Cause Blog

The 7 stages of Cause Marketing engagement.

By Ed Lord


Many times companies evaluate the metrics of low-level cause engagement with their customers, such as a Facebook “like,” and call that a win. That’s a little like saying your product is a success based on a positive comment about it from focus group. If those positive comments don’t lead to sales numbers, that’s definitely not a win. And (as with your sales) your Cause Marketing has much deeper levels of commitment to your cause than a “like.” 

The engagement scale.

Our engagement scale can help you identify the depth of commitment that your stakeholders have for your cause. And generally speaking, the deeper the level of commitment to your cause, the deeper the level of commitment to your company, products and services.

  1. Awareness This is the first stage of notice to your cause and to awareness that your company is associated with your cause. If your customers meets you through your cause, it’s typically a positive first impression. Usually engagement at this level has little bearing yet on consumer behavior. 

  2. Likes “Liking” is so popular because it’s a non-committal commitment. It literally is a thumbs up or stamp of approval. They don’t have to buy, give or even talk, so it’s just associating themselves with a group of people doing good. This has minimal repercussions, if any. There’s also minimal initiative required for liking, with the consumer typically responding to being asked to like, sometimes even receiving a discount or incentive for it. The effectiveness of a like is still under debate: A study quoted on the Cause Marketing Forum site notes 64% of Americans say they’ve used a like as a “gateway good” for deeper cause involvement, while UNICEF says likes don’t save children’s lives.

  3. Comments Making a comment via social media is the first stage of committal engagement because there’s a risk. The consumer is stating an opinion and others are seeing that opinion. Your company or other supporters of the cause can talk back to them. For your company, this is a prime opportunity to engage in conversation with the consumer.

  4. Conversation The conversation really starts when the customer replies a second time. When that happens, the customer has committed to talk to your cause or to other supporters about your cause. The goal for the conversation is to get the customer to take that next step. Maybe it’s making a donation, or simply clicking a link to read a cause blog post.

  5. Giving money Donating change at the register or making a $10 donation online to your cause can be a larger commitment. While simple, it shows a belief in what your cause is doing. At this point consumers start buying into your cause (literally.)

  6. Giving time Employee volunteering has been common for years, but we’re entering the age when organizations are starting to see the value of customer volunteering. This enables customers to witness the proof that you’re doing good and know it personally from the experience of helping you do it. Volunteering is a very personal experience and gives a consumer the opportunity to understand your company as people, rather than a cold corporate thing. They meet your employees, but not in the typical customer/employee scenario. It gives customers the perspective that your staff are people who care about the cause, just like they do. This is a drastically different experience for that customer than walking into your store or consuming your product. You have their full attention like you've never had before. Make this bonding time a memorable, positive experience for them.

  7. Fundraising If a customer is truly committed to your cause, you’ll find they become an advocate and want to raise funds on your behalf. Through a vehicle like DonorDrive, our peer-to-peer fundraising platform, the customer can share their commitment with others and recruit their friends and family to join your cause too. As we all know, referral from a customer can be a very successful way to get new customers. As they introduce your cause to their network by asking for a donation, you can find that their network introduces you to their network. That’s the viral nature of peer-to-peer fundraising. And if they’re evangelists for your cause they can become evangelists for your products as well.

Engagement builds Cause Marketing relationships.

The deeper your customers engage on this scale with your cause, the stronger their relationship becomes with both your cause and your company. By customer and company doing good together through the cause, there’s a bond formed that goes well beyond the typical customer/business relationship. 

While many companies still strive hard to engage their customers exclusively through their products, most are finding it much easier to start the conversation through a Cause Marketing effort around your cause. When the cause is the focal point, your product and company win by association.