The Power of Race Reviews

Ask yourself this: when was the last time you bought something without checking out reviews for it online?

Experiences, like races, are no different. When you have a dozen 10Ks to choose from, you’ll want to hear what others have to say about each race before making your decision.

And that’s where race reviews come in. Whether they’re hosted on your website or a third-party site, reviews are the mirror of your race to the world. It’s the best social proof you have and the most effective way to communicate to prospective participants what’s great and unique about your events.

Well, my guests today, Alex Tanti and Katie Ho, know a thing or two about the power of race reviews. Through Racecheck.com and RaceRaves.com, they’ve helped thousands of races make the most of the huge missed opportunity that is race reviews, and they’ll be sharing with us today all the tips and tricks that can help you make the most of your race reviews in your marketing and PR communications.

In this episode:

  • The importance of race reviews in race marketing and the participant sign-up journey
  • Race reviews vs race surveys as feedback and marketing tools for organizers
  • Why even mediocre reviews are better than no reviews at all 
  • How to win over participants by addressing negative reviews
  • Medals, goodie bags, porta potties: common things people focus on when reviewing a race
  • How a participant’s race performance will bias their review of the race
  • How to use strong race reviews in your race marketing, social media and with local media
  • How to address negative reviews and win over participants
  • How to encourage participants to leave more reviews for your race
  • Using incentives to solicit more reviews and how to do it right

Thanks to GiveSignup|RunSignup for supporting quality content for race directors by sponsoring this episode. More than 22,000 in-person, virtual, and hybrid events use GiveSignup|RunSignup's free and integrated solution to save time, grow their events, and raise more. If you'd like to learn more about GiveSignup|RunSignup's all-in-one technology solution for endurance and fundraising events visit runsignup.com.

Episode transcript

Panos  2:07  
Katie, Alex, welcome to the podcast! 

Katie  2:10  
Thanks so much. 

Alex  2:11  
Thank you. 

About RaceRaves and Racecheck

Panos  2:13  
Thanks a lot for coming on. As I mentioned to you before we went on air, this is going to be the first time that I'm doing this kind of podcast with two guests. So fingers crossed that everything turns out fine. I think we're gonna begin with some introductions from the both of you because even if some of our audience might know about one of you, I think I'm probably one of the few people on the planet who knows about both Racecheck and RaceRaves in any great depth. So Katie, why don't you start us off? Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you're based, and a bit about the RaceRaves, please.

Katie  2:50  
Sure. So like Alex, RaceRaves started off as a family affair. My husband Mike and I were based in Los Angeles. And we launched in 2014, driven by the realization that there was no one place to go to when we try to find and research races. The ecosystem felt very fragmented. There were a handful of race calendars out there. But when you found something, you still kind of had to Google the official site or maybe some blogs to get more information. So we created RaceRaves as a one-stop resource dedicated to helping runners find the best races around the world based on what they're looking for. And, so, we tried to combine a few elements in terms of intuitive search features, race reviews, and compelling editorial content. And we just continue to work hard at making this a valuable resource for both runners and race directors.

Panos  3:40  
Yeah. Alex, tell us a bit about Racecheck.

Alex  3:43  
Yeah, sure. So Racecheck started as a part-time hobby, let's put it that way. I was working on investment banking in Tokyo when I got into triathlons. And I took part in a really badly organized triathlon that left me wishing that there was some platform that I could leave some constructive feedback about the race - similar to TripAdvisor - and there wasn't one. So I decided to share that thought with my sister, Katerina. So we decided, collectively, to go into an adventure and start something primarily for athletes to really help find better races around the world - we spend so much time and money preparing for these events - and also, at the same time, create something that really helps organizers improve. So that's how our journey started - when the idea was germinated in 2014 or so. Yeah.

Panos  4:43  
And you guys got acquired recently by Super League Triathlon. Right?

Alex  4:47  
That is correct. Yes. That's a big milestone for us. Yeah. 

Panos  4:50  
Excellent. How are things going?

