If your company is giving back in one form or another, then good for you! Our communities need our help above and beyond the fact that we're creating jobs. And one easy way to give back is through cause marketing. Cause marketing, simply put, is when you entice people to do something and when they do, you'll donate to a cause. A few things happen as a result of this; people like to patron a business if they know that it gives back to worthy causes and the community, and it could be a great generator of "buzz" for you, hopefully increasing overall sales.

Bottom line is that your customers might be looking at what your business stands for. If you offer a similar product or service as a competitor, the cause that you choose just might be the thing that pushes them to choose your business over the competition. So, it's never too late to get yourself active with a non-profit partner you believe in. 

Here are four steps to kick-start a cause marketing campaign for your company.

1. Identify your cause. You might want to ask your employees what they care enough to want to get behind. Or pick something that has had an effect on you in your life. 

2. Determine how much you can afford to give away. Make sure you include in your budget how much you'll be giving away to your cause. You certainly want this to benefit your business, not hurt it. 

3. Market your cause. If you've got a retail store, make sure you have proper signage about your cause in your store window and around your property. Print it on all materials and display it prominently on your website. Make sure the cause you're supporting knows about it, too; they may even do some promotions around it.

Here are some ideas that are easy to implement: 

  • Donate dollars to a cause of your choice for each survey taken, up to a certain number of online surveys. My e-mail marketing company, VerticalResponse, did a product survey where we gave $10 for every survey taken (up to 300 surveys) to the Susan G. Komen Foundation in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We got the number of surveys we wanted in just two days.
  • Donate a percentage of all revenue generated from all sales in a specific time period, like a few hours or a specific day. For example: "From noon to 2 p.m. this Saturday, all profits go to the American Cancer Society."
  • Give a percentage of all revenue generated from a specific product purchased for a specific time period. For example: "All profits from our new set of widgets for the next two weeks will be donated to the San Francisco Food Bank."
  • Donate dollars for each purchase made over some specific amount. An example: "For any total purchase made over $200, we will donate $20 to Parks and Recreation of the Bay Area."

Include the campaign in all of your e-mail marketing efforts along with a link to the cause. If you're on social media like Facebook, make sure you become a member of your cause, and make sure you talk about your involvement on all your social networks.

4. Talk about your success. Once you get to a place that seems significant, get loud and proud. Talk about the amount of money you raised and what it was used for. Tell stories about lives that may have been saved, or successes of the cause because of the support from businesses like yours. People love to do business with a winner, and you and your staff will feel great about the work you do. And to prove that you actually "gave back," it's a good practice to send an e-mail marketing campaign to all of those that "contributed" telling them that you just wrote the check to your cause. To top it all off, you can even show the receipt in your email. (Just make sure to block out the credit card number you used to make the donation!)

Ingrain cause marketing in your company and it could be a big boost to business, a boost for your cause and a boost for employee morale for years to come.