International Laser Tag Association:
January 16, 2011
Marketing Outside Your Target
Laser tag facilities are often thought of to be strictly birthday or group destinations. While most facilities tend to focus on the most common group elements: birthday parties, church or scout group, corporate teambuilding, lock-ins and casual walk in traffic, there are whole other virtually untapped markets. With some creative ingenuity and a little effort, you can actually open yourself up to some interesting business prospects of which you were not previously aware.
As some of these ideas may be experimental for your facility, offering the first couple events of these types at a discounted rate could give you an idea of what to expect for future events. If you try any of these and find out they are not worth it, then you are not out a great deal of money. These could also help you gain a good deal of experience and understanding of your future market possibilities.
Bar/Bat Mitzvahs are one area that people don’t often consider when they think laser tag, but spending a little money on decorations and food can turn a slow day into a packed exclusive and profit-generating event. Contacting your local Jewish centers and synagogues can help to spread the word that you are an available option for such events. As with any religious event, a little cultural research can give you great ways to market, offer thoughtful package options, and create lasting memories for your guests that will provide great future returns.
If you are close to your local campus, sending employees to local sororities and fraternities to offer exclusive or group college events can help you pull in a slightly older crowd. Having competitive events between the various sororities and fraternities is a great way to pull in larger crowds for your exclusive events and give you more flexibility on game formats, similar to corporate team building.
An interesting twist with the college market is that many campuses have a campus credit system that is tied into their student ID’s that guarantee payment through the school. Participating with the campus mobile marketing services, they can provide card swipers that take payment much like a credit card machine. Being tied in this way, campuses will often market heavily those businesses that are tied into that system and help draw people in for special events or days when you want to have the additional revenue come in.
Summers can be slow times of the year for many operators as kids are outside more and traveling. One market that booms during this time is the wedding industry. While most wedding receptions happen during your busy times on Saturdays, bachelor and bachelorette parties are numerous throughout the summer and generally happen on Friday nights. Having a group package where the groom or bride plays for free can help bring the business in. You could also include the use of one of your party rooms/areas for the guests to celebrate in. As many facilities don’t use their party areas on weekend nights, this is one way to make sure you are using the space for which you are paying rent.
In-Store Product Marketing/Demonstrations/Celebrations
Many companies like to hold celebrations when they unveil new products, personnel or policies. Make sure your local businesses know they can celebrate at your location! Some local businesses that offer demonstrations on their new products or services could easily use your party rooms/areas to showcase what they have to offer. Some businesses may want to use your facility to push their product during your normal hours.
One example of this was in 2008 when Hasbro contacted the International Laser Tag Association to unveil their new home laser tag products by having children play with their gear in their commercial laser tag facilities for a day. By doing this, Hasbro was able to promote their product and the ILTA could promote their facility on their Web site for hosting the event. This opened up the trial of the new toys to people who wanted to have their own laser tag at home and brought more business in to the participating locations.
Finding out what your local businesses create and promote can help you know what type of crowd you can expect and possibly open yourself up to future corporate events. If your soda provider is offering a new type of drink, offer a corporate event and serve the drink at your counters when the players get thirsty. If you work in a technology driven market, have those companies exhibit or unveil their innovations at your facility. Many of these businesses are looking for your type of venue to celebrate in, they just need to know you are there!
Bands and Concerts
Some locations have had great success bringing in teenagers by having bands come in and play. Putting ads in local or school newspapers can draw a lot of attention as many bands are looking for venues to play. Of course there are some things to consider: type of music being played, language used, band behavior (no smoking or drinking for example), etc. but informing the band or their manager in advance of what is expected often results in very few incidents, if any.
Having religious rock bands come in and play for your crowds can draw in more religious groups in the future. In the United States, Christian rock bands have become increasingly popular though knowing your market’s culture could help you decide which type may work for your business. Religious bands do not often create problems, as they tend to push positive behavior to the crowd. For bands that do a good job, create an incentive to keep them coming back, especially if they draw a crowd that benefits you financially.
One thing to stay away from are raves or events that generally have a high instances of bad behavior associated with them like drug use, sexual promiscuity or violence. There are facilities that have had police intervention called on them and created all kinds of bad publicity that hurt the business in the long run. Doing a little bit of homework on the band and listening to what they are playing can save you a ton of headaches.
Science and Education
Another way of bringing in new clients is to contact your local schools and host a science education program. These events can happen during the week at times when you are normally closed to provide additional revenue. All you have to do is provide a small workshop on the history of lasers and/or class on how laser tag works, let the kids play a few game formats to teach team building, and you have yourself an event that will market to your birthday and group sales.
Schools may want to see what you are teaching in advance, so putting together a marketing kit specifically for those events can help increase the likelihood of schools considering you for a field trip option.
One idea that is gaining traction and being tried by operators is a new option called groupons that utilize the popular social networks that most kids use today to drum up sales. How groupons work are that you offer your laser tag games at a low discounted price, then groupon markets your deal through networks like Twitter and Facebook to people in your area. Only when a certain number of people agree to purchase at that price, does the offer become validated. If you don’t get the crowd you’re looking for, you don’t have to worry about offering the discounted price. It is important to note that this is still a very new way of marketing and drawing in more business, but some ILTA operators have already had proven success with this program.
Learning to market and hold any of these types of events or promotions could take time or a couple of tries to perfect. However, if any of these ideas work out for your facility, they could be huge revenue generators for the off-peak times and slow seasons you have. You have nothing to lose but your effort to create new business!
(Eric Gaizat is the Director of Membership Services for the International Laser Tag Association, Inc.)