Alex  4:52  
Fantastic. We had a pretty solid understanding of what we were getting into in terms of cultures and what we're supposed to bring to the table and what Super League is supposed to bring to the table. And as in any good relationship, whether commercial or non-commercial, it's very important to have very, very clear expectations from the beginning. So far, it's looking very smooth. It's been a great culture fit. Racecheck is continuing as a completely standalone company - no interference whatsoever - and at the same time, a small part of this great organization that is creating and organizing some of the most exciting triathlon races in the world. So it's fantastic.

Why are race reviews important?

Panos  5:41  
Perfect. I'm glad to hear that. So the reason why we've all gathered here today is because I wanted to do an episode to discuss the value of race reviews in some depth. And the reason why I thought I'd do it with the both of you is because although there are a few race listing sites out there, I've sort of singled out RaceRaves and Racecheck because of the quality. And I strongly recommend anyone who is listening in to check out RaceRaves.com and Racecheck.com and put your races up there. Also, I think you both have focused most of your energy into reviews and creating like a good repository of helpful feedback from actual participants that can help both the organizers and new participants who are looking for their next race. And I think you've seen enough - between the tens of thousands of reviews that the two sites have - to be able to give us a little bit of an insight of what's the benefit of having reviews, how to get more reviews, and what to do with good reviews and bad reviews, etc. So let's start off with probably the most important question which is, why are race reviews important in the first place? So from the point of view of a race director, why should I care about race reviews on race listing sites and other places?

Katie  7:19  
When you think about the customer journey - how a runner learns about your event, becomes interested in it, and decides to sign up - we know from research and personal experience that we all use reviews to decide where to stay, where to eat, what to watch, and we don't feel it's any different for races. I mean, it's a considered purchase. You have to commit to, especially for longer distance events-- you have to commit to training. Sometimes, you commit to travel. And so, reviews can be very influential in terms of knowing what you're getting into and setting expectations. And we believe it helps in terms of the discovery process and conversion. And, then, there's this great cycle that if you can capture great word of mouth and be able to use it in future marketing, that's very critical as well. So we firmly believe that reviews are an important part of the marketing lifecycle.

Alex  8:07  
Yeah, I concur with that. And I mean, reviews have been very well established in consumer products for decades. And racing and taking part in a mass participation event is very similar to purchasing a product, however, with intricacy - it's actually an experience. So while reviews have been around for a long time and are very much widespread, when it comes to products, reviewing experiences are slightly different because it's very hard to encompass the quality of a race in a single five-star rating system. So from our participants' perspective, they have to invest so much time and effort into preparing for these races. They have to start with paying for kind of ticket item, ranging from anywhere between $40 to $600. It's also the time required to prepare for these events - you invest so much time, usually. You require your family to be on board. You've spent months and months preparing for a triathlon only to go there and be disappointed with something trivial, like the aid stations running out of water. So reviews are important in order to help the participants make better race choices and to also keep organizers accountable and on their toes. And as with any other consumer product out there, their product will be talked about, whether on social media or wherever, and they need to be prepared for that accordingly. So yeah, I think reviews are not just important for products - reviews are very important for races as well.

Race reviews vs race surveys

Panos  9:55  
Well, the interesting thing is - I think, contrary to products - race directors don't seem to want to put a lot of energy or to be aware of the need to put energy into soliciting reviews. I know, for instance, race directors sometimes might send out a survey after the race. But I've seen very, very few of them actually focus on growing their reviews in the same way that some sellers on Amazon may focus on getting more customers to review their product. So, speaking of surveys, do you see that reviews are sort of like an alternative to surveys, or do they play alongside them? Because I suppose both provide some kind of feedback to you, the race director, about how you performed on putting on a race.

Alex  10:49  
From our perspective, they serve two very distinct functions. So surveys are used internally. Reviews are used externally. So reviews act as a marketing tool. Surveys are really a post-event feedback tool for within the team. At Racecheck, we're trying to kind of combine the two together. But both are very important and both need to be used. You can't really have one without the other and say that one replaces the other. Yeah, in my mind, both are necessary.

