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.
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.
- 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
- Ovoid done-for-you platforms like Wix. These can be implemented quickly, but they are not robust enough for an effective business website
- 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
- 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
- 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’
- 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
- Make sure your contact info is easy to access! Your customers look for this, and so does Google!
- 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.
- Connect with all of your social media. People love to visit you on Facebook and see the updates and images
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.
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:
Escape Room Black Book
Escape Room Directory
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 Media
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.
- Try to gather the Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter names for your players. This will allow you to tag them in images and posts.
- 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.
- 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
- Ask happy customers to shoot a quick video testimonial. You can then post it on YouTube and Facebook, and once again, tag them!
- 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
- 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.
- Incentivize customers to ‘check in’ on sites like Facebook
- Learn to use FB ads and YouTube ads. These ads are cheap, easy and effective!
- 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.
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