Escape Room Blog

Moving Beyond ‘The Escape’

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Escape Rooms have become an international phenomena, and with it has come the name ‘Escape Room’.  But is this name good, or bad for the industry?

Escape room

Escape room

Certainly for veteran players, it makes sense, it’s a name they are used to.  But for new players it may be a bit confusing.  And for local officials giving you a business license, it can be downright concerning.

On top of all of this, there is also the fact that many rooms that we go to now, have moved beyond ‘the escape’.   We have been in rooms where the goal is to solve a mystery, find treasure, rob banks and a few other creative ideas.

But the question is, if we are going to go beyond the name ‘Escape Room’, what will we use?

Recently this came up in a meeting, and I was surprised at how difficult it was to describe the new pastime.  Here are some of the names people brought up….

Interactive Gaming
Live Action Gaming
Live Adventure Games
Interactive Adventures
Interactive Mysteries
Puzzle Rooms

While each of these names is interesting, none seem to truly capture what a modern ‘escape room’ is, and many of the terms bring other things to mind, which may confuse the audience.

So the big question is, do we stick with ‘Escape Rooms’ or do we come up with something new?

Let me know in the comments area, and also let me know some of your ideas for a new name

June 25, 2016 |

The Stage Is Set

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I have been to more escape rooms than most people.  There have been many that were fantastic, and some that were less so.  Typically, the ones I have been to have fallen into these categories.

  1.  They take place in an office, where you have to use your imagination to set the mood and location.  For instance I went to one room, where the website showed an underground chamber, but took place in what looked like an old accounting office.
  2. They take place in a location that naturally matches the theme of the room.  A great example of this is ‘The Curiosity Shop‘ in Riverside, California…. which is in an actual old shop.
  3. They take place in an office building that has been decorated really well to create an atmosphere.  Some good examples are ‘The Entrapment‘ in San Diego and EscapeX Rooms in Irvine, CA.

Recently, I got to experience something different… something that really made me say, ‘WOW!’

I went to ‘The Fun House’ at Crossroads Escape Games in Anaheim, CA.  This was a brand-new room that Madison and Luke had opened just a week earlier.  They also have the very popular ‘Hex Room’, which I have not been able to do yet, as I need 5-6 people… and I don’t seem to have enough friends.

However, ‘The Fun House’ does not require that many people, so we booked that and headed up to Anaheim.  After arriving to what was essentially a giant warehouse, with a very nice waiting room.  After the normal waivers were signed, and the rules were given, we entered into something that absolutely blew my mind!  Madison and Luke had used the cavernous warehouse space, with the high ceilings, to essentially build a building within a building.  You weren’t in an office that had some funhouse decorations, you were IN A FUNHOUSE!  Loud colors, crazy pictures on the walls, giant doors with oversized knobs.  They even had a vaulted ceiling that looked like a circus tent, an ‘upside down’ room, and one of those perspective rooms where it actually gets smaller on the other end.

The amount of set design, time and creativity it took to create this room was mind-blowing, and truly raises the bar for escape room creators.

Talking with Luke and Madison, I was impressed when I heard they had essentially designed and built the adventure themselves.

If you are a designer of escape rooms, or a room owner, you have just been called out!  This was an absolutely incredible room, and takes set design to a whole new level.

And so far, I have only mentioned the set design.  It should be noted that the room was a ton of fun!  It was challenging, clever and had just the right mix of easy and difficult puzzles, so you were challenged, yet always felt success, rather than frustration.

Overall, ‘The Fun House’ at Cross Roads Escape Games is an exciting escape room, and an absolute must-see for any escape room enthusiast!

Oh, and as for our success.  We were told that no 3-person groups had escaped The Funhouse yet… but we did!  And we did so in 35 minutes


Cross Roads Escape Games
4245 E La Palma Ave
Anaheim, CA 92807
(714) 572-1004
http://escaperoomblackbook.com/listings/cross-roads-escape-games/

 

May 13, 2016 |

Marketing an Escape Room

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As an escape game operator, you have a unique business.  You provide a new form of entertainment, that most people have still never even heard of.letters-637182_960_720

While this presents a unique challenge, as you have to educate the public, as well as market to them, most of your marketing efforts are going to be the same as any doctor, lawyer or plumber.

