When RunTOBeer started, my whole motivation was to offset the calories with a simple workout. I didn't think about monetizing it. I never thought I could use it to steer customers elsewhere.
I'll go into much more detail in the weeks ahead, but if you're only curious to know how leading a bunch of beer runners boosts sales for tours, here's the short version:
The beer runs are free (sort of... but I'll discuss the revenue model in more detail next week) and I also work with local breweries to ensure the first beer is free for everyone. There's no membership required. For a runner, it's a pretty easy decision to join us: No commitment, no cost, free beer. Simple.
Nearly all of my RunTOBeer business is done though a Facebook group, as it's easier to reach a large number of people quickly. I don't allow any other businesses to promote their services unless they're a RunTOBeer partner (supporting the group or our charity). Because I shield my runners from other advertisers, they don't mind if I occasionally promote my own tours. After all, they know I need to make a living while planning their social calendar.
Some members get an occasional free tour. Although there's no membership required to join RunTOBeer, I do sell a limited number of “Imperial Memberships” that allow those members better access to products, services and events. The fact is, free beer runs are VERY popular and most of our events are limited to the size of the venue we run to. If a certain bar can only hold 75 people I'll probably register that many interested runners in about five minutes. But my Imperial members get advance access to registration in exchange for their yearly dues.
Imperial members also get the occasional free tour, like the Ghost Tour I did for Hallowe'en. Not only do they get a fun experience, but they also become ambassadors for City Running Tours, writing reviews on TripAdvisor and posting about it on their social media accounts.
What I've found really interesting about offering free tours is some Imperial members choose to pay for them anyway. And the tips are pretty great too, when runners feel like they've had a valuable experience they didn't pay for (even though they did pay, when they bought the membership).
Without RunTOBeer, I probably wouldn't have enough running tours to be worthwhile. Winters here in Toronto can get mighty cold and tourists seldom plan runs when they visit between November and March. But local runners are less afraid of the elements, so I plan destination runs to the Christmas Market or the Winter Light Festival; or themed runs to celebrate Women's History month or St. Patrick’s Day. Each of these runs ends with beer.
Not surprisingly, these runs are almost exclusively booked by my beer runners and often include their friends or family. They pay, they write great reviews and they share their experience on social media.
If you're interested in learning more insights into how I grew RunTOBeer, check back over the next few weeks as I share more details, starting with the all-important revenue streams. In the following weeks, I'll explain promotion strategies (we brewed the official beer of this year's Toronto Waterfront Marathon!), partnerships and other lessons I've learned along the way. I'll post updates to the Running Tour Guides Worldwide Facebook group, to let you know when they appear.