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The Cause Connection

October 10, 2013

How compelling is a cause? Many of us have causes we connect with and because of this we donate our time, talents and financial resources. But, how do we view companies that are connected to causes and does it impact whether we buy from them or recommend them? Cause marketing has been in the marketer’s toolbox for two decades now and recent statistics clearly show its value and why it has staying power as a smart strategy.

The 2013 Cone Communications/Echo Global CSR Study found that 91% of global consumers are likely to switch brands to one associated with a good cause, given comparable price and quality. And, Nielsen saw in its 2013 Consumers Who Care Study that 29,000 respondents said companies that integrate social impact into the heart of corporate strategy connect better with customers and inspire more loyalty.

So if you’re considering having your company connect with a cause, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way that you can keep in mind:

  1. Make it known – make the cause and how it connects to your brand, culture and values prominent on your website, social channels and internal communications channels/vehicles so that your stakeholders know why it matters to you.
  2. Make it easy – for people connected to your company to donate, volunteer or otherwise support the cause; for example, some companies have made it easy to donate at the register when you check-out at a retail store, or text to donate, or click to donate from a website icon.
  3. Make it connect – choose a cause that makes sense for your brand, either based on what you sell, or how you view the world, or what you value; for example, Pizza Hut participates in the Annual World Hunger Relief Campaign and Southwest Airlines supports Make-A-Wish because more than 70% of all wishes involve travel. When you pick a cause that makes sense for your company, you make the connection that much easier for your customers to understand.
  4. Make it count – quantify and articulate the impact of your support of this cause by sharing with employees, customers and partners the ways your financial and/or volunteer resources have helped people in need, changed lives and made a difference.
  5. Make it last – the Hunger Relief work I mentioned Pizza Hut is doing has been going on for seven years; brands benefit from longevity with a cause because customers start to expect cause updates from that company, and the positive story of the cause becomes intertwined with the positive brand image of the company.

If you’ve had success connecting your company with a cause, we would love to hear about it. Or, if you’re trying to figure this out for your business, maybe we should talk. I love to see companies that are doing well, but also doing good.


Marketwave employees and friends volunteering at Entrepreneurs for North Texas/North Texas Food Bank event.


Putting Energy Into Community Connections

March 28, 2013



One of Marketwave’s core values is giving back.  As a company, we have a service mindset and want to serve others in our community by giving of our time, talents and resources when we can.  One way we do this is through our membership in Entrepreneurs for North Texas (EFNT). EFNT facilitates community involvement and philanthropy for small and mid-size companies that want to make a positive impact in their communities, and we’ve greatly benefited from their help identifying and organizing the ways our team can plug in and give back.

As we’ve been connected to EFNT it has made me take notice of other companies who truly make the effort and put the energy into community service.  And, with that energy in mind (and since we do a lot of work with energy clients), I decided to give a quick shout out to a couple of energy companies that are really doing it right when it comes to community involvement.

I know first-hand about what Dallas-based natural gas company, Crosstex Energy, is doing in their communities because they are a client and we’ve helped them shape their approach.  They have something called the Connectors Program that provides resources and training for field personnel who interact with community stakeholders daily. This program allows Crosstex to be closely connected in the communities where it does business.

Also, although they aren’t a client, I’ve admired Reliant from the sidelines and what they’ve done from a community service standpoint.  Recently we had the pleasure of interviewing Manny Rodriguez, VP of Sponsorship and Community at Reliant. We talked in-depth about how important it is for them to give back; not just as a company, but as individuals. In 2011, Reliant’s employees donated more than 13,000 hours to charity! Some of the recipients of these hours were The March of Dimes, American Heart Association and Rebuild Houston, where they are headquartered. As a company, Reliant participates in the Scholarship for Champions, which recognizes and rewards students who achieve a balance of academics, athletics and community service. They also offer “Beat the Heat” centers which serve as community centers to engage, support and assist the elderly and lower income households with programs during the hot Texas summers. In addition to offering food, water and air conditioning, Reliant employees host breakfasts or lunches throughout the year at these centers.

