Registration Resolutions

January 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

New Year's Resolutions

Now that it’s January, I thought it appropriate to suggest some New Year’s “online registration” resolutions.  I promise these aren’t nearly as difficult as losing 20 pounds.  Plus, implementing them just might get more registrations for your event.

  1. Promote your event on social media, and motivate registrants to do the same.  You can post your listing to Facebook when you publish a form directly from the FormBuilder or copy tool.  If you miss that link or aren’t ready at the time, go back to the first page of the online registration form and click the “share” button at the top.

    Registrants can post to Facebook from their screen and email confirmations.  If you need suggestions for other social strategies, take a look at Ryan Heisler’s recent guest blog article, Feed the Beast:  Social Media for Events.

  2. Check out the SignMeUp tools that you haven’t used, especially in the Form Menu->More Tools section.  There you’ll find Friend Get Friend, our easy-to-use viral marketing program; a tool to create and upload Coupon/Promotion Codes; the Snapshot Widget, a quick summary of your form’s most important statistics; and more.
  3. Maintain a consistent brand image by customizing your online form with a logo and colors that match your website.  You can find customization tools in the Form Menu->Edit Form.  For more help, see SignMeUp Support Guru Katie Petralia’s article, 5 Tips for Building Better Online Registration Forms.
  4. Publish your online registration form well in advance of your event, and, if appropriate, encourage early registration with “early bird” pricing.
  5. Lose 20 pounds (just kidding).

As always, if you need assistance or want further suggestions, feel free to contact our support department or me directly at diane@signmeup.com.  We’re here to help you succeed.

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Feed the Beast: Social Media for Events

December 20, 2012 § 3 Comments

Ryan Heisler is Social Media Manager and Online Registration guru for Maine Running Company, Maine’s only running specialty store.

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Social media wordcloud

Social Media. It’s a scary term for many event organizers. How do you properly market yourself in a medium that is by and large controlled by the end user? How do you know what social media tools are for you?

The answer itself is also a scary one: it depends.

The incorrect answer at any one point in time is ignorance. You have to be a player in this realm. Unlike other marketing opportunities, you’re not talking at your participants; you’re talking with them. You’re providing content that can be liked, shared, retweeted, pinned, and commented on. Social media provides you the way to create not a customer, but a raving fan; one who is ready to sing your praises at every whim.

Social media allows you to connect with your audience, to make your raving fans a part of your event. It’s a lot like word-of-mouth advertising, except you receive actual data about how many people you engaged.

Feed the beast.  It looks worse to have a Facebook or Twitter page that hasn’t been updated frequently than to not do it at all. You’ve got to be continually thinking about how you can engage with your customer.”

In terms of guiding your own social media strategy, you need to take a few steps to ensure success:

Who is the contact person? You need to have one person in control of the message across the multiple media that you select to use. This person needs to understand how social media works, but also understand the message of your brand. You can teach how to properly use social media tools; you can’t teach someone how to be invested in your brand. Choose someone who knows what it is your event stands for and how that relates to your participant.

What social media platforms to use? Understand that each tool is different from one another. Facebook is not Twitter, for example. Although at their heart they are both status update sharing tools, the way that each is consumed requires you to think about what content will be readily accessible. Choose the three that you think would be most beneficial to your brand and be different enough from one another that you’re not always posting the same content to three platforms.

Make those tools stand out: Provide different content across your media tools. You can always re-post content in one tool versus another, but think about how those tools are consumed. In the example of Facebook and Twitter, the average person spends 15 minutes per day on Facebook. Twitter, however, is more often consumed in a scrolling fashion. Your Facebook posts should be longer, to engage with the consumer longer as your consumer tends to stay on Facebook longer. Twitter, on the other hand, requires multiple short posts to reach out.

Building trust in your brand: I use Twitter primarily as a customer service vehicle. This engages our customer base, but also shows transparency: if something goes wrong, we won’t hide it. It creates trust that we will do everything to make the customer happy. How can you best utilize your social media tools to reach that end?

Don’t overdo it: If you’ve understood the mediums that you’re using, you know about the tools that people spend the longest on. Therefore, you don’t want to overstimulate. E-mail marketing is a weekly tool; don’t wind up in the spam box because you send too many e-mails. Facebook is a daily tool; people spend so much time on it that they will see your post. Twitter is an hourly tool; you need to be constantly updating to make sure you appear in someone’s feed. Very rarely will someone scroll through all of the tweets they missed during a day.

Feed the beast. It looks worse to have a Facebook or Twitter page that hasn’t been updated frequently than to not do it at all. You’ve got to be continually thinking about how you can engage with your customer.