Katie  11:25  
I would agree. I think they're very complementary. As Alex said, one's inward-facing, one's outward-facing. And I think the reviews really can be used as a marketing tool if the messaging around it is, "Help us spread the word and let other runners know why you should run with us". That's very different than, "Help us understand how we can improve." Some surveys are used to measure economic impact. There are many different goals. So we very much see them as complementary and we work hard to educate race directors about the value of reviews because it can be central. We'll talk about this later. They can be very turnkey. I think, previously it might have been a fear of something else to manage, but they can be very, very powerful. And, so, we're trying to make sure race directors understand its value and how to go about getting and using them.

Alex  12:15  
Also, just to touch upon something you said, Panos - in general, race directors have been reluctant or have not really valued reviews as compared to maybe consumer products, for example. I think it's also because products are becoming more and more commoditized with time - right? And there was a lot less competition in terms of mass participation events in 2010 as compared to 2018. So in the past, a participant may only have one race within a 10-miles radius from their house to go. Now, they may have three or four races. So it's important to stand out somehow and participants' review is one of the most powerful marketing tools that an organizer can employ to do that. So I think, as time goes by, and certainly, in more recent years, race directors have been more and more receptive and accepted reviews as a viable marketing tool.

The impact of race reviews on registrations

Panos  13:20  
Yeah. And I get the distinction now. We're saying surveys are probably better or more suitable to get private feedback about the race that you can improve on. And, then, reviews are outward-facing, like this is what people think about my race, and I'm going to use it as a marketing tool. So moving on to actually using reviews - you guys have thousands of race listings on your sites and tens of thousands of reviews - is there any hard evidence that having positive reviews on sites like RaceRaves and Racecheck actually leads to more registrations or more eyeballs or traffic on an event?

Alex  14:05  
Yes, correct. The direction of Racecheck has slightly changed over the past year or so. We're focused even more on reviews than what we have done in the past, although we did spend about a year to try out & experiment with a marketplace type model whereby we would actually take bookings on the Racecheck website itself. And it was just so apparent. We would have about a 25% conversion rate for races with reviews versus a 2% to 3% conversion rate for races without reviews. We also did a recent study with our Racecheck review widget product where the same conversion rates were still proven. So we have hard evidence that reviews for races work just as well as reviews for any other consumer product. Otherwise, the review industry wouldn't be where it is. So yeah.

Panos  15:05  
Do we have any evidence of whether having poor or mediocre reviews is actually better or worse than having no reviews? So is it actually better for no one to have reviewed your race or for someone to have reviewed it - even with like an average review of 3 out of 5 or 3.5 out of 5?

Katie  15:28  
That's an interesting question. I think, at least, mediocre reviews give the reader some additional insight into what to expect. And people are different, right? So someone's pet peeve might not be a big deal to someone else. So for example, if someone's saying, "Wow, there really weren't a lot of spectators," Other runners may be like, "Great, I'm looking for something low key." So personally, I think that having reviews, even if they're not all 5 star - or five shoes as what we use -  is still helpful in terms of providing information about what to expect.

Alex  15:58  
Yeah, I would agree with that. And I would also say that as you read a mediocre review, you're then looking for the reply, you're then looking for the response. Mediocre reviews really beg the attention of the organizer to address that review. What are you going to do about this? So on Racecheck, we've seen races that really haven't had much impact in terms of entries. If the reviews from last year have been addressed, the participant feels valued, the participant feels like he's been listened to. And we had a great example with the Manchester Half Marathon, I think, in 2017. It had horrible reviews. The organizer took the time to reply to each review separately. And then, in 2018, the reviews came in fantastic. The organizer considered all the feedback that the past reviewers had shared. So that's a great example of why somebody shouldn't really fear negative reviews. Even if they do get negative reviews, if they reply to it, it will turn into something positive. The participant will probably sign up again after feeling valued in that way. And it's just a way for the organizer to just improve and come back stronger next year.

Panos  17:17  
Do you also see this with reviews on your sites where people are like, I mean-- I see that in a lot on Amazon products and stuff - I think it's like human nature - where people give either like 5 out of 5 or 1 out of 5, like you always see extremes. You see very little sort of like middle ground type of reviews.