So, I thought I would provide a marketers perspective on how to get more customers to your business.

Number One:  Your Website

In this day and age, especially in this kind of business, where most reservations are made online, we MUST start with a good foundation, which means a website that works for us.

Because escape rooms are an art form and often very theme-driven, it is natural that we want to create a site that plays off of our theme.  If our room is about a haunted mansion, we want the site to reflect that.  The challenge we face is that these highly themed websites often work against us.   While it is nice to have a website that sets a tone, it is more important that the website ranks well in Google, educates the visitors, collects leads and gets the visitors to book a game.

This does not mean we have to abandon our theme online, but it does mean we have to keep the practical parts of the website in mind when we are creating the site.  Here are some ways to ensure you make the most of your site.

  1. Use a platform that is robust and functional.  Platforms like WordPress are ideal, as there are thousands of themes, plugins and options for the platform.  It also has the ability to easily add a blog to the page and does well with SEO
  2. Ovoid done-for-you platforms like Wix.  These can be implemented quickly, but they are not robust enough for an effective business website
  3. Make sure that your site is mobile-friendly!  This is very important from a customer usability standpoint, but it is also an SEO issue.  Google now penalizes sites that are not mobile friendly
  4. Use videos!  Videos may sound difficult to do, but they are so effective, especially in an art-driven industry.  Sites with videos tend to convert better, and they rank better, as they tend to keep people on the site longer
  5. Try and capture leads.  Even if a person doesn’t book today, you want to be able to market to them, so they can book in the future.  Add a lead capture, where they put in their name and email in exchange for something, such as coupons, specials or perhaps even a ‘guide to escape rooms’
  6. More information is better than less!  If your site only has 3-6 pages, you may have trouble ranking.  Google likes to recommend sites that help people.  If your site doesn’t have a lot of information, Google may not be able to tell how relevant it is, and so they may not rank it well.  Therefore, you want to make sure you have things like a home page, a page for each game, a contact page, an FAQ page, an About Us page, a page showing the people that escaped or record times, a gallery of images, and perhaps a page about escape rooms in general.  This will not only make the site more robust, but it will give Google more information on what the site is really about
  7. Make sure your contact info is easy to access!  Your customers look for this, and so does Google!
  8. Have a blog.  As I mentioned in number six, Google likes content.  The easiest way to have more content is to do a regularly updated blog.   You can write about tips for solving puzzles, share images and stories about visitors, progress updates on new rooms, even write-ups about other rooms you have visited.
  9. Connect with all of your social media.  People love to visit you on Facebook and see the updates and images
  10. Optimize the site!  This may require an expert to help, but you want to make sure you know your keywords, add them to the site, and link all your pages together.  You also want to make sure that you have all the legal pages, such as a ‘terms of services’ and ‘privacy policy’

Number Two:  Google My Business

As mentioned above, everything starts with a good website.  This strong website will help you to rank better in Google, and show up better in the local maps.

But another important thing that everyone should do right away, is get into the FREE Google My Business program.

welcome-to-google-my-business

As we mentioned earlier Google’s main priority is providing people that search on Google, with the best and most accurate information.  In order to do that, Google collects information on local businesses, and it then adds them to their Google My Business program (often thought of as the Google maps).  Those listings are done automatically, and then ranked based on a number of factors, including the businesses website and the number of reviews people give the business.  But there is also one MAJOR factor in ranking well on those maps that a vast number of businesses never do; that is to ‘claim’ that listing.  Any business that is listed on the maps can be claimed by the business owner, and then verified and optimized.

You should also be encouraging people to leave good reviews.  If someone comes out of your room, and they are happy and excited, ask them to leave a review on Google.  While you should never bribe people to leave a good review, you can incentivize them for taking the time to leave a review.  Having a large number of good reviews is not only great for people searching for a room, it also helps your maps listing to rank higher.

