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Posts Tagged ‘Cause marketing’

A movement – not a magic bullet


We are a culture of people who want magic bullets to solve our problems. Just look at all the commercials for diet products promising miraculous weight loss or ways “you can get rich flipping houses without using your own money.” If only!

We also see it at Clear Verve. We’re often asked about the magic formula for social media, direct mail, or keeping in touch with an important client. The truth is it all comes down to hard work. That’s the only way to get the job done. You have to send lots of emails. And make some phone calls. And get out from behind your desk and visit your client at his or her office.

Jackie and I recently had the opportunity to hear Anna Maria Chavez, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA speak. She talked about the goals of the Girl Scouts, the difference scouting makes, and Girl Scouts’ ambitious plans to create balanced leadership in our country in one generation. That’s a big, fat goal. When you hear statistics that show that women make up only 17 percent of the U.S. Congress, and claim only 3 percent of the top positions at Fortune 500 companies, you realize how challenging this goal is. But they’ve given themselves 10 years to do it. Not 10 minutes, not one email campaign, not one press release, 10 years. And they have the power of 59 million Girl Scout Alumnae to help. They’ve already started rallying these amazing women. They are organized, and they are working to reach their big goal knowing that it won’t be easy. They are measuring their progress and making adjustments along the way. Isn’t that the way we should all run our businesses?

You can learn more about the Girl Scouts’ campaign by visiting

Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve.

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Nonprofits need to realize the economic reset

Friday, December 21, 2012 — 


We attended the fourth annual Easter Seals Thought Leaders Luncheon recently (Thanks for the invite @bobglows.) where presenter Jason Saul suggested traditional fundraising needs a facelift. Even though requesting donations through the mail can be effective, he recommended that we and the other nonprofit personnel in the room start marketing results and selling impact. On the ride back to the office, we got to talking about how we could help our clients convey the impact of the work they do and how to maximize that impact for true social change.

Saul says that the economy has changed forever. Corporations are never going to donate big bucks just for the feel good or because they’re nice. They will contribute to your organization, however, when you connect your outcomes to their market. Head right to the directors of marketing, Saul says, and show them the value of what you offer; explain what kind of results you create for their organizations. Development/advancement directors should continue to send letters to foundations and community relations departments, but should also be bold and use the front door when looking for sponsorship support or funding.

Here’s a clip that will help you get the gist of his philosophy:

Jackie Costa, the director of content marketing at Clear Verve, works with clients to create and distribute smarter, better marketing communications materials. Listen for her on Twitter @JackieMCosta.

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With the right message, anyone can find success on the auction acquisitions committee


I’ve been involved with auction planning for about five years now, and I’ve noticed that asking for items is the one thing that scares people the most. There are plenty of other stressful components that need to be simultaneously handled — managing the guest list, coordinating volunteers, decorating the room, overseeing vendors — to be sure. But still, if you don’t have items on the auction block, you probably won’t raise the money you’d hoped for.

My suggestion is to handle the request from a marketing communications perspective. Create awareness, interest and understanding for your cause by making sure your message is interesting, clear, current and persuasive. Choose from any number of ways to reach your target audience and then convince them to take action, i.e. donate a product or service to your event. Remember, the clearer, the more interesting and the more convincing your communication is, the more influence it will have on your donors to take positive action, which will positively affect your bidding total.

Here are a few other tips to help you acquire auction items. And by the way, you should have an acquisition strategy in place when you head out to procure the items. Think about categories of price points, categories of items and realize you only need to procure about half the number of items as you have guests.

  • List work. During your auction’s off-season, spend some time building and organizing your donor database so that it’s easy to send out requests when the time comes. Be sure to customize your letters if possible.
  • Watch your timeline. The auction I’m helping to plan now is in October, which makes it a bit harder to collect items from corporations that budget giving beginning in January. We luck out though with businesses with a June 30 year-end. Our letters were among the first received in July when charitable giving budgets renewed.
  • Know what’s trending. Be up-to-date with what’s new, hot or hard-to-get. If you’re in tune with what at interests your audience, you’ll have a better shot at lots of bidding. For example, if you know a lot of parents with young children will attend your event, make sure you have the coolest new toy up for bid in your silent auction. Preschool teachers can tell you what toys the students are playing with most, but you can also research it on your own by reading a few specific magazines and blogs. You’ll key in on several items to add to your ask list that will be attractive to those guests.
  • Always be procuring. Everyone on your acquisition committee should be on the lookout for items year round and be ready to ask for donations while on vacation, or when they see a deal. They also need to network with neighbors and friends to find out who has a time share they’re willing to donate or who might have home projects in the works. This can really work out well. I asked my neighbor if she wouldn’t mind checking with her landscaper on a donation. We ended up with a five treatment program valued at $250 that we were able to package with a patio heater and barbecue grill.
  • Learn to say no thanks. If donations are coming in at the ninth hour, they won’t make it online or into the auction catalog. This frustrates the volunteers, the planners and the donors. Stop taking items, if possible, two weeks before the bidding begins.
  • Lastly, say thanks and thanks again. After the auction, take time to write a wrap-up letter to donors with an additional thank you and auction results. It helps plant the seed for next year’s ask.