These steps are just the preliminary manner to get started. But understanding how to engage your customer is a way to have them invested in your brand. People want to feel like they belong to something; make them feel like they belong to your group of raving fans.

Event Sponsorship: The Inside Scoop

December 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

Several of my SignMeUp colleagues and I recently attended The Running Event in Austin, TX.  The three days were packed full of workshops and presentations, as well as a huge product expo and a particularly intimidating 5K run (the winning time was 14:23 – a 4:38 pace – and the top 11 finishers  were all under 5:00 per mile).  I sat in on one especially relevant workshop, “How to Make Events a Real Win for Your Business,” sponsored by NATHAN, the leading running accessories brand.  Presenters included three SignMeUp online registration and retail customers:  Dave Zimmer from Fleet Feet Sports Chicago, Kathy Dalby from Pacers Events, and John Rogers from Maine Running Company.  While targeted to independent retailers, the discussion provided some excellent general tips on how to make your event more valuable to your running store partner, and in turn, make your running store partner more valuable to your event.

The Expert Panel

Dave Zimmer, Rebecca Wallace, Kathy Dalby, John Clark, John Rogers

Notably, the moderator kicked off the presentation by defining what the word “event” means to running retailers, and the elements that are most important for an event to contain.  Each panelist returned to this list when presenting case studies of successful events.  An event must:

  • Be a noteworthy, social experience
  • Elevate the store’s cause and brand
  • Allow the store to gain social currency among its community
  • Generate revenue for the business

There are many ways for an event to fulfill these criteria beyond the standard in-store registration and packet pickup.  Pacers Running Stores, for example, was looking for a way to “gain more traction in the high school market.”  Solution?  Pacers teamed up with New Balance to develop the Pacers & New Balance High School XC Tour.  Pacers replaced the outdated popsicle stick timing system used by many high schools, set up a retail tent at every Tour cross country meet, created activities for the participants during downtime, and offered student discounts on formerly slow sales days.  Kathy said that the high school coaches greatly appreciated the assistance, the participants enjoyed the more dynamic atmosphere, and students engaged with Pacers brand.

The other panelists’ case studies were equally as informative and helpful.  Thanks to NATHAN, you can download a copy of the presentation deck here.  I encourage you to check it out.

Running retailers are a creative bunch.  If you want to strengthen your partnership, try meeting with the store’s marketing team to come up with ideas.  It will be a win-win situation for both of you.

It’s Not a Race, it’s a Trot

November 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

Among the many traditions we experience on Thanksgiving, there is one that cannot be denied due to its simple popularity. This is the Turkey Trot. You may know it as the Gobbler or Pie Run, etc. No matter the title, the event is the same, a race on Thanksgiving morning!

I had the privilege of working with the organizers of the Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot located in Clearwater, Florida. As Turkey Trots go, this is one of the largest, with a participant field of close to 20,000 people. This was our first year powering their online registration and my job was to assist at the three early shirts & bib pick up events throughout Clearwater the week of Thanksgiving.

Everything went smoothly, the tell-tale signs of an experienced Race Committee (and online registration provider). The final event was the Kick-Off Party located in the football stadium of Clearwater High School on Thanksgiving eve. Over 5,000 folks attended to not only check in, but also enjoy the free food, drinks, music and festivities around the Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot. For me, this was the pinnacle of the experience, even though I would never see race day (I would be back home at 3:00 am race morning).

Turkey Trot

Now, it may seem odd that I can say this, the “pinnacle of my experience” without even setting step on course race day for the Turkey Trot. But it is the truth, and here is why.

Throughout the week, and in particular at the Kick-Off Party, I marveled at the numbers of people picking up race bibs and shirts, not just for themselves, but for others. While I felt bad for the poor soul in charge of compiling all the confirmations and gathering all the shirts and bibs for family and friends, I also chuckled that it was readily apparent this was a normal “errand” to most of these people. This was routine, an act akin to the giant grocery shop, getting the turkey, picking up family at the airport and other odds and ends in preparation for Thanksgiving Day. They came in all types; Dad picking up for the kids, Mom picking up for kids and relatives, Grandparents picking up for their children and grandchildren, couples showing up, friends picking up for friends, etc. Everyone had a laugh, a joyous excitement for not only reuniting with family and friends, but also for the anticipation of the big event the next day – the Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot.

