Bill Alfano is the Director of Marketing and Sponsorship for the Pan-Mass Challenge, the nation’s single most successful athletic fundraiser. He brings strong experience in marketing, promotions, event management to his role, having worked previously as Event, Promotion and Marketing Directors at various radio station clusters in Arizona, Connecticut, Texas and most recently, Boston, where he had the pleasure of running many non-profit programs and fundraisers for The Jimmy Fund, Pan-Mass Challenge and other local charities. Day-to-day, Bill manages the organization’s existing and prospective sponsor relationships and has made an impact, selling in key corporate sponsors and also leads all PMC marketing, PR and social media efforts.
Today on the podcast Bill and Adam chat about what is and isn’t working in digital marketing, and how to target people that share aspects of your mission.
Adam: [00:00:00] Hi, and welcome to the Good People, Good Marketing podcast, a podcast about digital marketing and how to make it better so that good people and good organizations can have good marketing as well. I’m your host, Adam Walker, co-founder of Sideways Eight a digital marketing agency and 48in48 a non-profit dedicated to hosting events to build forty-eight websites for forty-eight non-profits in forty-eight hours.
[00:00:29] My guest on the show today is Bill Alfano. Bill is a director of marketing and sponsorship for the Pan-Mass Challenge, the nations single most successful athletic fundraiser. He brings strong experience in marketing, promotions, events management to his role having previously worked as events, promotion and marketing directors at various radio station clusters in Arizona, Connecticut, Texas, and most recently in Boston who had the pleasure of running mini nonprofit programs and fundraisers for the Jimmy Fund Pan-Mass Challenge and other local charities. Day to day Bill manages the organization’s existing and prospective sponsor relationships and he has made an impact selling in key corporate sponsorships and also leads all PMC marketing, PR and social media efforts. Bill, welcome to the show and it sounds like you got a few things going on.
Bill: [00:00:17] I was just going to say I should probably get off the call right now and get back to work.
Adam: [00:001:22] I think your day just got longer.
Bill: [00:01:24] Thanks for having me.
Adam: [00:01:27] Man, I love what you’re doing. This is great, so you’re raising funds, Pan-Mass Challenge biggest nations, single largest athletic fundraiser. That sounds amazing.
Bill: [00:01:38] It’s amazing. We’ve raised six hundred and fifty-four million dollars since the event started in 1980 and all of it’s gone directly to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
Adam: [00:01:51] Wow, we may need to have a sidebar here in a little bit. Anyway with that said let’s go ahead and dive into our discussion about digital marketing. Question number one related to digital marketing, can you tell us something that’s worked well for you?
Bill: [00:02:05] Yeah, sure this is like my favorite topic. You know it sounds a little cliche, but for us and for me it’s still all about storytelling you know going back to the Cave Art, right, and how people communicated and how they passed down folklore. So much of the Pan-Mass Challenge, or as we call it, the PMC, is about the community that it’s built. Our riders average eight or nine years in and there’s three-generation families and our volunteers are ten, twenty years and with this comes a lot of storytelling. People falling off their bikes, people they’ve met, successes, rain, sun. What my job is, is how do I find these stories and what do we do with them? Originally this was a component that we use primarily just for PR and traditional media and the vision there was what else could we do with it?
[00:03:03] So I’m at a constant need for content, probably like every [00:03:08 audible] so call it selfish or call it visionary, I’m like what if we just have people submit their own stories and we call it, Why PMC and they can be riders, sponsors. They could be volunteers, they could be family members and every year, Adam we put out emails to our community and ask them for their story. We get hundreds of them as you can imagine. Most will make you cry because we’re dealing with cancer and how that affects them or their family or their friends or co-workers and there’s a lot of uplifting ones in there as well, and we start going through those stories and figure out what do we think fits our blog posts.
[00:03:50] We have a whole blog dedicated to Why PMC. What do we think we could do as a video component? What do we think we could push to traditional media? And we’ve just built out these stories for years now I think we’re going on our fifth year of this program and it has done nothing, but continually grow and show interest. We’ve expanded the program a little bit this year with the PMC impact video series and it’s awesome. You would love it. I got to sit down with nine doctors, researchers at Dana Farber and have them look at a camera and my question to them was, “What does PMC funding do for you and how does it advance your research to try to find cures for cancer?” And you can imagine- I have goosebumps right now to hear these people who are just brilliant, talk about what these funds do and what they do to get these bigger grants in from the National Institute of Health and places like that and it’s all live. It’s all seed money from the PMC and to get these videos out via social media, via email to our riders and let them use it in their fundraising efforts we’re already seeing the benefits of that.
Adam: [00:05:05] Wow, I love that. I love how simple it is. Why PMC and just let them go. You’re crowd-sourcing great content.
