Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Zero Motorcycles Rocks - How To Create New Fans

The PTA for my my son's elementary school raises over $100,000 a year at their annual auction.  The money goes to fund in-class aides, catch-up reader and math programs, the music program and half the library staff. <insert rant about the sorry state of school funding in California>  This year, Zero Motorcycles played a fabulous part in the auction and they deserve a shout out for it.

The auction is a combination silent auction, live auction, dinner and dancing.  It sucks up all available baby-sitters in a 10-mile radius but is a fun night out so parents can have a night out and raise money for the school.  The silent auction items include parties, wine, gift baskets, services, lessons and the usual stuff from local merchants.  The live auction is for bigger ticket items like weekends in Tahoe, sail boat cruises, four kids riding a fire truck, items made by some of the classes, etc.  The PTA have been doing it for a while and are VERY efficient at it.  Let me know if your PTA is interested and I can put you in touch with some rock star organizers.

Zero is based here in town and like most businesses in the area they get zillions of requests from multiple PTAs and other worthy groups scrabbling for cash.  Zero consented to giving one of their urban-cross bikes at cost for the live auction part of the evening.  Cool.  Someone was going home with a green ride and the school was going to get some more money.

When it came time to sell the bike during the live auction, one of the organizers rode it into the ballroom to great effect.  The only sound was people cheering.  Another organizer got on her cell phone and said that she had a 'phone bidder' on the line.  The bidding went from $1000 to $7000 in a heartbeat and didn't slow down until there were two people left bidding at $11,000 (well over list price).  The person on the phone then announced that she was talking to Zero and Zero said that they would give another bike if both bidders went in at $11,000.  Sold!  Two guys went home happy, the school got double the money and Zero Motorcycles got hundreds of new fans - me included.

It's not so extraordinary that people were willing to pay over list - we can chalk it up to the worthiness of the event and quantities of alcohol.  What's extraordinary is that a business understood its relationship to its community and stepped up in a big way.  My biking days are behind me but it won't stop me from being a rabid evangelist for them.  If you're looking for a bike, check them out.  You'll not only get one of the coolest sets of wheels going, you'll help out a great school.

Key Take-Aways:
  • Fans can come from many sectors - even well outside your buyer persona.
  • What are you doing outside the norm to find and create those fans?
  • Your company's responsibility goes well beyond delighted customers.  Look for ways to create delighted local communities, neighborhoods or schools.  You'll benefit in the long run.
Next Up: Reflections of a Product Camp Newbie


  1. Great article.

    I was part of a fundraiser in our town last year that raised over $600,000. Part of it was through a successful online auction. It was great to see the outpouring of items from local businesses.

  2. Bibi,

    Thanks for the comment and congrats on the fund raising. It galls me that we have to do this but there isn't another way. So much about schools and school funding is fundamentally broken this is the only way to deal with it to ensure our kids get what they deserve until we all wake up and make real changes to it all.

    I'm glad the folks at Zero understand how we are all interconnected. Strong business is tied to strong communities which are founded on strong schools.