3 Steps for Building a Participant Personalization Strategy


Marketing, like just about every other aspect of your business as a race director, is an endeavor best undertaken with data on your side. Using the information you have on your participants—gathered through software analytics, surveys, social media and even anecdotal—you’re adequately equipped to create a participant personalization strategy.

What is a participant personalization strategy for race directors? It’s a way of sending relevant messages to past, present and future registrants based on what you know about them—or what you can infer based on the data you have. It boils down to knowing your audience. It’s critical for race directors to understand your audience (not who you think your audience is) and what type of marketing content they may want to receive.
Luckily, you don’t have to spend too much time on this strategy.

We’ve outlined the three basic steps for you below:

1. Gather Data On Your Athletes

The more information you have about your registrants, the more targeted your strategy is going to be. Personalization involves understanding registrant and participant intent and dynamically delivering highly relevant content to them depending on their interests and profile.

There’s a myriad of ways to gather data on your registrants, but the fastest and easiest way is to look to your registration software metrics to uncover trends about how people are engaging with your event. Things to look for might be what percentage of people are starting the registration process, but not finishing; the difference in the number of monthly hits your website is garnering (look to Google Analytics for help with that number) and the number of new registrations your event is averaging and basic demographic information like age, marital status and location.

Another source of demographic data is social media metrics. Both Twitter and Facebook offer in-depth looks at the people who follow you. Consider your followers (not all of whom are current registrants, probably) as prospects, or people you want to reach, but may not have converted to customers yet.

Also, if you have time and budget on your hands, send out questionnaires and surveys to past and present registrants to gather a wider array of data. Free tools like Qzzr and Survey Monkey make it easy to throw a link into your next customer and prospect email, and then easily gather learnings from the results.

2. Develop Marketing Personas.

Once you have your data, break it up into marketing personas.
Marketing personas are detailed representations of the different segments of your target audience.

Separate your registrants into a few different personas, using the information you’ve gathered. According to EPiServer, 14 percent of marketers indicated that personalized campaigns generate a better response rate than mass-market campaigns. So, work on creating two or three personas according to registrant motivation, demographics, personal interests and participation patterns.

A healthy persona will have a name, an age, a location and some information about why that person wants to attend your event, along with what they expect. A women-only half-marathon might have a persona named Melissa. Melissa is 32 and lives in Denver. She’s participated in six endurance events before, including three timed events and two untimed fun runs. This is her first half-marathon and she will spend the next six months training. She’s a no-frills buyer, so she’ll select the event that is closest to her home without doing a lot of comparison-shopping.

Your personas should have as much detail as you can reasonably verify. Don’t worry about making up details if they don’t support your marketing goals or if you can’t be sure that a good number of participants fit the profile.

3. Create Personalized Content and Experiences

Now that you’ve created a few personas, they can inform everything from how you write emails to participants to how you create (and target) social media content to the swag you offer at the event. Instead of sending mass emails to everyone in your database, segment by your own marketing personas and tailor your messaging according to what you know about those different personas.

For example, for women-only races, you should create a segment group that will only receive information on those types of events. A 5K that attracts a lot of beginning runners might have one persona that receives encouraging tips and tricks for their first few races and events, while another persona might be made up of more advanced runners who are using the 5K to train for a longer event. That persona might enjoy learning about ways to connect to marathon training groups, for example.

Like all marketing, be sure to think about how you will test your strategy to find out what’s working and what might need to be altered. Marketing is a small part of what you do as a race director, but spending a bit of time digging into data and creating personas will likely make that time more valuable.