Selling something people already know about is not easy.
Selling something people are just becoming aware of is even harder.
Selling something people have never heard of and often can’t begin to imagine is the difficult task escape room game operators face.
Escape room businesses must overcome distinct marketing challenges that don’t exist in other industries.
The escape room sales and marketing tips described here are designed to help you increase your visibility in your market and – ultimately – boost your bookings.
ESCAPE ROOM MARKETING CHALLENGES
Escape rooms face two unique challenges.
Challenge 1: You can’t describe what’s inside; it’s a secret.
Marketing an escape room is like trying to sell something invisible. You can’t show it to your customers until after they’ve paid for it!
People book escape games based on a promise. How do you convince someone to pay for something he’s not allowed to see?
Challenge 2: An escape game is a one-time sell.
Once you’ve spent all your time, energy and money attracting customers and convincing them to buy into your secret, you can only sell them that experience once!
Even if your customers are delighted with your service, your set design, your puzzles, your narrative – they’re only going to play that particular game one time.
Operators with several rooms bank on providing such a great first-time experience that customers will return to try the others.
But what if you only have one room?
Because the only solution to Challenge 2 is to build more rooms …
… and the only way to generate the capital to build more rooms is to increase bookings on the room you already have …
… your marketing strategy must focus on bringing in as many new customers as possible.
Consistently attracting new customers is vital to your business growth – and most likely, your survival.
The following marketing strategies will help you attract new customers to your escape room business.
1. Offer a money-back guarantee.
“You did not like the game?
Tell us why, and we will give you money back!”
Assuming you’re offering outstanding service and a great escape game, few people will ever take advantage of this. But making it available shows your customers that you are confident they will enjoy the experience – and that you genuinely care if they don’t.
What does it cost?
The only cost associated with this strategy is humility. And the refund amount. But, again, if your game and service are good, you’ll rarely – if ever – have customers take you up on the offer.
2. Sell gift cards.
If people enjoy your escape room, they may want to share the experience with friends or family members. Selling gift cards is a great way to help them do that.
Escape room gift cards are also the perfect gift for those embracing today’s “simplicity movement” – people who seek out smaller, simpler homes and shed their excess material belongings appreciate gifts that give them experiences rather than objects they have to keep and maintain.
Tip: Put some of your marketing efforts into creating gift cards that complement your theme. Consider creating themed gift-card boxes or – if your budget can handle it – “hiding” gift cards in puzzle boxes.
Make sure you promote your gift cards both in your lobby and on your website, especially during gift-giving seasons.
Tip: Consider renting a booth at a local mall during the holidays and selling gift cards there or partnering with nearby restaurants to create “birthday packages” or “Valentine’s Day” packages that include a meal and an escape game gift card.
What does it cost?
Depending on how elaborate your gift card delivery method is, this strategy could cost a little money. Digital gift cards, though, cost only the time and effort to program them.
3. Leverage local media.
News outlets are always looking for fresh and interesting topics to share with their viewers or readers, and you run a fresh and interesting business.
Approach local journalists and ask if they’d like to run a story about you and your business.
You can pitch a number of angles for the story, depending on your circumstances. Here are a few possibilities:
- First escape room in the area
- Moving to a larger location or expanding the number of rooms you have
- Inviting youth groups to tackle your puzzles for school credit or scout badges
- Playing host to a special occasion, such as a proposal or an anniversary
- Charitable activities you and your business are involved in
- Finding success as an entrepreneur and quitting your “day job”
- Opening your business under particularly challenging circumstances
- Offering something unique that other escape game facilities in the area do not
- Visits or endorsements from celebrities
How much does it cost?
This costs only the time it takes to reach out and make connections.
–> OPTIMIZE YOUR WEB PRESENCE.
First, it should go without saying that you need a website.
Second, your website needs to be easy to navigate and represent your brand in the best way possible.
Third, you need to use digital marketing strategies to attract visitors to your website.
4. Paid online advertising
If you don’t have online advertising experience, then here is what you should know:
There are countless ways to spend money online, but very few ways to spend money efficiently.
Unless you know exactly what you are doing – engage professionals to handle your paid online advertising.
What does it cost?
Advertising online can get pricey, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. Trust someone who does to get the most for your money.
Everyone who has used the Internet has heard of SEO.