Katie  17:36  
I'd say we see mostly 4 and 5 star reviews. There are some 3 stars and only a handful of 1 and 2 star reviews. So I do think that people probably tend to be more on the other side of the bell curve. It's not all ones and fives. I think, for us, it was fours and fives. And the other thing too is we value transparency. So when anyone is reading a review, you can always click on that person and look at their profile and see, "Hey, is this person just a hard grader - everything they review is a three? Or is this an anomaly?" It kind of puts it in context. And so, you also get that perspective of, "Is this the kind of runner that I relate to?" They have different things that they look for. So I think that's a nuance that we try to make very apparent and provide people with context.

Alex  18:26  
That's also the interesting thing about the difference between writing a product versus writing an experience. So with a product, you can actually afford to have somebody just rate it out of five and that's it. With experiences, we've taken an extra step to actually create a number of different factors that people rate. So with us, for example, you can rate the aid stations, marshal supervision, course safety, etc. That really forces objectivity from the side of the participant. So, if somebody didn't have a good time or it rained, they are likely more biased to provide negative reviews. But if you ask them about course safety, even if they didn't get a PB or even if it was raining, if the course is safe, they just can't give it a 1 out of 5. You almost enforce objectivity by guiding the participant through a number of different aspects of the event, really providing a 360 view of the event in order to really express what it was as an experience. So in that respect, we very rarely have general ratings and the extremes. They tend to be around the 4 star with the decimals to really distinguish between races. So yeah, I guess in that sense, we're pretty similar with Katie and RaceRaves.

Panos  20:02  
Yeah. The other thing you see in reviews is that for someone to go on a site like yours and review a race, they must have either loved it or really hated it - right? I guess like with most things, you either create an advocate and they come on the site and they give you a five, or a lifelong disappointed runner comes on the site and they give you a one.

Katie  20:35  
And that's why it's an opportunity, I think, for race directors to use this from a marketing perspective - right? So it's a way to rally your evangelists. Your finishers are always going to be your best advocates. And if you can rally those people who feel passionate or strongly enough about the great experience that they had, they're willing to talk about it and share that experience. That's where you're going to get the fours and the fives. And maybe some of them who didn't feel as strongly or had an okay experience may not be as likely to write that review.

Common themes mentioned in participant race reviews

Panos  21:05  
So out of the many things that come up in reviews, what have you guys seen as the most popular or the kinds of things about a race that people would focus on and mention in a review, either good or bad? Like what kinds of things come up?

Alex  21:20  
I think, for us, by far, the most popular criticism tends to gravitate around the medals, the goody bag, toilets, the startline, logistics--

Panos  21:37  
Do you mean not getting a medal or the medal being like poor quality? What's the peeve there?

Alex  21:44  
Not getting a medal is really bad. But in general, the quality of the medal. Yeah, as I said, toilets around the start line, navigating the course, how easy it is to get lost, for example - those are the common things that come up.

Katie  22:05  
Yeah, same here. I mean, it is kind of funny how many porta-potties or lack of porta-potties do come up.

Panos  22:11  
Well, I'm not surprised. I mean, it's a critical aspect of race day. If something goes wrong, it's a big deal. And I'm not surprised about medals being big deal either, because we did another episode with Thomas Neuberger about marketing. And everyone would say, "Yeah, I don't care about the medal." But everyone cares about the medal - right? It's the first thing that people market out there and it's the first thing that people will be disappointed with when they go to a race. So that's not particularly surprising. Do you also find that people who leave reviews may be influenced by their own performance on race day? I don't know how you might even work out if there's a correlation there. But do the participants' own performance cloud their objectivity when leaving a review?

Katie  23:02  
We actually have a separate sub-rating for that because we were concerned about that and we wanted to make people separate that. So we have a separate sub-rating for your own performance, which is optional, but at least it forces people to think about that. And in our review forum, we try to focus on sharing things that other runners will care about. It is kind of like those Amazon reviews where you see like a 1 star review because they didn't get the package on time. I think most people are discerning enough to be able to scan through reviews and see like, "Okay, this person's talking about themselves." But it's something we thought about because we certainly had bad reviews from people who didn't perform well.

