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"I want the family farm - the backbone of our country's heritage - to thrive and survive for future generations."

Articles/Press Releases

Make a Difference, and Make Headlines!

By Jane Eckert

Just about everybody has some special cause or organization that we feel very strongly about. Maybe it’s an orphanage or a food pantry, a special hospital or an organization that helps the widows of firemen.

Whatever your cause, you probably give them your support in whatever way you can.

Many farmers try to keep these donations pretty low key; we often don’t want to announce or take credit for donations to the area food banks or the band parent’s organization, etc. It’s not that we mind others asking for help, it’s just that, well, sometimes sharing what we have is enough reward in itself.

Today, though, we are going to look at how you can take your “two mites,” your modest gifts, and make them grow—and they will grow in many ways! The marketing term is “cause marketing.”

Cause marketing is doing something good in the community – and letting people know about it. Select a cause that you and your family believe in. Then develop a plan to provide support, for example, donating a percentage of your sales for a given weekend. Now, you announce your plan, and ask your customers to join you in supporting the same cause.

Many of you already give back to your communities, local organizations and youth groups in a variety of ways. The cause marketing strategy builds awareness for the cause and multiplies your gift by asking others to join you or perhaps to even match your donations. It has been found in research that 6 out of 10 Americans will buy from a company that backs a cause that they also believe in.

And while you are increasing the visibility and support of your chosen cause, you will increase your own visibility and community image. Likely, you will also increase your sales by attracting customers that want to participate with you.

In his book titled Cause Marketing, author Joe Marconi defines the marketing strategy to be “the action through which a company, a nonprofit organization, or a similar entity markets an image, a product, a service or a message for mutual benefit.” And that’s the point to me. Cause Marketing is about the mutual benefit of the deserving cause, and your business.

We saw a lot of cause marketing during the holidays, and you can tell that it works by how easy it is to match the host with the corresponding cause. Who can think of the Toys for Tots program without thinking of the participation provided by the U.S. Marines? The Children’s Miracle Network immediately brings Walmart to mind. Margo Thomas helps us remember St. Jude’s Hospital, as did her father Danny Thomas.

Most of the time these programs can be planned and developed well in advance, but many are simply a heart-felt reaction to the major events in our lives, such as the disasters of September 11, 2001, the ravishing power of hurricane Katrina, and the war in Iraq.

Members of the National Christmas Tree Association were thinking of the thousands of Americans overseas when they developed the “Trees for Troups” program two years ago. This year, the program, co-sponsored with Fed-Ex and the Christmas Spirit Foundation, donated and delivered more than 11,000 trees to 27 military bases in the U.S. and overseas.

Fed-Ex provided free of charge the transportation of the trees from the farms to the waiting soldiers and their families here and abroad. Chip Ellms, Ellms Trees in Charlton and Larry Stokoe of Stokoe Farms in Scottsville were the collection points in New York.

“During the day of the pick up,” Ellms said, “We had the National Guard here to help load the trees and every TV station was here to make a story. We were on the news for a couple of days. The newspapers also came and the story and pictures were on the front page of three of the biggest newspapers in the area.”

Local schools and other citizens also got involved. One school reported making over 2,000 paper ornaments to send along with the trees. The students also wrote notes of support, saying “We are proud of you,” “We miss you” and “Thank You.”

The tree growers did not donate 11,000 trees for themselves, they did it for the men and women serving in the military, and their families. But the growers did reap a tremendous benefit.

“With the combination of this terrific press and good weather, we had the best year ever (by a long way),” Ellms reported. “It was the type of story the press wanted to print-good news!”

It was good news, and a very good cause, and I know you want to join me in thanking the participating members of the National Christmas Tree Association.

And that’s just how it works. When we see someone else doing good, we want to help. And when more people get involved, more good can be done.

If you’d like to learn more about implementing a cause marketing program for an organization or cause dear to your heart, please feel free to contact me, or pick up a copy of Cause Marketing by Joe Marconi.

Jane Eckert is the founder of Eckert AgriMarketing (www.eckertagrimarketing.com), a full-service marketing and public relations firm that helps farmers to sell directly to consumers, diversify operations and become tourist destinations. She is also CEO of www.RuralBounty.com, a search directory for agritourism farms and ranches in North America. Jane can be reached at 314-862-6288 or you may email her directly.