Thus, witnessing this, it became clear to me. The Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot is special. Because it is not a race (albeit there were some competitive runners returning), it was a true gathering of family and friends, for a couple of hours on one of the most traditional holidays; Thanksgiving. Rather than a race, it was in the true meaning of a Trot with loved ones. The Turkey Trot was the start to a wonderful day and weekend surrounded by loved ones giving thanks in their lives. The race was not timed except for the very top finishers, yet everyone was excited to get out and walk or run, with family, spouses, children and friends.

So in conclusion, perhaps this is the reason for the huge popularity of Thanksgiving Day races that take place in the thousands across the country. The Turkey Trot is not just an excuse to splurge on a wonderful meal later in the day; rather it was a true gathering of family and friends as witness by what I experienced not at the race, but at all the activity prior to the race.

It was a marvelous experience for me and a hearty thanks goes out to the West Florida Y’ Runners Club and the City of Clearwater Parks & Recreation Department. We at SignMeUp hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and wish you all happiness and health this Holiday season!

$68 v. $43: What’s the Difference?

November 15, 2012 § 3 Comments

Note:  Thank you to Parker Kanan, Executive Director of the IRRA, for the following article.

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If you organize a running event, it’s likely that you have a relationship with an independently owned specialty running store.  Local running stores provide sponsorship, promotion and technical advice to countless events across the country.  With Black Friday coming and Small Business Saturday the following day, you have a terrific opportunity to support your running store partner – and your community – by shopping locally.

…for every $100 in consumer spending with a local business, $68 remained in the local economy.  On the flip side, for every $100 in consumer spending with a chain firm, only $43 remained in the local economy.

Specialty running shops are about much more than running shoes and gear.  Most have clinics and classes designed to train aspiring and established runners on how to eat, train, and prepare for their upcoming race or event.  The goal of a local shop owner is for all their customers to achieve theirs.  The rising popularity of running has grabbed the attention of national sporting goods chains and online retailers.  The growth of running products in these channels has eclipsed the growth at specialty retail three years running.  These larger retailers offer similar products as specialty retailers at competitive prices but may not invest in the education and service found at specialty.  As a result, customers shopping outside specialty miss out on the expertise and customization needed to ensure the proper fit that leads to a great run and lasting fitness.  “What makes specialty special is the level of passion of each person working at the store,” says David Sobolik, owner of Fit Right, a local running store based in Portland, OR.  “We are all about the customer and getting it right, but we also want to motivate and inspire them as they walk out the door.”

sneakers

Founded in 2006, the Independent Running Retailer Association (IRRA) represents the interests of these specialty running retailers within the United States.  The IRRA provides a voice for independent specialty shops as they compete to maintain running as a lifestyle within their cities and towns.  Through advocacy, education and member programs such as those provided by the IRRA/SignMeUp partnership, the IRRA strives to provide an even playing field for the ‘little guy’.  Local running shops are the heart and soul of running fitness in this country.  Other retailers can do it bigger but no one can do it better than specialty running shops.  Running is hard.  People quit every day.  Local retailers connect, and people need that connection to keep at it and stay motivated.

In 2013 the IRRA launches its nationwide Lace Up Local campaign. Through national advertising, social media, and in-store events, Lace Up Local strives to build awareness around the customer and economic benefits of shopping local.   The Andersonville Study of Retail Economics highlighted that for every $100 in consumer spending with a local business, $68 remained in the local economy.  On the flip side, for every $100 in consumer spending with a chain firm, only $43 remained in the local economy.  The local benefit of online purchases are far less than even chain stores since nearly all the money leaves the local economy and goes to the home territory of the online retailer.  Circulating money through the local business strengthens economies.  Shop owners patronize the same grocery stores, support the same PTAs, and contribute to the same local organizations as their customers.  Lace up Local illustrates that customer decisions matter, and their choice on where to purchase can have a far reaching benefit.

Do you make a point of shopping locally?  Why or why not?

Are You Prepared?

November 1, 2012 § 1 Comment

After checking on my New Jersey family and friends, one of my first thoughts upon seeing the devastation wrought by hurricane Sandy was “what is the New York Marathon going to do?”  As of this writing, the marathon is still scheduled to “go on as normal” this Sunday.  However, seeing photos of the debris in the streets makes a “normal” marathon hard to imagine.

Hurricane Sandy dramatically highlights the importance of thorough contingency planning when putting together an event.  Stuff happens, be it dangerous weather, unannounced construction or occupy movements.  Although thinking about  altering or cancelling the event you’ve put so much hard work into is difficult, SignMeUp Regional Sales Manager and former National Marathon race director Keith Dowling believes it’s necessary to come up with “the list of conditions that would shut down” your event.  Before each race Keith’s team would hold a “what if” meeting where they ran through various scenarios.  They developed a plan for what they would do with event participants if they needed to shut down after the race had already started.  Tough to think about!