Bill: [00:05:14] That’s right and it’s taken a lot off my plate so that’s what leaves me room to do podcasts, right?
Adam: [00:05:18] There you go. Yeah, it’s one of the fourteen thousand things done and now you can do podcasts and thirteen thousand three hundred and ninety-nine.
Bill: [00:05:25] Yeah.
Adam: [00:05:25] All right, well so moving on to value your time. Next question here related to digital marketing, can you tell us something that has not worked well that we can learn from?
Bill: [00:05:35] Nothing. It’s all worked perfectly.
Adam: [00:05:36] All perfect, everything’s great.
Bill: [00:05:36] Just like I like I [00:05:41 inaudible]. The big learning when I first got here, I’m going on my seventh year, when I first got here we have three distinct products at the PMC. We have (05:49 unclear) challenge itself which is the adult ride twenty-five miles to a hundred and ninety-two miles, you bike across Massachusetts. It’s pretty amazing. We also have a kids rides program, which is thirty to thirty-five different rides all over New England and New York, and believe it or not their goal this year is a million dollars. They did $950,000 last year and then we’ve launched four years ago the winter cycle, PMC winter cycle, which is an indoor spin-a-thon that we host at Fenway Park in January. The thought process with these three distinct products was let’s launch social media efforts for all of them, have their own channels. PMC channel, kids ride channel, winter cycle channel, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, the whole thing and it really backfired.
[00:06:36] We’ve wound up over the last two years pulling all the brands together under the PMC umbrella and we’re able to give better content, we’re able to give fresher content. We’re able to meet the expectations of what the users and the people who want to associate with those brands are looking for in social media. And the big one is just being able to manage the upkeep because if you’re not paying attention to what your social media is, you might as well not be doing it and we were getting to a point with three different brands, all those channels. We only have a staff of ten people. There’s only two of us that work on social media so we weren’t putting in the time and what was happening is we were just repeating content from channel to channel or from brand to brand, and so we pulled it all in house and it’s made a huge difference.
Adam: [00:07:24] I love it when I hear any marketer say, “We pulled it all together.” People ask me like I was doing a webinar yesterday and it was for five hundred non-profits. It was great, and one of the questions was, “Hey, we have this big event, should we have a standalone event site separate from our nonprofit site?” And I’m like, “Why would you ever do that? No, don’t do that.” No, no, no, you need to keep it all together. It needs to all be one place and get the [00:07:50 inaudible], the SEO juice. Get the whole thing. Keep it all in one place so I love that you’re doing that and I hate that you learned the hard way, but by [00:07:59 inaudible] …
Bill: [00:07:57] Good learning though, it’s all about learning, right? It’s all about learning.
Adam: [00:08:02] You learned the hard way and now we don’t have to, that’s why thank you.
Bill: [00:08:06] Well you’re welcome, you’re welcome.
Adam: [00:08:06] I appreciate your mistake on our behalf.
Bill: [00:08:08] I did it all for you.
Adam: [00:08:11] All right, last question. I love this one related to digital marketing tell me something you’re excited about.
Bill: [00:08:17] All right, well I wrote down four of them. I’ll try to rip through them quick. We don’t have to get to them all I guess. One is I’m really and I’m a little late on this one, but I wanted to make sure we did it right. I’m really exploring the influencer opportunity. I feel that with what we do and what we offer there’s a real place for it. We’ve dabbled in this, but now I’m working with kind of our communication team to try to find the right people and I’m looking at it three different ways. You know I want some bullhorn people who just have that mega following who can just get the information out there. I’m looking targeted, people who are really focused on either cycling or spinning or depending on which of the brands we’re putting out messaging for.
[00:08:59] And then who are the emotional ones like one of the people we’re considering she’s a mom. She is an avid rider. She’s a cancer survivor, she’s local and obviously her following is a speck compared to some of the other people I’m considering, but I know her message to her followers is basically gospel. So I’m trying to go after this thing with three different views to see what’s the strongest way to start bringing people in because even though it’s a sell-out event for the most part, even though it’s raising a lot of money you have to keep the funnel full. You have to get eyes and ears on what you’re trying to accomplish.
Adam: [00:09:40] I mean if you’re not growing, you’re sliding backwards. Keep growing.
Bill: [00:09:42] Absolutely. A little of just housekeeping, but something I’m super excited about we finally moved all our websites over to the hub spot platform. The key for me is I finally have everything responsive we’re a little behind on that, but the better part for me is I have lead generation tools. I have true analytics tools and this is crazy, but everyone in my office now has the ability to edit their own section as opposed to us having to go to a developer so we are able to keep things absolutely up to date and correct on the fly so that’s an exciting one for us.
Adam: [00:10:22] All right, I love that and did you have two more? Is that right?
Bill: [00:10:25] Yeah, I mean I could throw them out there.