Once again, don’t slack off in the off-season. It’s important to stay visible to your donors. The more they are reminded of your existence, the better the chance they will donate to you the next time.

Jackie Costa, the director of content marketing at Clear Verve, works with clients to create and distribute smarter, better marketing communications materials. Listen for her on Twitter @JackieMCosta.

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The integration of PR and Social Media


Last week, I made a series of presentations at the Salvation Army Divisional Conference on community relations. You can review the presentation below.

One of the main points I tried to stress throughout my presentation is that community relations, public relations, and social media are completely intertwined. The use of social media has greatly affected the traditional media world. Social media has opened many doors and closed others. It has fragmented our distribution system for messages. It makes it easier to reach everybody, and nobody. It has also changed our expectations for communication.

But traditional media has not gone away. Sure, it has adapted. Newspapers may be smaller, but people still read them. So, unlike the social media guru in the next room who was completely discounting traditional media, at Clear Verve we stress a planned, integrated approach. You can’t be everywhere all at once, but if you make a plan, taking into account your goals and the audience each outlet reaches, you can develop a process that will help you strategically reach out to the right people at the right time.

Don’t just do what’s cool or what you know. Do your research and to what’s RIGHT for you.


View more PowerPoint from Clear Verve Marketing, LLC
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Marketing Like Everyone Else


No matter what you do for a living, inspiration comes from all around us. As human beings, we are naturally influenced by each other and each other’s ideas. That’s why we suddenly see orange shirts everywhere (see our recent post on the color of the year), or everyone trying to imitate some viral video on YouTube like the Old Spice Guy or the Dollar Shave club.

Imitation works sometimes, but often it does not. The problem with copying what someone else does is that your business has to somehow make the idea your own by tweaking it or allowing it to morph into something even better. Here are three examples of imitation campaigns we’ve seen recently that we hope will get you thinking about what NOT to do when brainstorming ideas.

End-of-Year Donation Letters

The end of the year is a big time for nonprofits. Most businesses and individuals wait until the end of the year to decide how much money they can afford to give to their favorite causes. Of course, nonprofits take advantage of this mindset and work diligently to contact past and potential donors hoping to get their share of the pie. We don’t blame them. The problem is, everyone is doing it at the same time! Here’s a picture of the pile we received last December.

What do you see? Nothing special? Of course not! They all look the same. If you could read them, you’d find out all the letters sound the same too. However, we did receive one solicitation that stuck out. It was a holiday card. By combining holiday wishes and a thank you for a past gift with the solicitation, it actually made us want to whip out our wallets and donate again. If you’re with a nonprofit, challenge yourself next December, or whenever your fiscal year ends, to come up with something besides a piece of white paper in a #10 envelope. You don’t want to get lost in the shuffle.

Promotions and New Job Announcements

There are a number of publications that run personnel listings and there are several financial advisors who pay attention to these blurbs. If you are one of them, listen up.  Yes, I’ve received a promotion or landed a new job, but that doesn’t mean I have lots of new money to invest. And if I did, would I respond to your vanilla approach?

Ok, ok, we can’t blame you for trying. There is a slight chance you might find someone in the market for a new to person manage their money. The problem is that you are trying to find that person using the same method as your competition. The mailed congratulatory notes and the unsolicited phone calls rarely work the way you might hope; it’s barely enough marketing to get attention or move the promoted person to action. People are usually skeptical by nature and rarely reply to random requests to work together. So quit wasting your time Googling phone numbers and mailing missives. Try some other smarter strategies to land yourself new clients.