NYC lower east side

Lower East Side, October 30 2012

Keith’s crew segmented certain weather related conditions so they had a plan for each just in case: rain, lightning, black ice, deep snow, heat advisory and cold advisory.  They also had a divergence plan that they almost needed to use one year when, being in Washington DC, the Secretary of State drove through the course with a motorcade after the race had started!

Vision Event Management‘s Chad Antcliff told me that “fortunately, or unfortunately, we’ve had plenty of experience dealing with some of the likely scenarios and are able to have a baseline for planning and tweak our plans as we encounter new obstacles.”  He cited another real world example of when his planning paid off.  This past September for the Brewers Mini-Marathon, there was “a thunderstorm with lightning 30 minutes before the start within 30 miles of the race site.  We had to enact our evacuation plan to get everyone safely out of the conditions.  Our staff utilized our megaphones, PA system and social media to alert participants about the delay and directed them where to seek shelter.  After we had 15 minutes with no lightning strikes within 15 miles of the race site and got the go ahead from public safety personnel, we directed participants back to the start line.  The race started at 7:25, 25 minutes past our scheduled time, but ended up going off without a hitch.”

“Contingency planning messes with your head,” said Keith, “but you never want to be caught not knowing what to do in an emergency.”  Hopefully you will never need to execute a contingency plan, but you’ll be glad it’s there if you do.

How do you develop contingency plans for your event?  What have you done when something unexpected happened?

SignMeUp for Halloween!

October 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

Super? Scary?  Super scary, or just plain silly?  This weekend thousands of runners will head out to a local race but answering the question “what to wear?” requires more than a quick check of the weather.  It’s costume time folks and we’ve taken a look back at some of SignMeUp’s online registration client’s Halloween themed events to bring you a few of the best.  These aren’t just costumes, they’re costumes made to run!

 

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It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s the super heroes!
These guys had the right idea when they picked out something to wear.  Not only can these costumes move, apparently they’ve got super powers that guarantee a strong finish.

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Cereal!  Not serial (as in killer).
Snap, Crackle and Pop ran the Pumpkins in the Park 5K in Chicago’s Lincoln Park.  Even though this is an afternoon event, these costumes look like just the thing after rolling out of bed for a 5K.  As an added bonus, these runners could snack on their breakfast fave throughout the run.  The Pumpkins in the Park 5K is put on by the folks at Fleet Feet Sports – Chicago.  The sold out 13th annual takes place this Saturday (10/27/12) and will feature a kids race, costume contest and a post-race movie in the park!


Pick a Pumpkin
Maryalicia Verdecchia picked a winning costume to wear at the inaugural Runaway Pumpkin Half Marathon in Lebanon, Oregon.  She ran as the runaway pumpkin herself and won the costume contest!  This year’s event, the second annual, takes place on Saturday (10/27/12) and benefits ABC House – Child Abuse Assessment Center. 

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Earn your stripes
Where’s Waldo!?  No Halloween run would be complete without someone in these famous red stripes.  This kid looks comfortable in his costume and seems to be keeping pace at the Mooseheart Monster Mash 5K in Mooseheart, Illinois.  This year’s event took place last Saturday (10/20/12).

http://www.carmelghostrun.com/2011_Photos.html
The Galloping Gourmet
He’s got the toque, he’s got the jacket, it’s a recipe for a magnificent run at the Ghosts & Goblins 5K/2K & Wellness Fair in Carmel, Indiana.  The fourth annual event, managed by long-time  SignMeUp online registration clients, Vision Event Management takes place this Saturday (10/27/12).

http://www.fleetfeetmenlopark.com/
Waddle this Way
Black and white never goes out of style, especially at the Ghost Run 5K hosted by Fleet Feet Sports – Menlo Park in California.  This year’s event takes place on Saturday morning (10/27/12) and features a costume contest and a ghost chase.

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Super Fan
You can’t go wrong supporting your team while you’re on the run.  This guy hits his stride at the FraidyCat 5K and Meow Mile in Oswego, Illinois.  This year’s second annual event takes place on Sunday (10/28/12).

One of the perks of producing a Halloween run is seeing the creativity that goes into the costumes and the start line packed with a little of everything.  The bottom line is fun.  As Lynn Youngs from the Runaway Pumpkin Half Marathon said “at ABC House we work with children and we do children’s abuse assessment.  When we came up with the idea for the run, we were looking to create something inspired by kids, something that would be fun.”

What is the best costume you’ve ever seen on the run?  Share your best Halloween event photos on our Facebook page!