Number Three:  Directories

Directories are any sites that list businesses.  This can be an all-encompassing site, like Yelp or an industry-specific site, such as the site you are on now.  You need to get listed on as many as you possibly can.  These directory sites are a great way to improve your businesses profile, in a number of ways.   First and foremost is that potential customers may be on their.  The more places you are listed, the more likely someone will find you.  In addition to that, each of those sites will likely link back to your website, giving your site an all important backlink, which in-turn should help improve your website rankings.

Some of the sites you should be listing yourself on:


 

yellowpages.aol.com

local.com

americantowns.com

insiderpages.com

magicyellow.com

elocal.com

localpages.com

Escape Room Black Book

Escape Room Directory

Escape Reviewer

Play Exit Games

Escape Room hub

And of course, there may be local directories in your city or town, such as with the chamber of commerce, or the local newspaper.

Number Four:  Social MediaScreen Shot 2016-05-03 at 5.39.33 PM

This is an area that it seems many escape room owners are pretty good at.  Nearly every room that I have seen has a Facebook Page, an Instagram and a Twitter.  And almost everyone takes photos and posts them.  But as with anything, we can be doing even more with social media.  Here are some efforts, that you should be making.

  1.  Try to gather the Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter names for your players.  This will allow you to tag them in images and posts.
  2. Take pictures of every group, and post them to your social media accounts.  Take everyone that was there, and encourage them to share of comment on the image.  An easy way to do that is to post a question with the image.  Questions like, ‘Which one of you solved the most puzzles’, will likely get them talking and sharing the image, and with it, your business.
  3. Put a link to your business with the image!  Most people that see the image will be curious, make it easy for them to get to your website
  4. Ask happy customers to shoot a quick video testimonial.  You can then post it on YouTube and Facebook, and once again, tag them!
  5. Post often.  Most room owners seem to post images quite a bit, but you need to post content that others will like and share.  Nobody is all that interested in the images of groups they weren’t a part of, so to keep people engaged, you need to give them something they can like and share
  6. Encourage people to ‘like’ your content!  Did you know that when you post something on Facebook, only a tiny fraction of your followers will see it in their timeline.  If they like a few things on your page, they will see more of your content when you post it.
  7. Incentivize customers to ‘check in’ on sites like Facebook
  8. Learn to use FB ads and YouTube ads.  These ads are cheap, easy and effective!
  9. Find the local Facebook groups, and post there.  Nearly every community has a local group, where people buy and sell items, share recipes and discuss the school lunch menu.  This is the ideal place to educate people about the business, give out coupons and even get feedback

Number Five:  Guerrilla Marketing

This is where we step out into the non-traditional, and start creating some marketing buzz for ourselves, using creativity and shoe leather.

The first thing you should do, is start to cross promote with other local businesses.  Talk to restaurant owners, and do ‘Dinner and a Puzzle’.  One room I went to recently, actually incorporated a meal at a local tavern as part of the game.  This created business and exposure for both locations.  Another good candidate would be the local movie theater.  Theaters usually have discount ticket programs and cross promotions that they do, so don’t be afraid to ask.

Talk with the local cub scouts, boy scouts and church groups.  They are often looking for fun activities to do, especially ones where there is an element of teamwork involved.

Create an incentive program for customers.  If they refer friends, they get a discount to another game.

And now for one of my favorites.

Collaborate with other games in your area.  One of the down-sides to this business is that most games don’t have a deployability.  Once a customer has played your room, there is usually little reason to do so again.  The one positive from this is that this goes for all the other rooms in the area.  Unlike most businesses that are in competition with each other, escape rooms are usually in the unique position of actually wanting to share customers.  If your customer loves escape rooms, but has already done your room, send him to another location, and have them do the same.

You can even take this to another level by actually creating a local ‘Escape Club’.  Have cards that can be brought from one location to the next, and when someone does all 5 rooms in the area, they get a prize.  Not only does this benefit all the locations, but it gives the customers greater incentive to visit all the locations.

You can even take this to another level, by having all the rooms contact customers, and actively encourage them to try one of the other rooms.

The Bottom Line

While escape rooms are a new and somewhat different business, the same marketing principals apply.  If you utilize all the tools at your disposal and add a little creativity, you can see a huge improvement in bookings and sales.

