There’s some buzz that goes around the office this time of the year, as TOAST.net is once again sponsoring The Glass City Marathon. The Marathon is always a good time, but the planning and coordination needed to pull the event together is a momentous task. Organizing contacts, schedules, forms, and agendas is not a job for the feint of heart. However, with a few tools and some behind the scenes know-how, we’re helping whip this monster into shape.
Website Hosting- The Internet Storefront
People used to have three primary ways to get local information. If services were required, one used to look in the phone book for available services. One used to catch up with current events by reading newspapers. Local news used to involve waiting for a local news broadcast. “USED TO” being the key words here.
In today’s world, I dread coming home and seeing another phone book sitting in my mailbox. They just sit there, piling up until I take them to the recycling facility. Fortunately I discovered the Yellow Pages Opt Out site that curtails phonebook delivery a bit, but the point is all of that money that went into ads was wasted. Never looked at. At all. Since I managed to stop delivery, there is probably a large group of Spruce trees out there that are letting a sigh of relief over not getting turned into pulp for no good reason.
Newspapers are in the same category, but worse. I get sent a newspaper every morning, and I work all day. After work, I come home, eat dinner with the family, help the kids with homework, putter around the house for a bit, then go to bed. Newspapers tend to sit on our kitchen counter unopened. I actually called to cancel my newspaper subscription, but the paper vendors are so desperate to keep subscribers that they practically gave me the subscription for free. Free is hard to pass up, so that group of Spruce that had the false sense of security went to the paper mill after all. Sorry guys.
News broadcasts have really taken a downward spiral. First, you have to be in front a of TV at 6pm to see them, They spend the first 15 minutes talking about national news that you already heard, you get a funny weatherman that uses terms like “Super Quadruple Mega Monster Doppler!”, a few minutes of local events, and then sport scores that were available since yesterday. Not the most effective way to alert the public of an event, and I’m not really sure of their stance on Spruce killing.
What IS effective is the Internet. Since you can view the Internet from anywhere today- your computer, your phone, your TV, tablets, even eventually your car– it has become the choice method of finding information. An effective web presence should be the top priority of any business or organization that wants to get it’s word out today. Since TOAST.net’s design The Glass City Marathon’s website, in addition to provided communication tools, it has given runners and interested parties a more convenient way to interact with the Marathon. This in turn greatly increased participation and success of this year’s event, and not a single evergreen was harmed in the process.
Keeping In Touch
Behind the scenes of the Marathon, there are more logistics involved than most major wars. Vendors, sponsors, media, printers, designers, planners…they all need to be contacted and coordinated. TOAST.net’s offering of Google Apps for Business fit this bill perfectly. Google Apps is designed from the ground up to keep everything organized and manageable. The ability to create multiple schedules, easily share them with groups, and being able to keep apprised of changes instantly is invaluable. Clint McCormick, racing director for the Marathon, says “The calendar sharing functions of Google Apps became a critical tool in planning the event. I can’t think of any other way I could have gotten so many people coordinated at the same time. Real time syncing with my smartphone allowed me to keep on top of changes anywhere I went.”
Email is still the core of today’s communication, and Google Apps’s 25GB of storage space means there’s plenty of room to archive correspondence from earlier Marathons. McCormick mentions “I’m able to reference conversations from previous years to track requirements and costs. It gives me a point of reference to start with each year.” Google’s unique email labeling system and search features keep all of these messages organized and accessible. Plus, the fact that the mail system is cloud based means that email is accessible from any Internet device.
Google Docs, included with Google Apps, proved to be a powerful tool and a great time saver for the Marathon’s paperwork. Contracts had to be made up, forms created, signs posted, and all of this would normally involve endless email attachments to and from various people. Google Docs allows you to create a cloud based document and share it to the interested parties. They can then access it and make changes in real-time. “I was able to draw up a form, share it with three people on my Contacts list, and watch on my screen as they made needed adjustments. It turned a three-day process into 15 minutes,” McCormick explains. “It’s such a time saver! I’m even able to view and make changes to forms on my phone. Since I’m always on the go, I need a system that follows me, and Google Docs does the trick.” Google recently created Cloud Connect, an add-on that allows Microsoft Office documents to behave in this same manner. This across-the-board compatibility makes Google Docs usable by anyone.
Getting The Word Out
Communication with a large amount of people is always tricky. The Marathon has the task of sending out large amounts of email to distribute forms, maps, rules, and other race related material. TOAST.net’s Constant Contact served as the delivery system, allowing not only the proper groups to receive their needed information, but allowing the Marathon to gather valuable feedback. McCormick explains “Constant Contact allows me to not only send forms, courses, and newsletters about The Glass City Marathon, but I was also able to add surveys, videos, and track the effectiveness of the correspondence. The template system in Constant Contact make the emails easy to create- it’s just like using a word processor. The content you can include in even a simple newsletter just isn’t possible with a printed brochure, and the feedback and statistics I get back let me know what areas I should focus on.”
McCormick’s involvement, plus the use of Google Apps for Business and Constant Contact has allowed The Glass City Marathon’s participation rates to rise over 600% in the last three years. TOAST.net’s expertise is in cloud services integration for small business, and it is encouraging being able to see our tools bringing such great success to this organization. I wish good luck and good weather too all the participants of the 2011 Glass City Marathon! I’ll see you at the finish line, and don’t worry… I’ll keep all those phonebook and newspaper people away from the Spruce trees.