Cause Marketing
Doing Well by Doing Good

Direct Sales Journal

by Michael L. Sheffield
CEO The Sheffield Group

As an MLM corporate owner, there are many areas your company must address that combine to form the elements necessary for growing a large successful enterprise.  I believe that the foundation for success must be based on the company's commitment to a unique, highly consumable, and "service to mankind" orientated product range.  However, of nearly equal importance is the Mission Statement that forms the "Soul" of the company.  It is that intangible belief system and philanthropic commitment that makes Multi Level Marketing companies different from most traditional companies.   Rarely can the mission statement of a company be based on financial rewards alone and still act as a bonding agent between distributor and company.  As soon as the next "new get rich quick deal" comes along, distributors are lured toward the promise of increased profits or easy money.

People Love a Cause. Part of our human character wants to do something meaningful with our lives.  We want to make a difference and a contribution that will make this world a better place for our families, our friends and all people. According to Bob Gilbreath, a chief marketing strategist at Bridge Worldwide and author of "Marketing with Meaning", "even in this economic downtime, 71% of consumers are giving as much, or more then previous years." This is one of the things that separate humankind from the animal kingdom.  Whether we acknowledge it our not, most of us feel that we are to some extent. "our brothers keeper".  We know that there are those that need our help, but may feel helpless to do anything about it. 

"The times, they are a'changing." It was three decades ago when Bob Dylan first sang those words and the times are still a'changing - faster and more furious than ever.  It appears that the change is for the better.

This latest revolution is coming from of all places – Corporate America. In the most amazing conversion since Ebeneezer Scrooge, big business is rising to the challenge of social relevance.

For example, this move toward global responsibility was made magnificently manifest by Ted Turner's "no strings attached" gift of 1 billion dollars to the United Nations. And it wasn't only altruism – the media mogul's gift was an exercise in what marketing analysts are calling, Philanthropic Economics.

Informed investors and marketers are finding that – simply put – kindness and goodness sells. More and more, advertising agencies and public relations firms are impressing on their clients that consumers just feel better about buying from a company with a heart. According to the 2010 PRWeek/Barkely PR Cause Survey, two-thirds of brands now engage in cause marketing, an increase of 20% from 2009 and 97% of marketing executives feel cause marketing is a valid business strategy.

Greed is out. Global awareness is the order of the day. Savvy marketers now realize that sponsoring some deserving cause, while at the same time selling their product or service, is endearing them to their customers.

What's behind this phenomenon? There are a number of reasons for it, but the most basic is a matter of human survival. No matter one's socio-political persuasions, our earth is endangered with problems we simply can't ignore. We're realizing that as a race we are renters, and Mother Nature is sending the people of this planet a notice: "Quit trashing the property, or get evicted.

Consider the following social and global challenges:

  • AIDS
  • Homelessness
  • Poverty stricken minority communities
  • Elderly neglect
  • Child abuse
  • Environmental abuse
  • Illiteracy
  • Low quality education systems
  • Wildlife and habitat destruction

These dilemmas must be fixed, lest the planet parish. But who's in charge of the repairs? Over the years, society has pretty well left these challenges to churches, non-profit organizations and government agencies. In other words, the bucks to battle the badness plaguing this planet came from bake sales and car washes. Well, that's changing. Business is stepping in to help shoulder the load. To be sure, their motivation isn't always purely altruistic. The consumer demands it.

Today's consumer is wide awake to what's wrong in the world, and they are more inclined to seek solutions. According to the ­2009 Cause Marketing Survey, 92% of consumers acknowledge they have a more positive opinion on companies that support causes. More socially and global conscious, they tend to avoid companies whom they see as willing to sacrifice the future of humanity on the altar of greed. The new reality is: Corporations must either align with the expectations of socially sensitive consumers or be left in the dust of their more enlightened competitors
On the other hand, companies that do align themselves with worthy causes and respond to issues affecting their customers are being rewarded at the cash register.

Here are a couple more examples of companies that have turned their cause into cash:

Ben and Jerry's Homemade Inc. — Founded by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield and located in Waterbury Vermont, this company built an $80 million business helping local dairymen by buying milk and cream locally. To meet their sense of social responsibility, they set up the Ben and Jerry Foundation which gives 7.5 percent of pretax profits to nonprofit organizations.

The Body Shop — An $800 million cosmetics company founded by Anita Roddick. The Body Shop has earned a loyal clientele using recyclable packages, refusing to sell products tested on animals and buying materials from underdeveloped areas to improve their standard of living.

So Guess Who's Leading the Way? It shouldn't surprise you to find entrepreneurs on the cutting edge of this economic revolution. Entrepreneurs are, after all, defined as "enlightened capitalists". The entrepreneurial mind is creative and resourceful. Of necessity, they must continually look for ways to improve their products, packaging and presentations. Cause driven to begin with, it's only natural that an entrepreneurial organization would incorporate the concept of philanthropic economics into their business mission.

The most prominent of all cause driven entrepreneurial entities would have to be Multilevel Marketing. In the same way that franchising has moved from the fringes of free enterprise into the mainstream of commerce, MLM is capturing the hearts and minds of enlightened capitalists around the world.

In fact, it may be that the reason for the rapid rise in Multilevel is that the very soul of MLM is tied to a cause. The foundation for success in Multilevel Marketing is typically based on the MLM company's commitment to a unique, highly consumable "help to humanity", product or service. It is a belief system that makes Multilevel Marketing companies different from the traditional direct selling organization.

Multilevel leaders have found that money and material gain are simply not enough to bond distributor and company. If money were all that mattered to the distributor, they could be easily enticed by every new money deal that comes along. Their own lives impacted by that company's health product or socially responsible service offering, they want to share the good news with the world.

MLM distributors are galvanized by a sense of destiny – a mission that goes beyond money. It's been said, there are three things you should never argue with someone about: 1) their religion, 2) their politics and 3) their vitamin supplements or skin care products. Why? Because these are loyalties that are not financially based. You know what I mean. Talk about dynamic! The air is charged with a contagious, almost missionary zeal for their company, product or service. Attach a "Cause" which they can get behind and you might be amazed at the synergy you can create.

An important "moral" from this might be this: Your company should consider associating with social conscience and a cause. These kinds of companies are proven to have more staying power in the marketplace. The bottom line is, people like to do business with companies that do well by doing good.

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About the Author:

Michael L. Sheffield is the CEO of The Sheffield Group, a full-service direct sales and multi level marketing (MLM) consulting firm. He is a Co-Founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Multi Level Marketing International Association and in 2001 he was inducted into the MLMIA Hall of Fame. He and the Sheffield team have assisted in hundreds of national and international MLM corporate start-ups as well as offered a full line of services for established direct sales companies including consultation on MLM Website development. As the most noted expert on compensation plans, he has been a guest lecturer on the subject for the DSA, University of Illinois, University of Texas, Berkeley and Harvard Alumni Association. He has helped launch over 200 new products marketed by direct selling companies around the globe. He can be contacted at 480-968-6199, The Sheffield Group, 2239 N. Hayden Road, Suite 103, Scottsdale, AZ. 85257, website address: www.sheffieldnet.com.

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