Alex  23:46  
Yeah, I agree with that. I think it's only natural to bias the rating or the review based on your performance. That's why, again, we're focusing on guiding the athlete and all of the participants in rating the race experience and giving you a 360 review - going through many different aspects in order to enforce objectivity. So that's a challenge, but I think it's worked very well for us.

Interview break

Panos  24:19  
So you're starting from scratch - or almost from scratch - and you want to get as many participants as possible to review your race - right?

So how do you do that?

Well, you use every opportunity you get when you communicate with your participants to ask for a review. Do you send out live race results? Ask people to review your race.

Do you send out a race day wrap-up email? Put a review link in there as well. Are you doing free race photos - which your participants are going to love, by the way - and you send an email to your participants with a link to their personal race photo gallery? Well, put another link in there as well.

It all sounds great, doesn't it? But there's one small catch. How do you send out all these cleverly personalized emails without spending hours upon hours hacking email templates and moving data back and forth between your registrations and your email marketing platform?

Well, you do that with GiveSignup|RunSignup's integrated email marketing.

And "integrated" is a key word here. You want to be able to have all your participant info right there on the email template, when you want to send out an email. You don't want to be moving data to a separate system, and then seven people sign up or another three want to switch races and you have to worry about your data being out of sync on your email system.

That is the beauty of platforms like GiveSignup|RunSignup that are built around races at the core. Every tool you use, whether it's email marketing or fundraising or race results, taps into the same participant data, updated in real time, without you having to do a thing.

Integration - that's what you need.

Okay, so, we've been through how to get more race reviews, now, let's hear from Katie and Alex how to use those reviews to maximum effect in your marketing and PR communications. Let's get back to the interview. 

Using good race reviews as part of your race marketing

Panos  26:09  
Okay, so let's move on to another really important question here, which is, how can race directors put reviews - hopefully, good reviews - to good use? So as a race director, if I have like a streak of good reviews for my event, how can I use that to, actually, like drive value for my event, for my marketing, for my registrations, for all that?

Katie  26:35  
Certainly, by excerpting great testimonials and using those in your marketing communication, whether it's on your site, social or email. I think we both have various badges that events are allowed to earn in terms of how top-rated or fresh runners rate on RaceRaves, that type of thing to get that third-party validation through a third-party platform where runners can see reviews and content that they are looking for. And so, I think that leveraging on that and just weaving that into your marketing communication is really important.

Alex  27:10  
Yeah, I agree with that. I think being able to show the rating through an independent platform on your event website is a very good idea. Quotes can be questionable because you can obviously choose which quotes to use. So, obviously, you're not going to use bad quotes in your website. How do you ensure that this is not me talking and that it's actually the participants talking? The simplest answer is just using the average rating of the event on your website because the rating is what it is. It's a good way to start. Yeah. 

Panos  27:49  
Have you seen any particular creative ways, perhaps, some example that stood out of how some people on your side may have used reviews to market their event further?

Katie  28:06  
We've seen some events use it as a kind of a content series on social. So they'll have like a #FeedbackFriday, and they'll just feature various reviews for some period of time. I think, also, when they look at reviews, they select content that focuses on what makes them different - so choosing the differentiators, right? I think reviews can be really helpful in terms of understanding what resonates with runners like, "What do they find important? What is it about your race that they loved? Is it the great communication? Is it the scenic course? Like what are the things that come out of that?" And, then, using those testimonials to reinforce that. That can be very helpful and powerful as well.

Alex  28:43  
Yeah, for us, beyond the traditional ways that people use reviews in their social media, etc, we have seen a number of organizers that actually leverage reviews to reach out to local newspapers and get them to write about their event to their local community. "Look at us. We got this award or we got this rating. That means that we've been recognized as a quality operator. Why don't you talk about us, and talk about what we did in order to earn this award, and help us increase awareness?" So we've definitely seen that which is great. Yeah.