Reliant’s executives are encouraged to participate on the boards of non-profit organizations. Manny is an active board member of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in Houston. “In addition to giving back to the community, Reliant believes in supporting the research and treatment of diseases. Houston has outstanding medical facilities, and as an 11-year survivor of Leukemia, it’s personally important for me to actively participate on the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society board,” stated Rodriguez.

What does your organization do to give back to the community? If you aren’t involved in or connected to a non-profit in your community, but want to be, here’s a great website to search for organizations in your area:

Bob Ross Remixed: A step in the right direction for PBS

February 20, 2013

If you haven’t seen this video, you should.

It would have been funny – probably viral – if some Joe Schmoe had autotuned Bob Ross. But the fact that it was done by PBS, as a series of autotunements, made it brilliant.

PBS realized that it had to connect to and engage with a young audience, because its traditional programming lineup of Nova and NewsHour didn’t do the deed. Enter PBS Digital Studios, a grand effort to reach that generation by resurrecting and autotuning the retro programming of yesteryear.

And it captured all the classics in its YouTube series – from Reading Rainbow, to Julia Childs and Mister Rogers – and repackaged them into fun, catchy tunes that will outlive their air dates for years to come.

If you’re looking to connect with a younger audience, take a nod to PBS. They were fearless in crafting an innovative, light-hearted marketing campaign that has attracted the hearts, eyes and ears of the young and the reminiscent.

Plus, every day’s a good day when you paint (and sing about it).

5 Easy Steps to Create a Research Report

February 6, 2013

Authors: Meredith Steffen and Sofia Ruzo


When given a research assignment, do you often feel overwhelmed and ask yourself, “Where do I begin?” The feeling is very common. Research is not easy, and for some people, not fun. But, having a plan before you tackle the assignment can help make the task a whole lot simpler. Below are five easy steps our team at Marketwave practices when we are faced with a research assignment.

Step 1: Gather Your Thoughts

Before you start digging through resources for information, take a moment to gather your thoughts and decide exactly what it is you want to find. If you’re doing a research report on a company or organization, outline some areas you want to make sure you cover, such as the organization’s background/history, its mission and values, culture and possible competitors. If you’re completing an assignment on a potential program or solution for a client, draft out questions you will need to answer, such as:

  • How will this help my client?
  • Is there proof of this strategy helping other companies, if so how and when?
  • What is my client’s target audience for this program?

Organizing your thoughts and developing an outline will help you later on when you gather your research findings and develop an executive summary.

Step 2: Determine a System

There are many different methods to organizing research information. You can write notes on index cards to help you visually create a report by placing the cards in a certain order, or keep a running word document that collects the resources and information you plan to use. Some people prefer to bookmark websites and reference books first, and then pull the information when they are ready to draft their report. Whichever method you prefer, it’s important that you establish a system before you begin researching so you can keep your information organized.

Step 3: Determine Your Resources

Contrary to what some may think, Google is not the only resource out there. Ok, so we’re only kidding—we understand you all know this—but collecting a diverse and reliable pool of research resources is very important.  Once you develop a resource database, future research assignments will move much faster. Common research resources include newspapers, magazines, journals, books, online databases and articles and encyclopedias.

Step 4: Determine Your Methods

Deciding whether your topic requires primary, secondary or both types of research methods is essential.

Primary research methods require you to go out and get the data yourself.  Some methods, such as analysis, focus groups, interviews and surveys, involve preparing questions or criteria beforehand and then gathering responses to these preset parameters. Other methods, such as observational research, tracking and ethnographies, involve observing behaviors, activities or market tendencies and taking notes about it to develop a conclusion.

Secondary research can be conducted from your desk, which is why it’s often called “desk research.” It requires collecting, summarizing and analyzing existing research. Some popular and reliable market research databases are: First Research, Forrester, MarketLine Advantage,, Mintel Oxygen, Nielsen, Simmons Oneview, Simply Map, SRDS and Standard and Poor’s NetAdvantage. Some databases offer consumer general market trends, statistics and specific markets’ demographics and psychographics, while others listed offer corporate profiles of U.S. companies and economic forecasts.

