You might not think one carton of copy paper or one carbonless forms order can make a difference in the world, but you’d be surprised.
Distributors and suppliers around the country are turning simple, everyday purchase decisions into something much, much bigger, thanks to cause marketing programs that build their businesses and strengthen their communities at the same time. Cause marketing refers to for-profit businesses teaming up with nonprofit charities in mutually beneficial ways.
“When you’re in a business that many people feel is a commodity business, it’s really not what you sell, it’s why you sell it,” says Travis Mlakar, president of Millcraft, a fourth generation, family-owned paper and packaging distributor headquartered in Cleveland.
Here’s how Millcraft and a West Coast forms printer partnered with trusted suppliers to develop cause marketing programs that make an impact with their customers, their employees and their communities.
Millcraft’s ‘Buy & Give’ Program
Mlakar and his team wanted to make buying copy paper — often a throwaway decision for most businesses — into something more. They partnered with Domtar, a trusted paper supplier with an Ohio-based converting facility, to create “Buy & Give.”
The program is simple: For every carton of Buy & Give copy paper purchased, Millcraft donates one dollar to a local charity. In 2016, the program distributed $94,000 to nine local charities across the company’s Midwestern footprint.
“By creating a program with features and benefits outside of the product’s features and benefits, we’re able to tap into people’s buying decisions that have nothing to do with price, our service or even the product itself; it has to do with the values that are important to them,” Mlakar says.
The pilot program launched in 2011 at Millcraft’s Cleveland division but quickly expanded to include all eight of the company’s geographic division locations. Employees in each region identified a local charity to receive the proceeds from their division’s sales of Buy & Give copy paper (which is not the only, or the cheapest, copy paper Millcraft sells).
For Domtar, partnering with Millcraft was a “no-brainer,” says Meredith Collins, brand marketing manager at Domtar. “They’ve done an amazing job taking an item that’s essential to everyday business — like paper — and turning it into something that’s truly making a difference in the community.”
Domtar co-brands the paper at its Ohio converting facility using Buy & Give custom graphics on ream wraps, lids and labels. Collins also supports Millcraft by developing sample packs, tabletop displays and sales flyers customized by division to reflect the local charitable organization supported by the program.
“Buy & Give empowers customers by letting them know that their buying decisions — regardless of how small they are — really do make an impact,” Collins says.
Millcraft helps customers who’ve purchased 50 or more cartons quantify the impact of their purchases with a certificate detailing the amount contributed to charity on their behalf. Mlakar notes it’s a small way Millcraft can help customers support their own corporate values and sustainability programs.
5 Day Business Forms ‘Wish With 5 Day’ Promotion
Driven by a declining forms market and increasing competition, Anaheim-based 5 Day Business Forms, a second-generation family printing business serving distributors throughout Southern California, wanted a way to increase carbonless forms orders and build customer loyalty.
The company partnered with its carbonless paper supplier, Glatfelter, a global paper manufacturing company headquartered in York, Pennsylvania, to create a marketing program centered around new carbonless forms orders over $200. For every new order, customers receive a small gift and are entered to win monthly prize drawings (mini iPads, wireless headphones, professional sports tickets, etc.) and a chance to win the grand prize — a trip to Disneyland — at the program’s conclusion.
The idea started as a simple marketing program. However, when the two companies decided to donate 2 percent of each order to charity, the program “took off like a rocket,” says Robert Bemmer, IT director for 5 Day, and the “Wish With 5 Day” program manager.
After partnering with two different national charities for two years, Bemmer says they found a perfect fit with its local Make-a-Wish chapter and will continue to support local Wish kids. “It’s important to find the right charity, and then work hand-in-hand with them,” Bemmer says.
In 2016, the program brought in nearly 750 new orders, allowing the two companies to donate $10,000 to Make-a-Wish of Orange County and the Inland Empire.
Glatfelter provides marketing materials used to support the annual, five-month-long program. The multi-touch awareness campaign includes email blasts (highlighting a different Wish kid each month), postcards, statement stuffers and promotional 3-D mailers. Customers can complete entries online or with their 5 Day sales reps.
According to Kyrsa Severson, Glatfelter key account manager serving the western states, Wish With 5 Day reflects Glatfelter’s core value of supporting the communities in which employees live and work. But, it also creates a meaningful bond between 5 Day and Glatfelter. “It goes a long way, especially in this competitive, mature industry that we’re in,” she says.
Both Millcraft and 5 Day are pleased to see employees getting involved with their charitable partners outside of the scope of the company programs, furthering the impact being made in their communities. It’s yet another way cause marketing turns doing business into doing good.
Laurie Hileman is a freelance business and trade writer who loves creating great content for those in the paper manufacturing, print distribution, nonprofit and planned giving spaces. You can find her at www.lauriehileman.com.