Want to learn more?  

Download our free Local Marketing Made Easy Program.  Includes a 69 page guide, cheat sheet, mind map and resource guide!

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May 3, 2016 |

When Good Tech Goes Bad

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The first few escape rooms I ever went to had absolutely no technology.  There were simply logic puzzles, locks and combinations.  The rooms were actually quite fun.

Then I went to a room called The Curiosity Shop in Riverside, CA.  This escape adventure used some really great technology, essscape-020which added to the overall experience of playing the room, and the great thing about it was that the technology was ‘invisible’.  In other words, it just worked when it needed to, added to the atmosphere and story… and didn’t stand out.

When I saw this technology, I saw something that could really make escape rooms an even more engaging experience.

But sadly, that has not been the case in the rooms I have been to since then.

In 3 different rooms I have been to recently, the technology has actually drawn away from the experience, and seemed like it was there more to show off the creators electronics ability, than to enhance the experience.  In one of the rooms, the technology completely failed, costing us about 10 minutes each time, as the Game Master didn’t realize it was’t working, and we did’t realize that the problem was tech-related (we thought our solution was incorrect).

So how do we correct this issue of tech-centered failures?

I think it comes down to a few things…

  1.  TEST, TEST, TEST!  Make sure that the tech works reliably and makes sense
  2.  Remember that people are there for the adventure, not see your gadgets.
  3.  Make sure that the tech fits the story, and enhances the experience, rather than standing out

Overall, I think technology can be an amazing enhancement to an escape game, but only if it makes, sense, is done well, and it works reliably.

What has your experience been with technology in an escape room?

April 18, 2016 |

A Mighty Awesome Escape Room

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The title of this post isn’t just a description of a recent Escape Room that I went to, it’s a title.  And with a name like ‘Mighty Awesome’, you are creating a lot of expectations.  So the question is… does Mighty Awesome live up to it’s superlative name?

The Location

First and foremost, I have to say, this may be the coziest location I have been to for an escape room.  Not only was it in a very nice business place, but the waiting area was nice and clean, with comfy furniture, and puzzles to play while you wait your turn.  In a business niche that usually consists of dusty old buildings, with few creature comforts, this was a welcome change.

The Theme

This is where it gets interesting.  The current game they have available is:  The Office Of Professor R. K. Alogee

As it says on their page, “Professor R. K. Alogee needs your help! While hunting down the discovery of a lifetime, she seems to have finally found “it.” However, her research has drawn the attention of others, and the professor has gone missing. As her interns, it is up to you to retrace her footsteps and figure out what “it” is (and where the professor is) before others show up to raid her office…”

In case you don’t know, this is the type of theme that is right up my ally.  I love history, maps, and odd boxes, and this room has plenty of that.  In fact, these guys do a pretty remarkable job of sticking to the spirit of the theme, throughout the adventure.

Overall, this is one of the better rooms, when it comes to sticking to a theme.

The Puzzles

Themes are great, but we all know that it’s the puzzles that ultimate separate a good room from a bad room.  If the puzzles are too difficult, or don’t make sense, you can end up frustrating people.  Make them too easy, and people get bored.  To me the best way to go is to have fairly easy puzzles to get you going, and then have the later puzzles increase in intensity, and that is what happens in the Professor’s office.

Not only do  the puzzles vary in difficulty, but there are some that require teamwork, which is always a good thing.  And while there are some locks and keys, it isn’t an endless parade of finding keys and unlocking padlocks.

Overall, I thought the progression of puzzles was well-paced, and challenging, without being overly frustrating.  There are also some red herrings along the way, so be prepared to move on quickly, when things don’t seem to go anywhere.

Overall Experience

Overall, I think Mighty Awesome did a great job with this room.  The combination of theme, challenging puzzles and the necessity of teamwork adds up to an adventure that is not only fun, but appropriate for all ages.


Mighty Awesome Escape Rooms
1040 La Bonita Drive Ste #140, San Marcos CA 92078
760-571-9775
mightyawesomeproductions.com
mightyawesomeproductions@gmail.com

 

April 13, 2016 |
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