Adam: [00:10:27] Do it real fast. Tell me what you got. I’m running.
Bill: [00:10:27] I mean the one big one is, we are working directly with Facebook on a Facebook fundraiser integration so that you come through your profile page as a rider and there’s a button on there that creates a Facebook fundraiser. We feel this could be absolutely game-changing. We toyed with Facebook fundraisers last year and the whole process for us was very manual because each of our riders is an individual fundraiser so there’s a lot of behind the scenes. This will streamline this behind the scenes, but also make it very simple and very easy for our riders to get the word out there about what their efforts are and what they’re trying to raise money for.
Adam: [00:11:10] I love that. I love that. That’s great and last one. You got one more, right?
Bill: [00:11:15] Yeah, the other one is also Facebook related. For the first time we’re doing a really targeted approach to promote our twenty five and fifty mile routes and we’re doing a program behind the scenes with the socialized group a vast group and have really targeted really strategic brand awareness building campaign that goes right into a let’s get to the confirmation page and get people to sign up. We probably have a thousand spots left for these routes, which is an extra one to three million dollars that we could be bringing in that we’re leaving on the table so I’m trusting people much smarter than me to put this thing together. I’m working them and let’s just hope the algorithm that Facebook has as to where to push the buy and where to put the money behind it works properly and we’re able to add an extra one to three million dollars towards potential cancer research.
Adam: [00:12:07] Oh I love that. Well, I think Facebook tends to have some analytics [00:12:09 inaudible]
Bill: [00:12:10] They know what they’re doing, right?
Adam: [00:12:12] You’ll probably be all right there, yeah absolutely. Well, Bill, let me see if I can recap what we’ve talked about so far give our listeners a good takeaway then I’ll ask you if you have any final questions. Question number one, what has worked well? You said storytelling, that PMC is about community. You talked about there’s three generations of families. There’s volunteers that have worked for ten to twenty years, so there’s a whole community around it. You’re also finding stories by asking people to share their stories and specifically asking Why PMC and then you’re gathering those stories and seeing where do they fit in. Are they videos? Are they blog posts? Do we use them with traditional media? So you’re crowd-sourcing great stories about your event to support your event, which I find amazing.
Bill: [00:12:51] Thank you.
Adam: [00:12:51] For question number two, what hasn’t worked well that we can learn from? You said individual social channels for all products. You said three different rides that backfired, it got too hard to manage so you pulled it all together. Now everything’s easier to manage. It’s all together as one unified brand. It’s easier to keep up with. I strongly recommend nonprofits keep one unified brand and then question number three, what are you excited about? Four things, influencers you’re targeting the bullhorn. The targeted is in cycling and is in your space, in the emotional small followings where what they say is Gospel.
[00:13:22] Your second thing you’re excited about is moving your websites into one CMS hub spot and its responsive. You’ve got legion tools, analytics tools, access to your staff. It’s great. Next one is Facebook fundraiser integration through direct rider profiles making that easier to set up for you rather than manual like it’s been in the past and last one, Facebook targeted promotion to help promote races. Does that sound about right? Did I miss anything there?
Bill: [00:13:46] No, the only thing is just, Adam, we’re not a race we’re a ride.
Adam: [00:13:49] All right, I’m terribly sorry you’re a ride of course, of course, yes. All right you are a ride indeed and you said that several times and I wrote down race somehow. It’s in my brain.
Bill: [00:13:58] It’s all right, that’s all right.
Adam: [00:13:58] Well, Bill, this was fantastic. Do you have any final thoughts you want to share with our listeners?
Bill: [00:14:06] The only one I would say is keep whatever you’re on message points are that you use on traditional media, figure out a way to also put them into digital media. Like for instance, our biggest message is always 100% pass or 100% of all money raised by our riders goes right to Dana Farber. It’s our strongest point. We pull it, we survey it, but how do you integrate that across all your social media channels, your website, your app, everything else. You got to figure out a way to do it. Find out what that core message is and don’t just use it for copy points and talking points in traditional media.
Adam: [00:14:37] Yeah, wow that’s great. I love that. I love that. Bill, this was enlightening. I want to have you back on the show. I know you’re going to say yes, so I’ll just assume we’re good.
Bill: [00:14:46] Thank you, yes.
Adam: [00:14:46] And thanks for joining me, man. I really appreciate it.
Bill: [00:14:49] Thank you.
Adam: [00:14:52] Thanks for listening to the Good People, Good Marketing podcast. To get more resources about digital marketing, make sure to go to goodpeoplegoodmarketing.com where you can find more podcasts, blogs, and other fun resources.
Also, if you want to find me your host, you can find me on Twitter @ajwalker and on my blog adamjwalker.com where I blog about leadership productivity, habit building and the craziness of having five kids. Thanks, and tune in next time.
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