Local Business Marketing Case Study

Applying Business Sense to Fundraising & Social Media

We just finished an interview for Social Media: Cheap and Easy with Bill Garlough.

I know, you’ve never heard of Bill Garlough. That’s okay. We’ll be meeting a lot of business owners we’ve never heard of. That’s because it’s important for all of us to see examples of people – people just like us – being successful. Then we know we can do it, too.

Here’s the success:

Bill and Karen Garlough founded Soup’s On – a fundraiser – 3 years ago. In 3 years, they went from 750 attendees to 1,200 in the first 90 minutes. And they’ve skyrocketed to raising more than $110,000 with a 5 hour event.

Not bad, right?

Their success is definitely impressive. But the best thing about the whole event is that they’ve followed good business practice in developing it. In fact, what Bill and Karen have done is nearly textbook perfect. So much so that Soup’s On is going to be one of the case studies in the 2011 version of the Business Owner’s Guide to Social Media.

Now let’s look at how they applied good business sense to this fundraiser. Grade Your Business Presence

Bill is a Rotarian, and they started by looking at their annual fundraiser – an Octoberfest celebration.

The Rotary club had been doing the same fundraiser for 16 years. Attendance was dropping, and so was the revenue generated and the club’s interest level. So the club asked Bill (and Bill volunteered) to develop a new fundraiser.

He started by looking at other fundraisers happening in Naperville, IL (that’s where Bill lives), and how they were done. A couple of things Bill noticed is that there are a lot of fundraisers, many of them are expensive ($100 and higher), and they’re mostly adult events.

Soup’s On is designed to be inexpensive ($35 tickets). It’s a family event – you’ll hear in the interview (it goes live next Tuesday) what’s being done for the kids, and for dads. And it’s hosted during a Sunday afternoon.

The event was designed to meet the wants of the community. It also meets a unique need in 3 communities.

Listen to Your Audience

The people in Naperville, Aurora and Wheaton (the 3 communities being served) wanted an event that’s easy to participate in. It needed to be something everyone can easily understand, and it had to be fun.

Soup’s On answers those wants by having high school musical performers cycle through in 45 minute sessions. It’s also held in a location – Tellman Labs – that’s large, bright and airy.

The reason Soup’s On has experienced such tremendous growth is that they’re giving the community what it wants.

Acquire Your Content

In this case, content means 30 restaurants bringing food. Everything from chicken wings and sandwiches to soups, gumbo, deserts and bread.

It also means teaming with the non-profits involved to inform the audience about where their money is going. We cover this in great depth during the interview. (Yes, I’m deliberately encouraging you to listen to the interview when it goes live next Tuesday.)

Distribute Your Content

You know an event that raises over $110,000 in just 5 hours is doing a good job of getting the message out. They’re also doing a terrific job with content during the event – the food, drink and fun.

The main reason I’m so impressed with Soup’s On is that they’ve grown the event WITHOUT using social media. They’ve built it using word of mouth advertising and traditional media. It’s only now – after 3 years of development and success – that they feel ready to begin implementing social media.

With their now huge base of attendees, and the media coverage they’ve received, you know social media is going to cause an explosion in attendance. This means it’s a good thing they’ve taken the time to develop the systems needed to professionally host an event.

That’s it for now. I’ll be writing about this again because I’d very much like your input on which elements you’d like to focus on. They have a solid business model, and they’re introducing social media (yes, I”m involved with that introduction). And I’ll be sure to include examples of how you can re-purpose what Soup’s On has done for other businesses.

Thanks for reading.

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