Managing and responding to bad reviews

Panos  29:22  
Yeah, very important points actually. So Alex's point is to use it for publicity. And I've seen events do that. And, then, Katie's point which is also quite interesting and a little bit subtle, in that you're saying, "From reviews, let me see the kinds of things that people focus on, like the good things about my race, and maybe I can focus my marketing campaign around that because I have a good chance that other people would care about the same kinds of things that these runners who have reviewed my site do." That is really interesting because when it comes to, for instance, people advertising on Facebook, it's generally advised that when you advertise your race, you try to focus on a point - right? You say, "We have a fast race or we have an amazing experience or a great finish area, whatever." Figuring out what areas of the race to focus on from the actual kind of data coming through reviews - I think it's really helpful. Both of you mentioned earlier a little bit about how people should go handle bad reviews. Can you elaborate a little bit on that? Like, what are some examples of bad reviews you've seen and some good responses to bad reviews from organizers?

Alex  30:41  
I have these very specific examples in front of me. There's the usual Marshal supervision was poor or there were potholes on the road. So there's constructive feedback, and there's just bashing type of feedback. And I think participants are clever enough to distinguish between the two. For the constructive feedback, you just want to see what the organizer is going to say about those and how they're going to address that in the following year. And usually, the organizers need to always accept that as valid feedback. I think being defensive is not a good strategy. They need to address the concern of the participant and just be very honest about what they're planning to do in order to address that in the following year. Now, on the other end of the scale, there are reviews that are meant to hurt the credibility of the organizer. We've seen cases where competitor organizers are leaving fake reviews which, in my mind, I think is hilarious. And that also leads to a different issue on how do you invalidate illegitimate reviews and how do you flag them. I think as long as the negative feedback is constructive, and the organizer accepts that, and just very clearly explains what they're going to do about it, that is enough. 

Katie  32:10  
Yeah, I would agree. I think that being open and accepting that type of feedback-- one thing we've seen that runners really appreciate is if something does go wrong in a race, the race organizers own that mistake - right? And they own up to it and they say, "This happened and we're really sorry. And here's what we're gonna do about it." A few years ago, there was an event where the lead pacer went the wrong way. And so, a lot of runners ended up running longer than 13.1 miles. But the organizers knew immediately. They sent texts and emails. They actually sent a 13.8-mile sticker to their finishers. And the reviews that came across were fantastic. All the runners appreciated it. They ended up earning a 4.9 out of 5 that year, and every year since because the organizer accepted the mistake, and they had higher expectations for themselves, and they were very upfront about it. And I think the worst thing that can happen is if you ignore or, even worse, try to suppress that feedback, we've certainly seen people who have come to our platform because they tried to leave feedback elsewhere but those reviews were removed or hidden. And they were just looking for another way to vent it out. So we would not recommend that.

Panos  33:27  
Feedback is a little bit like water. It finds its way through. It will surface. In this day and age, you can't really avoid it. The example you brought up there, Katie, I think, is really interesting. I guess the one where you run a longer course, I've seen a couple of times-- And I think there was one event that had mis-measured the course over consecutive years. Like, I don't really know how you can come back from something like that. I mean, you can go in and respond to every very, very angry review. Like, how do you come back from something like that?

Katie  34:03  
That's tough when it's consecutive years. I mean, I think people are willing to give you a break if something happened in a particular year. And, again, mistakes are made. And if you own up to it, that's fine. When the same mistake happens over consecutive years, that becomes a problem, and many of those events either don't continue or-- I'm not sure how to come back from that until the issue is addressed. 

Incentivizing reviews from participants

Panos  34:28  
Right. So once I'm convinced of the case for reviews - from knowing that reviews have some positive benefits for my event - what are some good tactics to try and solicit more reviews from my audience? Because I think it's tough to get feedback out of people, generally. It's a very valuable thing. That's why I think platforms that have reviews are so important. But like, from my point of view as a race director, how can I get more participants to leave more reviews for my events?