And to the financial planner who mailed me a crumpled letter with the coffee stain: nice work getting my attention. You’re still not getting my money.

Personal Injury

One of our family members was recently in an automobile accident – no injury occurred –  thank goodness. Within a week of the State of Wisconsin motor vehicle accident report being filed, we received a slew of mailings from personal injury law firms.  Several used almost the exact same messaging of “one call is all you need” (paraphrased of course).  All focused on the firms’ capabilities, using nearly the exact same language, and included a form letter with the materials.  Only Hupy and Abraham’s mailings stood out from the rest. It included a helpful guide related to automobile accidents, as well as impressive testimonials and resources.  Only a few took advantage of the outside of the envelope to share some catchy thing about their firm.

We assume the direct mail approach must work, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many law firms using this tactic. But to truly stand out from the pile of other firms, it is important to do something different.  If we were to choose to set up a meeting with a law firm based on just the mailings we received, I bet you can guess who we’d meet with.

Post by Chistina Steder, Jackie Costa and Susan Schoultz of Clear Verve Marketing.  Follow us on Twitter:@clearverve @JackieMCosta @clearverve2

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The Life Well Laughed Project


During the past six months, my health and wellness knowledge has gotten much keener as I try to become healthier by losing weight and exercising. So far it’s working – yeah!  Through this journey I have discovered Laughing Cow cheese.  Which I have to admit at first as a Wisconsin “cheese” gal I did not think I would like, but have since become a fan.

As I opened up the package the other day, I noticed this great cause marketing initiative they have been featuring called the Life Well Laughed Project.

The Life Well Laughed Project by Bel Brands USA  is a great, simple idea.  Bel Brands will donate $1.00 to support healthy initiatives at local participating Y and YMCA’s, up to $500,000, with a guaranteed minimum donation of $250,000.   All you have to do is enter the UPC code of the package on the Bel Brands web site.

From a marketing perspective, here is my two cents on this effort- it’s a great product/cause marketing tie and have to commend Bel Brands for their efforts to help infuse a bit of fun into healthy living.   The list of YMCA’s that benefit from this effort is amazing.  However, when I went to the Life Well Laughed website to enter my code, I noticed the web design is very cool and the pop ups with words/sound effects are neat at first, but then really got annoying as I tried to enter my code.  I ended up muting the sound effects.

Any company can easily add a cause marketing effort to their marketing plans.  It is a great way to give back to your community and be socially aware, and it helps you stand out from competitors.   There are so many great causes and organizations you can partner with so the possiblities are endless.  If your business or organization hasn’t added a cause marketing segment to your marketing plan, consider the following points to start developing your cause marketing plan:

  • Evaluate causes that resonate with your organization and customers
  • Make sure you have a strong theme or message that is consistent with your organizational mission
  • Once you select your cause(s) have a firm commitment in writing about the goals/deliverables for your cause marketing campaign
  • Ensure your employees are aware of goals and expectations for your cause marketing efforts and involve them in decision making (e.g. have a committee/task force in organization that helps manage this process)
  • Share results with customers after your cause marketing initative is completed (e.g. we helped raise $1,000, etc.)

Susan Schoultz is Client Service Director at Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns.  Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve2.

Gum Package Highlight: Orbit


Gum packaging design is usually simple: a minimal number of colors representing the flavor and all the information. I’m going to skip past the package changes this past decade or so.

Remember these?

I don’t usually notice gum packaging. Does anyone really? Grabbing a piece of gum is not usually a slow process. It’s usually done without much, if any, of a glance at the packaging. I know if it’s in my purse that I don’t even take the package out. It’s easy to get a piece out without looking.

Gum is simply about flavor and meeting a need of fresh breath or something to chew. It’s not about admiring the package.

And that’s why I think it took me so long to notice what Orbit is doing with their packaging. Underneath the flap on the package (which happened to be sitting open on my desk at work while I was looking around for inspiration) is a code. If you go to Orbit’s special website and enter the code on your pack of gum, Orbit will donate 50¢ to Keep America Beautiful.

Here’s a sample of the flash intro from the page:

Kind of cool, right? I thought so. Let’s just hope that more people notice the code! Over $40,000 has been raised, but it’s still a long way from the goal of $300,000.

Erica Gordon is a Marketing Associate at Clear Verve and also works part-time at a Milwaukee area nonprofit. She recently received her Communication MA from Marquette University. Follow Erica on Twitter @erica_g.