TIP: Your life will be easier if you only accept online registration.
Where to Setup Online Registration
So you need to choose an online registration platform. This is not an easy choice and is going to require some research on your part as they are not all created equal. Some questions to find about each site: What are the fees they are charging the runners and/or you? You should be able to find this relatively easily on each website under Race Director Resources, Fees, Pricing or something similar. If you can't find that information, this probably isn't a good sign.
Can the race pay the registration fees if they choose to do so? If you don't want your runners being charged a fee to sign up and want to absorb that yourself, this would be an important feature for you.
What audience does the site reach or appeal to? If you are putting on something that appeals to a narrow audience, and there is a registration site that caters just to that audience, it might be worth looking into.
How easy is race setup? Every site is going to claim they are easy to setup. This is BS! Read some reviews and talk to other RDs.
Can you sell additional merchandise with registration and track its inventory?
Can you make your price increases based on dates and/or by number of people registered?
What is the customer satisfaction with the site? Once again check Better Business Bureau and online reviews. Some sites have really horrible customer satisfaction ratings, so do your participants a favor and don't use them.
What is the reputation of the sites customer service, both for the RD and the runner? If the Yelp reviews look like this, move on to your next option.
How do you get paid for registrations? Can you get direct deposit, or do you have to wait for checks to be mailed?
I suggest putting some time and effort into choosing a registration site since once you set it up the first year, it's much easier following years if you stay with the same site. If you are not satisfied and have to switch, your second year workload and learning curve will be similar to year one.
Once you have chosen a site, appoint a registration manager. If yours is a small race, this might be you. The registration manager should setup the site so they are the most familiar with all the features. There are some major questions you need to decide before setting up registration.
When, if ever, will there be price increases? Traditionally races raised prices every few months leading up to the race. The thinking was that this would incentive people to register earlier. As you will learn, most people wait until the last minute to register. This problem will cause you great frustration as you continue your race planning. A new idea, in use by a few sites, is to raise registration fees based in number of people at each price level. For example, you may want to release 100 spots at below your break even price to get the ball rolling, then 500 spots at break even, and your remaining spots with a comfortable profit margin.
What are you going to charge?
How many runners do you want in each event?
Are there any specific ages for each event?
Are shirts included?
Do you want to sell anything extra like meal tickets or hats?
What/who needs to be in your race waiver?
TIP: What I have found is that those early registrants are very valuable. They have already committed their time and money to your event, so it is in their best interest to get their friends to join them. Treat these early entrants as an additional source of advertising for your race.
Now back to registration. You have setup your price increase now pay close attention to all the details and additional questions. You want to require the runner to identify an emergency contact, we will cover why in the crisis section. If you are giving out gender specific shirts, be sure to list all the sizes in male and all the sizes in female as a choice. Ask where they found out about your race, this will help with future marketing focus. And then feel free to ask any questions you are curious about as optional questions. In your race description on the registration site, give a broad overview but point them to your website for details. This will keep you from having to update two sites if a detail changes.
Now identify a date you want to open registration. I suggest Wed-Thurs, that way you can build up some excitement in social media and through your mailing list the weekdays prior and the day of. Most people are not at their computers on the weekend and you want to have a big first day, remember how valuable those first registrants are to your event. Time the opening of registration so that your website, social media accounts and mailing list have already been active for a few months and gathered some followers.
Shamless Plug: Here at International Running Company, we setup your online registration at www.itsyourrace.com for no extra charge. We do this for a few important reasons:
-It's a pain setting up registration the first year no matter the site, so we take care of that for you.
-Its Your Race has great customer service and a competitive fee structure, so your runners don't get hung with a lifetime membership on auto renew to something they didn't want.
-Its Your Race integrates with our timing system, so we don't have to close registration until the race starts. Lots of timers want you to close online registration a few days prior, right when online registrations are peaking!! There is not kind way to put it, closing online registration early will cost you a LOT of money in lost registration income.
Thank you for reading, and as always, feel free to reach out with any questions you may have.