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Massage Today
November, 2003, Vol. 03, Issue 11

Cause Marketing

By Cliff Korn, BS, LMT, NCTMB

Several issues back, I talked about "Giving Back," and suggested you join me in stepping up your volunteer efforts (

This month, I'm going to expand the discussion of "giving back" to include other types of philanthropy. I'm talking about giving of time, talent and money - and not as Joe or Jill Therapist, but as your business. The reasons are many, the foremost being that far too few massage therapists consider themselves as conducting a business in the first place. If you don't charge money for your work and consider it a hobby, please stop reading now, because this column isn't for you. If you want to have a successful business or are participating in one now, please read on!

Why should your business give? "Because it's the right thing to do" certainly comes to mind, but there are more practical reasons why businesses choose to give back to their communities. Business philanthropy can provide business advantage - forging connections and generating goodwill with employees, clients and communities. However, that advantage doesn't mean your business philanthropy begins with, "What are we going to get out of this?" It is better to start off from a standpoint of, "How is everyone going to win in this situation?" A good reason to give is because your company sees its success tied to the success of the communities in which it conducts business. After all, your business isn't separate from the community. While I don't have the source to credit, I recall one quotation that says it succinctly: "Positive change in community makes for positive change in business."

National research bears out that community involvement and investment matters to customers, employers and stockholders. In an October 2001 study, Cone/Roper Research found that more than three-fourths of Americans feel a company's commitment to causes is an important consideration when deciding what to buy or where to shop. Now, here's your chance for an MBA (Massage Business Administration!) degree. Have you ever heard the phrase, "cause marketing"? It is simply a fancy term for business philanthropy. Concepts such as "venture philanthropy," "social responsibility" and "cause marketing" are creeping rapidly into business vocabulary, and they certainly mean more than just writing checks! The key is to help the community while advancing your business identity. With research and strategy, philanthropic investments can have great impact on the cause, the community and the business. This is what cause marketing is all about - win-win-win! The community not-for-profit, charity or cause wins because it receives increased support and outreach; your business wins because it receives increased exposure and revenues; and your customers win because they feel good about supporting a good citizen of society.

I was able to participate in an event recently that I think serves as a perfect example of win-win-win, and epitomizes social responsibility and cause marketing. The 1st Annual Biofreeze Pain Management with the Masters Symposium was held recently in Las Vegas. It was promoted to massage therapists from the Southwest and all over the country, and ended up drawing therapists from Canada, as well. Michael Holloway of Custom Massage Care served as event planner and developed the program, and Perry Isenberg of Performance Health, Inc. (makers of Biofreeze and Prossage) bankrolled the proceedings. Since this was the initial symposium of this kind, the attendance was probably less than 100 people. I believe those attendees (myself included) are some of the most fortunate massage therapists in America! Designed to discuss ways in which the massage therapy industry is a part of overall health and wellness, some of the most renowned educators and presenters available came together to discuss how their methods could enable massage therapists to gain knowledge and expertise. In his introduction, Perry said, "As you explore the many topics presented here, I hope you are inspired to keep seeking out ways to better yourself and your industry. Learning form each other will undoubtedly create opportunities that will allow you to accomplish great things."

The most common remark I heard from the attendees was, "I can't believe all these people are here just for me!" It was hard to believe! How often does a small group of massage therapists get to hear a keynote by Dr. Tiffany Field of the Touch Research Institute? How often does a small group of massage therapists get to listen to James Waslaski talk about orthopedic massage and pain management; David Kent talk about practice building; Michael McGillicuddy talk about sports massage; George Kousaleos talk about myofascial/structural integration; and Erik Dalton talk about myoskeletal alignment technique - all at one venue and with one purpose? I was honored to be able to moderate a panel discussion on clinical issues that included all of the presenters. I can't see how future symposia in this series won't be some of the largest and most successful in the country. They are just too valuable to practitioners and the profession not to be!

I use this as an example of effective cause marketing because it was evident that Performance Health did not convene this wonderful educational event to sell its products. They weren't even available for sale! While not familiar with the financials of the event, my guess is that that Performance Health actually lost money on it. Perry is savvy enough though to realize what an investment this event actually was. A core group of massage therapists will help promote future symposia based on the superb experience this one provided. Each and every one of them is now more educated in the possibilities and capabilities of their chosen profession to integrate hand-in-hand with the larger health and wellness industry. The massage community and the practitioners who attended are improved, and the clients who choose care from them will get benefits they wouldn't otherwise. Performance Health, Inc. has become the "good guy" for all of them. My guess is that every symposium attendee is now more likely to use Biofreeze and Prossage in his or her practice, have it available for clients and use it for self care. Everybody wins! And I didn't even mention that Perry presented Dr. Field and John Balletto, president of the American Massage Therapy Association Foundation, checks for $2,500 each! We all win with additional research into the efficacy of massage and bodywork.

So, will cause marketing work in your business? Perry Isenberg and his partners obviously believe their company sees its success tied to the success of the communities in which it conducts business. Modeling after their good example, here are some thoughts to help you succeed:

  • Make your selection of a cause strategic. Ensure the partnership you develop is aligned with both your target audience and your company values. Are you targeting your customers? What issues and causes are of concern to them? Does your selection of a cause reflect your company values?
  • Don't be shy about asking for or receiving acknowledgement. This partnership is something your business should be proud of and want to shout to the world - or at least to your target audience.
  • Develop a system. Set up a system for your cause marketing program and be clear about what you expect from it. Use benchmarks to gauge whether you have met expectations. Do you want more clients in a particular age group? Do you want more new clients from a neighboring community? By specifying your objectives, you make it easier to measure the results. The only thing left to do is follow through!

Good luck, and thanks for listening!

Massage Today encourages letters to the editor to discuss matters relating to the publication's content. Letters may be published in a future issue of Massage Today. Please send all correspondence by e-mail to , or by regular mail to the address listed below:

Massage Today
P.O. Box 4139
Huntington Beach, CA 92605

Former editor of Massage Today, Cliff is owner of Windham Health Center Neuromuscular Therapy LLC. He is nationally certified in therapeutic massage & bodywork and is licensed as a massage therapist by the states of New Hampshire and Florida. Cliff is a member of the International Association of Healthcare Practitioners; a professional member and past president of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association; a certified member of the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals, Inc.; and a past chairman of the board of directors of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.


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