Founded and still run today by a successful race director, this homegrown registration platform continues to expand features to meet race director needs – and those of thousands of other events
PROVO, Utah – Hyrum Oaks started the Utah Valley Marathon from scratch 11 years ago – at the first edition, there were less than 300 runners. But as the race grew fast to thousands of participants, Oaks was frustrated that his existing registration platform didn’t meet his events’ needs.
So he set out to create a customized technology solution. He thought it might take a day or two working with a capable programmer to set the system up. Maybe a month, tops. He laughs about that now. Let’s just say it took .. longer than that. By a lot. But that is how the Race Entry registration platform got its start. As the industry has changed and evolved, it continues to grow and respond along with it.
Perhaps one of the most amazing things about Race Entry is that the company, which now has about 30 employees focused on development and customer service and is based near Lehi, Utah’s “Silicon Slopes,” has marketed itself entirely through a strong online presence and word of mouth – no mass marketing emails have ever been sent to date. Around 3,000 races use the platform and are attracted to Oaks’ unofficial “by race directors, for race directors” philosophy.
One of the things RDs like about Race Entry is that it’s focused on helping them address their most pressing problems. Today, that means combating runner attrition and finding new participants.
“Our real focus is about growth. There are many registration platforms out there, but our focus first and foremost is on solving race director problems. That’s the hat I had on when I started this company and the perspective I use when developing new features,” Oaks said. He works to keep fees low, provide lists of timing resources across the U.S., and is constantly responding to client requests for additional features and functionality.
“We’re just trying to be a good partner to the running industry and provide them the most useful tools at the lowest possible price – sometimes even for free,” Oaks said.
A few key features of the Race Entry platform that race directors find especially useful include:
Social sharing integration: Built in discount incentives for runners to share their registration status on social media, and encourage their running friends to register, are widely used and help drive race growth. Even a discount of as little as $2 for sharing on Facebook can create double digit bumps in word of mouth marketing, says Oaks. He’s seen social sharing jump from 1 percent of runners to 30 percent just by adding a small discount.
Referral program: “We were the very first to offer a referral program,” Oaks said. Registered runners receive a customized link – for each registration driven to the event from that link, they earn a director specified rebate on their own registration. “Literally you click a button and you’re earning refunds – it’s great for the runner and the event.”
Easy email list development: Automating email collection on race websites – even when your event is not open for registration yet – takes the work out of finding prospective runners for your event and also helps you grow a strong prospect list.
Expo management: A relatively new feature on the platform, race directors can handle sales and management of their race day expo space on the same platform as their registrations.
Race maps: Event producers can create basic race course maps using Race Entry for free – unlike other mapping software, adding graphic elements for water stops, or other features is entirely free.
Volunteer management: An integration with volunteer management site Come Volunteer facilitates single sign on to both platforms via Race Entry and enables RDs to use that service for volunteer management.
Fundraising: Runner fundraising for charity programs can be tracked and managed within Race Entry and displayed on a convenient overview dashboard. Runners can set up their own fundraising pages and use them to drive donations and earn free race entries.
A serial entrepreneur, Oaks and his team have branched out into other technology businesses. They include Stride Events, which manages events outside of the running space, and Rodeo Ticket, which enables rodeos to manage their ticket and expo sales online. For event producers who might manage a road race in addition to other ventures, these business synergies are helpful.
But Oaks remains very focused on the running space.
“Many of our competitors in this space are seeing business drop back, but we’re continuing to grow every year,” he shared. “I know that’s because we’re working to help races keep their numbers strong. Our events are shrinking less than the industry average because of our growth tools, and many are seeing year over year increases.”