often times, good causes lie right under our noses, and we never even know it. Use the CircleBack app for iOS or Android to keep your contacts accurate and updated, and discover who you know that can help you make critical connections to important causes.

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