Not a lot of people really understand what it means, though.
With a simple Google search, you can find countless SEO tips and tricks from reputable – and not so reputable – experts.
Here is the one piece of advice you’ll find is present in all the reputable articles:
Publish good content, and you will be rewarded.
What is “good” content?
Good content is anything that is useful and valuable to your target audience (your potential customers).
So, rather than stressing out over whether you understand long-tail keywords, canonical URLs, and referrer strings, just sit down and think about the people you want to attract to your business.
What are their interests?
What are they likely to be searching for online?
If you’re targeting couples, post a blog about unique date ideas (make sure one of those ideas is an escape room!).
If you have a child- or teen-friendly escape room, target parents with a blog featuring fun family activities in your area (hint: one of them is visiting your escape room!).
If your customers are primarily tourists, write about local attractions visitors should make sure they see before they head back home (obviously, they shouldn’t leave town without visiting an escape room!).
Search engines know if people stick around to read what you have to say, so say something people will enjoy reading. The more people find your content relevant and useful, the more search engines will send new folks your way.
Of course there are also plenty of SEO specialists who do understand long-tail keywords, canonical URLs, and referrer strings, so if you’re really committed to a robust SEO strategy, you don’t have to figure it all out yourself. You can hire a professional.
What does it cost?
Doing your own online research and writing blogs and other content is free. If you hire a marketing professional to help with your SEO, you’ll pay an hourly or monthly fee. These fees will vary depending on your geographic location, the person or company you hire, and the amount of work you want done.
Have you ever noticed that after you visit some websites, you start seeing their ads everywhere?
That’s remarketing, and it is highly effective.
If you plan to dedicate part of your budget to only one online marketing strategy, remarketing is the one you should choose.
Remarketing guarantees that your brand stays in potential customers’ minds, even after they’ve left your website.
Remarketing does take a little backend web development knowledge, but it’s worth it to either figure it out yourself or hire a professional to do it for you.
What does it cost?
Remarketing is cheaper than standard pay-per-click online advertising, but it will still cost you a little money.
Tip: Remarketing only works when you already have visitors on your website, so don’t spend the money until your web traffic is sufficient to make it worth it.
Go to TripAdvisor and create a free attraction listing. Write a catchy 500-character description of your business and upload a photo.
Sign up for Review Express to collect as many reviews as possible.
Obviously, you’ll also want to make sure your escape room and service are worthy of great reviews!
Tip: Keep in mind that no matter how hard you work, occasionally you’ll encounter someone who is just negative about life and pours that energy into a bad review. Making sure you offer a money-back guarantee will help, but don’t be discouraged if you get one negative review in the midst of tons of good ones. On the other hand, if a lot of reviewers are highlighting a certain issue, that tells you what you can do to improve.
What does it cost?
Getting listed on TripAdvisor and using Review Express are both free.
8. GET SOCIAL.
It’s difficult to do anything these days without running into references to social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook.
Use this popularity to your advantage. While there numerous how-to guides out there on using social media to your advantage, you don’t necessarily need a fancy social media strategy to keep up with your customers.
Remember that the key word in this equation is “social.” Customers respond to companies that engage with them as people, so develop a friendly, genuine brand voice and interact with them the way you’d want to be interacted with.
9. Post relevant content regularly.
Share articles and pictures your target audience will like and want to share with friends because it’s relevant to their interests.
Tip: There’s a free tool that will automatically Tweet your Facebook posts for you, so you only have to post in one place.
Make sure you promote the content you publish (your blog posts, new-room announcements, gift card reminders, discounts and special pricing, etc.).
Adapt your posts to fit your audience on each platform (for example, posts on LinkedIn tend to be more professional, while you can use more casual language on Twitter and Facebook).
What does it cost?
Setting up profiles on the most popular social media platforms is free, as is posting and sharing content. If you decide to try paid advertising on social media, track the results of your campaigns carefully and evaluate your ROI (return on investment) before making this a go-to strategy.
10. Target tourists.
If you happen to be in a location that is frequently visited by tourists, you can increase one-time visits by encouraging out-of-towners to give your escape room a try.
Some escape room fans actually seek out games in the cities they visit, but you also might get players who are new to the idea to try your room (thus turning them into fans!) if you market your business as a tourist attraction.