Using your Participants as your Biggest Marketers

Once you have got a few people signed up to your race, the chances are they’ll talk to someone about it or want to do it with a friend. We all understand the power of a personal recommendation; when someone you know and trust tells you to check something out, you’re much more likely to do so. This presents a window of opportunity, which if done correctly, can increase the organic reach of your event and harness its social momentum.

Here are a few ways that you can use your participants to help market your race.

Referral programs

Referral programs engage your current participants and reward them for promoting your race within their social circles. The great thing about promoting your event through a referral program is that you don’t have to put your hand in your pocket unless someone actually buys a ticket. What’s more, when it comes to rewarding ambassadors, it’s often not cold, hard cash they’re driven by. This means you can offer them a discount on tickets, exclusive merchandise, or at-event perks – all of which can work out cheaper than paying for traditional advertising.

Compared to discounting, referral marketing is a very different proposition. Yes, you are still providing monetary incentives in some cases. But rather than give those out as price reductions to people who register, you give them instead as a “reward” to people who get others to register for your race, usually at full price.

You are basically creating mini race ambassadors that can hope to secure a free or discounted entry for themselves by enrolling others into the race. Many marketers believe referral strategies have the lowest cost per acquisition than any other form of marketing, so it’s worth at least trying. 

In terms of the way a typical referral program would be structured, there are three key components to think of:

  • Create a tracking link: Your eventrac platform allows you to provide participants with a unique link or code they can share with people. This link will track sign-ups that a specific person has referred to the race. 
  • The incentive structure: This lays out how the reward a participant will receive for referrals changes depending on the number of participants they refer to the race. So this may look something like “You get 10% off your registration price for every confirmed participant you refer to the race, capped at a maximum of 50%”.
  • The reward: This is what a program participant can hope to gain by referring other people to the race. Typically this is a percentage discount on the entry price, but it can also be an item of race merchandise, some VIP or other exclusive perk or, in some cases, even a cash incentive.

Your referral recruits may do all the leg work for your referral program, but to get them to sign up you need to do your bit first.

The first place you should publicise your referral program is your website. Make sure the incentive structure is clearly articulated and all relevant information is available through your website’s registration page and your Eventrac event profile pages in your description. 

You should include your referral program on your ticket confirmation emails to participants too. While you might naturally want to steer towards a simple “10 signups = 1 free race entry” model, it’s better to keep the incentive structure open-ended. That way, if a participant has more people to refer, they have a reason to do so. If 10 signups suffice to secure a referrer’s free entry in the race, use a VIP pass or free T-shirt to get them to the next 10 – and so on.

A referral program can be launched at any point leading up to the race. Generally speaking, the earlier you have it in place, the better.

Leveraging your early-bird participants can be a great way to kickstart your referral program. More often than not, people who register early are more passionate about a race and thus more likely to want to share it with their friends and network.

Create communities with Facebook Groups 

A Facebook Group is a place for group communication and for people to share their common interests and express their opinion. They let people come together around a common cause, in this case your event, to organize amongst themselves, discuss issues, post photos, and share related content.

There are several reasons why you might want to build one of these for your event. Marketing is just one of them! You get to know what topics members are drawn to and what discussions really interest them. You can also use it as a rapid feedback tool. Communities can help organisers retain customers, boost their SEO by bringing in search traffic from relevant questions, and generate sales leads. If you want volunteers, it’s a pretty good place to look for those people too. You’ll be able to use it as a hive of activity, to tap into the power of personal recommendation by keeping your participants engaged. 

Here are a few useful pointers when setting up a Facebook Group:

  • Topics of interest. Unless the aim of your forum is to simply act as a customer service portal, it should focus on a broader subject than just your event, things that people are passionate about and will want to engage in conversation about. Here you can branch out into training plans, marathon meal prep, race clothing brands, etc. Your event will be the vehicle bringing everything together, but it needs some fuel in the tank.
  • Start Small. Test the water by handpicking some of your best customers or most engaged attendees and invite them to join your Facebook group. One of the biggest mistakes to make is trying to make a big bang launch with enough members at the right time, and hope it will explode into life. But the problem with that is you’re sending everyone to an empty platform. Find the most likely people; people you have the best relationships with, initially just five to 20, and just see if you can sustain discussions there.
  • Initial time investment. Be prepared to put in the time initially to get things off the ground. You need to be very hands-on in the early stages in terms of initiating discussion and prompting people to participate. Make sure there’s fresh activity all the time and that people are learning something new and that will keep them coming back.

Encouraging social sharing

Social media is vital for event promotion, but you can’t just rely on your own accounts to spread the word — you have to get event-goers to share it as well. Not only can it help your brand reach more and more people online through effective social media campaigns, but it can also improve your rankings through search. Here are a few ways you can get people to share your content:

  • Ask for it. Yep, it may sound simple enough, but placing a call-to-action at the bottom of your Facebook post can encourage more people to share your stuff. If you want people to take a specific action, you need to specifically ask for it. 
  • Make them laugh, cry or smile. It's very difficult to get people to share the content you post on Facebook without making some kind of an emotional impact on them. No one really feels the need to share boring content. Would you? However, create a post that makes your readers laugh, smile or even cry, and your content is much more likely to go viral on many a Facebook newsfeed. Tough Mudder does really well at this, with a high range of hilarious and moving content! 
  • Go visual. Whenever possible, always include an image to go along with your Facebook post. The average user online prefers to consume visual content instead of reading lines and lines of text - especially when it comes to Facebook. In fact, using an image or infographic in your post can increase user engagement by as much as 53%, resulting in more likes, comments, and inevitably, shares.
  • Create a connection. In an age of seemingly diminishing face-to-face contact and interaction, creating a connection with your customers in any way possible - including via Facebook - is extremely important. A good way of doing this is by showcasing your charitable efforts. Creating awareness posts can create personal connections with Facebook users who may then share your post to build further awareness. You could also share a few of your runner's fundraising journeys if there are some outstanding ones! This will show people what your event is inspiring people to do for others or for a cause, and allow users to show their support for the causes. 
  • Provide an incentive. Finally, if you really want to get more people to share the content you post on Facebook, then provide some kind of an incentive. You could do this by creating a competition, and offering a free ticket to a random winner who shares and likes your post. You could partner up with a sponsor to do a giveaway, eg. a months worth of running fuel (30 snack bars) for sharing your post and following yours and the sponsor companies page. Everyone loves a freebie, or at least a discount. Try and tie in a special offer for your Facebook audience and hopefully you'll inspire them to share your content - if only for their own self-benefit!

So there you have it. Try and incorporate at least one of the above the next time you're crafting your Facebook posts, and hopefully you'll increase your audience online and ultimately take your race to the next level.


On Hand To Help

The team at Eventrac are on hand to assist with all components of your event. From advice on promoting your event through low cost channels such as social media, to a guided tutorial on a specific feature of Eventrac. We are here to help.

Subscribe to our newsletter