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June 15, 2016

Email Marketing 101 For Races

Email Marketing 101 For Races

Not so long ago we gave you some awesome tips to build your email list. Because you’re awesome, you’ve probably already started implementing those strategies and are seeing your number of opt-ins grow faster than a sprinter on too much Red Bull.

But now you might be scratching your head, thinking "well, what do I DO with this list? I know I’m supposed to send them emails, but how do I launch an email marketing campaign?"

Never fear, race directors. imATHLETE is here to help. Let’s cover the basics with Email Marketing 101 for Races.



Choose An Email Marketing Tool

Step Numero Uno to building a successful email marketing strategy is choosing the right email marketing tool. There are a ridiculous amount of email marketing tools on the market, both free and premium (and the oh-so-ambiguous “freemium”), with a host of features to help you automate your email process.

When you’re choosing your email marketing tool, you want to take a long, hard look at the features included and see how they’re going to relate to your races needs. Do you want to know exactly how many athletes opened your last email announcing your new race registration website? And out of the athletes who opened said email, how many clicked your online race registration link? If so, you’ll want to look for a tool that’s all about them analytics so you can get a firm grasp on your data. Have a webinar or a live streaming event to drive race registration and want to customize your email follow up sequence based on attendee behavior? Well, then you need to look for an autoresponder that allows you to segment audiences and send customized messages.

You’ll also want to look at the differences between the free version and the premium version of the software. While most of the popular platforms have a free option, there’s typically a cap on how many subscribers you can have on your list and how many emails you can send. Make sure if you go with the free option, it’s able to fit your needs as you grow your race registration and opt-ins and ramp up your email marketing campaign.

If you want to get a sense of some of the most popular email marketing tools (because, just like middle school, popularity is THE most important thing...), then be sure to check out MailChimp, Constant Contact and Aweber.


Invest In Killer Design

Once you’ve got your email marketing platform ready to roll, it’s time to start designing your emails. Pretty much all of the email marketing tools have template builders that allow you to piece together a pretty snazzy email by adding boxes of text, your logo, images and lots of other stuff to make your email pop (and not blend into one massive block of black, unreadable text, which is a HUGE email marketing no-no).

However, if you’re like me and don’t have a strong design eye (and by “don’t have a strong design eye” I mean “can barely draw a circle and am still not sure if brown and black match”), then this is a part of your email marketing that you’ll want to hand off to a more design-friendly team member, volunteer or your graphic design partner. Your athletes are straight up bombarded by emails every day - from their jobs, from brands they follow and (you guessed it) from other races - so in order to push through all the color and make an impression, you NEED to have a well designed email that’s clean, visually interesting, easy to read and on-brand. Amateur (or again, if you’re like me, horrible) design will just ensure that your email is banished to the spam folder, never to be seen or heard from again.


Segment Your Audience

This is a bit of an advanced tip, but you guys are smart so I’m sure you can handle it. If at all possible, you’ll want to segment your audience so that you can tailor your messaging and make it as specific for each reader as possible.

For example, you’re probably going to want to send a different message to a brand new opt-in than you would someone who has run your race for 3 years in a row. Segmenting your audience lets you talk to each group individually, and since it’s so personalized, you're going to get WAY better results than sending out a blanket email to everyone on your list.


Choose The Right Content

This might be the most important lesson in Email Marketing 101. If you want to see results from your email marketing campaigns, you need to deliver the right content for your audience.

There are a few different types of emails that you’re for sure going to want to send in any successful email campaign:


Newsletters are the backbone of your email marketing campaign. You’re going to want to deliver them on the regular (like every week or every month) and they’re the emails that your athletes are going to come to expect in their inbox, without fail. Your regular newsletters are what’s going to build up awareness and loyalty with your athletes.

You can experiment with different newsletter formats, but a lot of races send a weekly summary of what’s going on with their business and their event - this can include links to blog posts, course announcements, staff or volunteer profiles and any other going-ons in the world of your race that you feel your athletes need to know about.

Value Adds

These emails are strictly for adding value to your community. Maybe you developed a guide with tips on how to stretch out your calves post race or you read an article with smoothie recipes that you KNOW your athletes would salivate over. If it makes their life better/easier/more awesome, it’s a go.

The golden (and really only) rule of value-add emails is that you give your audience something without asking for anything in return.

Promotional Content

Promotional emails are exactly what they sound like; THIS is the place to promote the HELL out of your race.

Launching a new race registration website? Got a coupon code for an upcoming event? Those are the types of things you’ll want to share in a promotional email.

Sales Content

Sales emails are your shot to directly ask for business from your athletes. Sales emails come in handy when you're launching a new event, trying to generate more race registrations for your current event or want to convert more of your email list into paying, registered athletes.

Keep in mind that you don’t want to overdo it on the sales content. It’s like eyeliner or Justin Bieber: a little goes a long way. A good rule of thumb to not overwhelm your audience and make them curse you for being self-promoting spam peddlers is that for every sales email that you send, make sure to send 3 to 4 emails that have nada to do with sales.


With these tips, you and your race will be well on your way to going down in the history books for having an awesome email marketing campaign. (You know, if and when history books ever decide to add such a category.)

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