This is the third in a series. You can skip to the beginning by going to: www.runtobeer.ca/blog/part1
The last post introduced the revenue discussion, specifically as it relates to merchandise. You know you've built a solid brand (and community) when people pay you to wear your logo.
While getting paid for your “stuff” is great, you also need to be paid for your time.
RunTOBeer is free (sort of… we’ll get to that shortly). Anyone can join a run at any time without being a member. But although it's not required, we do have a membership. It's a Facebook group which supports more than 4,300 runners in the Toronto area. On a slow month we add about one new member each day. During busier periods we'll see a hundred or more new sign-ups per month. The concept of pairing running + beer is a very popular one.
While our Facebook group is free, there's also our “Imperial Membership.” Imperial, in the beer world, means a beer with a higher alcohol content. If a stout is normally around 5% Alcohol By Volume, an Imperial Stout might be between 8% – 12% ABV. As such, our Imperial Membership is like a regular membership, but with more of the stuff that makes you feel good.
I only sell a limited number of these memberships – 75 to be exact – because one of the biggest perks is advance registration for our runs. RunTOBeer events are insanely popular and often fill in less than five minutes. Imperial members get a minimum of 24 hours advance access to the registration form, so they're pretty much guaranteed a spot any time they want one.
Then there are the discounts. Most race directors are happy to give a price break in exchange for me promoting their event to my 4,300+ Facebook members. I'll negotiate a $15.00 discount for my 75 Imperial members and share a $5.00 discount with my Facebook group. The race gets free promotion. 4,300+ runners get a modest discount. My Imperial members get the best discount. And it costs me nothing more than the time to send a few emails back and forth.
Other Imperial member discounts include RunTOBeer merchandise, classes in beer appreciation, access to a popular fitness studio, fuel for runners, tickets to beer festivals, compression gear and an app for local craft beer discounts. You’d be surprised what you can get just by asking.
I also give my Imperial members the occasional City Running Tours guided run. It’s my way of saying thanks for being an Imperial member, but selfishly I also know I’ll usually get at least two TripAdvisor reviews each time.
I update my Imperial members frequently, offering a few extra incentives and insights into what's going on with the club. It's important that the dues-paying members feel a sense of ownership in the RunTOBeer community. Their questions or comments almost always get an immediate response.
If you curious, check out the Imperial Membership page on this website. I deliver great value for $90.00. Very seldom do members not renew and I have a wait list for spots to become available.
Going back to what I said earlier, how is it RunTOBeer events are always free... sort of?
I spend hours nearly every day dealing with breweries and bars, planning routes, posting updates, responding to questions and actually running the events. Additionally, I have expenses like meetings (usually in bars or breweries), transportation, web & email fees and promotional items (buttons, stickers, flags, etc).
If I was going to keep RunTOBeer free, I had to start asking for donations. It felt awkward at first, but I’m so glad I did it.
Recently I had a runner who had been out of work for an extended period donate $100.00 when she got her first paycheque. For months she had been running and socializing with her friends, drinking beer with them – doing exactly what they were doing – without having to pay for it.
If you've ever been between jobs you know how lousy it feels to decline invitations from your friends because you can't afford to go out. No one likes admitting they're broke. It can be humiliating. RunTOBeer gives someone experiencing a difficult time a break. It gives them community. It gives them activity. If they can't pay, it’s not important.
What I've learned is most of the people that can afford to donate, actually want to. They value the community I’ve built. They truly appreciate the amount of work that goes into planning their social beer run. Donating makes them feel good.
So RunTOBeer, despite being a “free“ series, is now more accurately a “pay-what-you-feel-like” series. I pass around a bag at the end of events, or leave a jar on a table. Some people put in a dollar. Others drop twenty.
And I feel good about it.
I'm not going to say how much revenue RunTOBeer brings in, but it's pretty significant. If you do the math you'll figure out the Imperial Membership alone brings in $6,750.00 per year and costs me nothing more than my time. It's not a living (yet... I have other ideas), but as I mentioned in the first article, it also drives bookings for my running tours.
Of course you can't generate revenue from a running series if you don't have runners, so next week I'll get into building a community. That’s going to require a few posts.
I'll update Running Tour Guides Worldwide when the next one is ready.