We know what you are going to say: "Who uses direct mail anymore?" This is a great question. Yes, it is true that less companies and organizations utilize direct mail campaigns to reach their targeted demographic, but this is exactly why maybe you should. This decrease in overall volume of direct mail means there is less clutter and competition in the mailbox and your piece has a better chance of being seen.
The key to having an effective direct mail campaign is to keep it very local. Identify the areas of your surrounding communities that contain dense populations of your targeted demographics. Be sure to get creative and create a direct mail piece that is unique and will stand-out. This is also an opportunity to include a special Promo Code to encourage people to register. You might also consider getting a sponsor to underwrite or cover some or all of the cost of printing and mailing a quality mailer by featuring their business or product prominently as well.
Related: Sponsorships: Just Do It!
The impact of someone finding out about your event first-hand from you or one of your representatives is far greater than anything that happens online or even with direct mail that they hold in their hand. The message can be crafted specifically for each individual that you might be talking to at the time. You can read their body language and respond directly to their questions. They will be able to see your facial expressions and hear the excitement and sincerity in your voice. All of this adds up to a more meaningful and memorable interaction.
Look for opportunities to set-up a table or a booth at other events in your town and surrounding communities that might be a part of your targeted audience. The local farmer's market, festivals, race expos, and other large gatherings are good places to interact with your potential runners. If your race benefits a charity, be sure to attend any other events or meetings put on by their organization to help get the word out. Having a unique piece of swag or other type of promotional item can help remind people later about your event. Refrigerator magnets are a great choice since there is a pretty good chance it will be seen daily. Get creative and make it something useful.
Related: Race Swag: Expense or Opportunity?
Depending on the size of your community, you can still get a lot of bang for your buck in your local paper. The price of an ad will not break the bank and people in smaller communities still like to pick up an actual newspaper and read it now and then. An even better strategy would be to come up with an angle to get a local writer from the local paper or area community magazine to do a story on your event for free. They are always looking for fresh content that is interesting and relevant to their readers.
If your race is a bit larger or in a more populated area, then you might consider and ad in a running/fitness magazine or other industry-related periodical. This will be a bit more expensive than your local options, but will get information about your event in front of more people specifically targeted in your demographics. Set a budget and explore the options.
Related: Social Media 101 for Race Directors
At RaceDirector, we are huge advocates of getting all the free press you can as well as strategically spending some marketing dollars in the right places. The key is to take a multi-faceted approach and be consistent. Don't worry if one outlet does not seem to get as much traction as another. It all adds to the cumulative mass of you spreading the word about your race.