Step 5: Create an Executive Summary

After you collect all the information you need, draft an executive summary of your research findings by returning to step one and either filling in the outline of topics you developed or answering your list of questions. Do not copy and paste the information. Instead, rewrite the sources using your own words and citing your sources when appropriate. It’s important to always give credit to your source to avoid any form of plagiarism.

When developing a research report it’s important to keep in mind the purpose, which is to state what you know, not what you think. Research is about the facts, so let the facts speak for themselves. Remember, the intent of researching is to learn something new that you didn’t know before. As Albert Einstein once said, “If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?”

Do you have tried-and-true research methods that you find work best? Take a moment to share additional market research methods and databases that we have not mentioned.


Cultural Differences

February 1, 2013

What makes some work environments fun and inviting, and others boring and uninspiring? It’s all about office culture. Every office has a culture…some are just more established than others. Studies show companies with an adaptive culture that are aligned with their business goals regularly outperform their competitors. A great work environment also retains loyal employees.

Southwest Airlines is one of the leading examples of a great company culture. One of the statements on the culture page of its website is, “Happy Employees = Happy Customers.” This is a simple statement that holds so much truth. If we enjoy coming to the office each morning, that attitude will shine through in each and every client interaction. Happy employees can also lead to other happy employees, which can make work life even better! The Container Store, BerylHealth and Google are some other companies that are known for their great company cultures.

Although Marketwave is a much smaller business than the above-mentioned companies, we work hard to maintain our culture. We now have a culture committee and we’ve added culture-specific goals to our yearly planning packet that each employee receives in January. Some of the things we try to do each year include community service projects, at least one pro bono project, two or more team outings/off-sites, lunch potlucks, happy hours and a variety of other fun things.

We’ve recently added “Monday Madness” to our growing list; on the first Monday of the month, we gather to take a break from work for a few minutes in the afternoon to do a fun activity together. In our first Monday Madness, Sofia Ruzo led us in stretches that can be done at our desks. We also created a calendar so we can be more proactive in planning and implementing our activities.

Creating a place we’d all like to work is not so much about a list of culture activities; it’s more about bringing everyone together and showing them you value their hard work and commitment to the company. Sometimes, it really is the little things in life that go a long way.

What are some things you do to make your office a desirable place to work?

Thinking in 3s

December 27, 2012

I had a presentation coach one time tell me that people can’t remember any more than three things from a speech.  I think that advice applies to goal setting as well as we wind down this year and look toward the new possibilities of 2013.  Thinking in terms of threes helps me focus in on the big themes that will drive my goals.

Chris Brogan, author of Trust Giants and CEO of Human Business Works  challenges his blog community each year in December to pick three words that will define what they intend to achieve in the next year.  He asks his readers to be thoughtful, bold, brave and confident as we think of a longer list of words that could define our new year, and then select the best three.

I go through this exercise each year and I highly recommend it.  What will your three words be for 2013?  What words will keep you on track, define the impact you want to make, and challenge you to stretch?

My three words for 2013 are:

Relaunch – with 2013 being our 15-year anniversary, we plan to relaunch the Marketwave brand with a new logo, new website and lots of new ways we’ll be telling our integrated marketing story to let all of our friends, followers, prospects and clients fully experience our brand of service and smarts.

Serve – as a servant leader to my team and clients, I want to be intentional about understanding what others need to succeed and how I can help them achieve their goals; this word will also define the ways I serve my community this year through volunteer efforts and giving back along with my peers who are members of this amazing group called Entrepreneurs for North Texas.

Forward – next year I will lean into my goals and push forward, embracing the lessons I learned in 2012 and seeing the possibilities of a bright future with the awesome team I have around me.

What will your three words be?  Share them with us so we can see what you are striving for and maybe even help you get there.

As this year closes, I am thankful for you – our blog readers – who take the time to learn and share insights with us, and each other.  Here’s to a New Year of new plans, new connections and new possibilities for growth (three things of course)!

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