Simply donating money doesn’t create goodwill (or drive sales) among millennials

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it shouldn’t be news that millennials are passionate consumers. They have high expectations for brands and an increasing buying power that’s forcing businesses to take notice.

With various sources predicting millennials will outspend baby boomers by 2017, let’s make 2015 the year we stop talking about this generation and actually take action that makes a difference.

What does that action look like? First, it isn’t good enough to have a great product. Should your product and service be excellent? Absolutely! But you have to take it further. Integrating a cause marketing initiative into your brand is one way to do that.

To execute a successful cause marketing campaign, a brand needs to keep these three components in mind:

It must be authentic and intuitive. You have to truly believe in the cause, and it must make sense for your audience. What is the emotional connection? Our agency chooses to take a portion of revenue to provide travel scholarships for individuals to do mission work through our Be The Good program. Find what makes sense for you and your business and make it a reality.

Your audience includes your employees as well as your consumers, and you need to engage both. Simply writing a check to an organization is a one-off, not a campaign. While the organizations certainly appreciate it, it likely won’t drive sales or engage your audience. Corporate giving is not cause marketing. Know the difference, and take the time to develop something that will make a long-lasting impact.

It must be measurable. Remember, this is still marketing, and you still have to deliver bottom-line results. How will you gauge success? One key way is to judge your audience engagement. Did you start a valuable social conversation? Did you inspire action? Assess what value it brought to your business. Are your employees motivated and involved? What positive reactions did you receive from consumers?

When done correctly, a cause marketing campaign will strengthen brand reputation, engage customers and create loyalty. You also get to contribute to something larger than yourself that you’re truly passionate about.

Giving back in a way that makes sense for your company and your customers is one of the most effective ways to reach the millennial generation. An initiative that comes from the heart and is paired with effective marketing only strengthens your brand and your bond with your customers.

This article was originally published in the Nashville Business Journal.