It’s easier to keep a customer than to get a new one. That shouldn’t be news to you, but are you really dedicating as much time rewarding customer loyalty as you are marketing to new customers? The importance of this is emphasized by the Harvard Business Review, which reports that increasing customer retention rates by 5 percent increases profits by 25 percent to 95 percent. If a light bulb just went off and you realize more effort should be put toward building participant loyalty, here are 10 ways to help you do that:

1. Keep in Touch

Don’t just blast out an email when registration opens—this is a relationship you’re building here! Consistently reach out to your participants throughout the year. That doesn’t mean you spam them with emails, but rather that you send valuable and interesting communications regularly so your event is kept on their minds (and they know that you’re not just hitting them up for a registration fee when you need it).

2. Reiterate Your Mission

Whether you’re fundraising for a charity or simply passionate about promoting a healthy lifestyle, make sure your participants know this is your mission. It gives your brand a heart, and people will feel good about supporting something altruistic and be more likely to remain involved when a good cause is behind it all.

3. Offer Incentives

This is all about making your past participants feel special. Give them registration discounts that aren’t being offered elsewhere or create a loyalty program where they can build up points to get a special award. You can even give them special perks like VIP parking or shuttles on race day. Get creative, just make sure these incentives are only being offered to past participants to drive that loyalty message home.

4. Use Positive Social Proof

Share pictures on your website and social media channels that convey the spirit of the event. Promote messages like “5,000 finishers and counting!” Let participants know that they’ve been part of something that is popular and enjoyable, which will encourage them to continue being part of it.

5. Applaud the Accomplishment

For many people, finishing an event is a huge accomplishment and a source of pride. Encourage that! In communications with participants, congratulate them for registering, training, making it to the start line, or earning that medal. Make them feel good for what they’ve accomplished and reach out to that inner ego. You want them to always associate positive feelings with your event.

6. Listen

Listening is possibly the most important tip for building customer loyalty. Send out surveys, ask questions on Facebook, monitor tweets on race day…there are multiple ways you can tap into what your participants are thinking and it’s then your responsibility to do something about it. Fix, or at least address, any annoyances or big issues they’re experiencing. This will show that you truly care about their happiness and putting on a high-quality event—it will earn loyalty more effectively than any other tactic.

7. Surprise Them

Offer participants something they weren’t expecting. It doesn’t have to be a budget buster, either. It could be a personal letter you send to them, a unique item in their goodie bag, or even a beer keg at the finish line party that’s reserved for them. The fact that this gesture came out of nowhere will amplify its positive effect on participants.

8. Make It Personal

Personalize your interactions with participants. Some event managers shake the hands of finishers, some respond directly to emails, and some showcase their personality on social media. Each event is different, but make connections with your participants so they realize you are a real person, and not just some faceless brand. The more personal, the more emotionally tied people will be to your event.

9. Offer Great Customer Service

Similar to #6, it’s crucial to offer great customer service. From answering emails with registration questions to fielding complaints on race day, make sure that your staff and volunteers are professional and knowledgeable when providing customer service to participants.

10. Say Thank You

Sometimes it’s just that simple. Thanking people for participants, whether that’s in a sincere email or in person, will go a long way.


Do you have any ideas for building customer loyalty? Share them with us in the comments below!

And feel free to contact us with any questions about tools we have that can help you meet and exceed participant demands.