Alex  35:15  
I think that, to a certain extent, the organizer has a responsibility to cultivate and nurture good relationships with their participants ahead of the race, throughout the race, and even after the race. As long as they've done that, asking for reviews shouldn't be that hard. For us, we've been doing this for a lot of years. So we've kind of made a science out of it. So I can't dwell too much or dig too much into exactly what we do in order to solicit reviews actually. We had a competitor that pretended to be an organizer once just to try and understand how we get so many reviews. That's a different story. But I think the main thing here and the most successful organizers in that sense are organizers who have really invested the time to nurture real relationships with the participants. And, then, the participants reciprocate with these reviews. So at the end of the day, everyone's human. If you've created that sort of environment whereby you want to help the other person by providing constructive feedback - not necessarily helping them artificially - that's really the best way and the cheapest way, for sure.

Katie  36:36  
We think it can be a very straightforward and turnkey part of any events for post-race communications. So timing-wise, we found that the best time to solicit reviews, not surprisingly, is in the few weeks after the event - right? Endorphins are high. People are excited. They're naturally sharing their experience anyways, potentially, on social. But on social, it's so ephemeral. I mean, it's just hard to go back and capture that and search for it again. And so, if race organizers include-- it can be a very simple mention or a call to action in their post-race email where they're talking about results and photos anyhow. And it's a call to action, again, to help us spread the word. If you enjoyed the event, if you enjoyed your experience, please share it and let other runners know why they should run with us. And we've just found that to be a very effective message. It can be just part of their post-race plans. We've also used an incentive - right? So if you throw in a free race entry or some merchandise, we do try to make sure that the prizes are typically awarded based on a random selection. So it's not based on the content of the review. It's not, "The best review will win." But it's a great way to create a sense of urgency and to collect those reviews in the weeks after the race. And so, we've partnered with many race organizers to implement that type of program and it's been very effective.

Panos  37:57  
So you would send something at the end of the race and tell people, "If you leave a review, then one of you guys is going to get a prize." But again, incentives need to, like not bias people, basically, to leave a good review. And I guess, as you were saying about ephemeral posts on Facebook and stuff, you would encourage them actually to go on to Racecheck or on RaceRaves so that these reviews end up living somewhere - so it's almost like a repository of all the reviews in one place. So it's a good thing for organizers to, like choose one or two platforms or whatever, and keep sending people to the same place, I guess.

Katie  38:39  
Yeah, I mean, we firmly believe that reviews should live wherever runners are researching on races - right? So sometimes, people will encourage them to leave the reviews on Facebook or other sites. And we think that reviews are important and that they should be on the platforms that runners are on. And we want to earn that place as one of those platforms but we're not trying to be exclusive about it.

Alex  39:03  
Although I do think that the most powerful place for reviews to be are where the organizers need them, and that's on their website. And we've taken those reviews to where organizers are trying to sell entries. At the end of the day, reviews are only useful at the point of sale - let's put it that way. So the closer they are at the point of sale, the more useful it is for the organizers. Usually, that's the website.

Katie  39:34  
Yes. The website or the registration page. 

Alex  39:37  
Yeah.

Panos  39:37  
And Alex, what are your thoughts on incentives? Do you guys do that? Do race directors you work with do that? Is there a good way to do it without - as Katie was saying - sort of crossing that line where you're like incentivizing people to leave a good review? Is there a way to incentivize people just to go and leave a review?

Alex  39:58  
I think, if a race organizer or anybody who is collecting reviews is incentivizing participants to leave reviews by providing a prize for each of those reviews then, for sure, that's a gray area. If the organizer is just doing a draw out of 1,000 reviews, somebody will benefit from that. It doesn't really matter what the review is as long as the review has been submitted. But there's no favoritism, either. It's pure luck if you benefit from that or not. So I think there's a huge distinction between somebody rewarding each review as compared to just doing some sort of lottery.

Final words

Panos  40:40  
Okay, so I think that's pretty much every question I had in mind. I'm going to sort of give you the floor for a couple of minutes to see if there's anything that you think we may have missed that's really important to add to this discussion. Which one of you wants to go first?

Alex  40:59  
Yeah. First of all, thank you very much for inviting us. And it's great to meet Katie as well. I think it's very important to raise awareness about reviews, because we see race organizers all the time spend a lot of money on promotions and tools that do not necessarily have the same impact as true peer participant feedback. In this day and age, people tend to use the same sort of channels for promotion and advertising. And with time, that just tends to just raise the prices until you reach to a point where there's a thin line between actually gaining something back in terms of return on investment. And this is why the review industry so massive. It's one of the most powerful ways and cheapest ways to increase sales. So thank you very much for inviting us and allowing us to kind of share your insights and ways that organizers can use those reviews, and maybe alleviate some of those concerns about negative reviews, etc, because it's important. I'm very, very passionate about this field and I'm a really, really massive believer in the impact that it can have, especially at this time where organizers need all the help they can in order to get back on their feet. So thank you.

Katie  42:25  
I would agree with much of that. I think word of mouth is so powerful. And in so many different venues, reviews are really a great way to capture that. So we feel very strongly that this is a powerful tool and, often, a very inexpensive and affordable tool for race directors. So hopefully, this conversation helped educate and was a helpful resource. So thank you for having us on. Alex, it was great to meet you. I appreciate this opportunity.

Panos  42:52  
Well, before we go, because I see you guys are both eager to jump off the call, one more opportunity for you guys to help race directors out. I know Racecheck has badges that people can share and put on their website. RaceRaves, I guess - I'm not 100% sure - that you have something similar. So each of you, just tell race directors where they can go on your sites to find more information about using reviews and the kinds of things that you do - like the badges and other stuff. So Katie, you go first.

Katie  43:28  
Sure. So we have a partner page on our site that you can go to and find links to resources about how to capture, leverage and showcase reviews. So we have different types of badges in terms of-- there's the general, just showcasing your reviews on our site. We also use reviews as a way to uncover what we'll call hidden gems. So there are big races out there that many people know about and will naturally find. There are also a lot of smaller events that get very high ratings that people don't know about - we write a lot of editorial around that. And we also have badges for best marathons and best half marathons in the US, sorted by state. So there are a lot of different ways in which race directors can leverage upon - either those badges or the reviews in general. So I would suggest go to RaceRaves.com/partner. And there's information there. My contact information is there as well. It's a great way to learn about it.

Alex  44:26  
Yeah. For Racecheck, basically, if anybody goes to organisers.racecheck.com, they can find all the information they want about how to get involved. With Racecheck, we basically collect reviews on organizers that we have and, then, we present those reviews through an interactive widget that basically sits on the organizers' websites so that people can navigate the reviews as if they are on the Racecheck page. We've got a free tier as well for organizers with smaller budgets. And they both lead to a dashboard and a backend where organizers can actually get analysis over their reviews, get common things, patterns, resources about how to use those reviews, analysis, a ton of really, really useful tools. So go to organisers.racecheck.com to find out more.

Panos  45:25  
And is that organizers with an 's' or with a 'z'?

Alex  45:28  
Good question. That's with an 's'.

Panos  45:31  
There you go. I knew that. We have plenty of people coming in from the US. Okay guys, thank you very much for your time today. I think we touched on a topic that is really quite unique and adds one more channel for people to help improve their events. So thank you very much for coming on and helping us on that. And thank you very much, also to everyone listening in. And I hope I'll see everyone on the next episode.

Alex  45:58  
Thank you very much.

Katie  45:59  
Thank you so much.

Epilogue

Panos  46:05  
I hope you enjoyed this episode on race reviews with Racecheck's, Alex Tanti and RaceRaves' Katie Ho.

You can find more resources on anything and everything related to race directing on our website RaceDirectorsHQ.com. You can also share your questions about race reviews in our Facebook group, Race Directors Hub.

If you enjoyed this episode, please don't forget to subscribe or leave a review on your favorite player and, also, check out the podcast back-catalogue for more great content like this.

Until our next episode, take care and keep putting on amazing races.

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