Actively Engaging the Customer Base:
November 2, 2011
Contemporary Marketing and Promotions Strategies
Marketing and promoting your laser tag center in today’s high speed and digital world can be more than a little daunting. There are so many options, that sometimes you see centers not do anything for fear of doing the wrong thing. While it is always wise to conduct marketing research before executing promotions strategies, remember that your center can be all but invisible if you don’t put the word out there.
Understanding the difference between marketing and promotions is important, as most people think they are either the same thing or that many promotions are marketing. Nothing could be further than the truth. Marketing finds you examining your current customers, how they are changing, and where they will end up, in say five years, and if you will still be able to meet their needs. You have to do this within the confines of your business structure, and do it better than your competitors.
Basic marketing activities include understanding how your customers think, and what they will do next. How is this done? Ask them. Marketers are also always on the lookout for new market segments, or a group of like-minded folks who can be reached with similar means. Smart marketers are also keenly aware of what the competition is doing, so that if they beat you to the punch or are doing it cheaper you don’t blindly market incorrectly.
Let’s move into promotions with a few basic tips:
• Nothing, and I mean nothing, is more important to your promotional efforts than your center looking the part and your staff performing excellent customer service. It doesn’t do you any favors if you have a wildly successful ad campaign that drives a ton of customers into your store if they have a bad experience.
• You must have an easy-to-navigate and informative website. If a complete stranger to your business cannot find your pricing within a few clicks and 30 seconds, something is wrong. Don’t be afraid to peruse competitors’ or others’ websites and utilize their good ideas. Also, do not worry about having an extremely flashy or feature-rich site: parents are often turned off by websites that throw too much at them at one time.
• Smart businesses always answer the phone and make sure they are listed in the proper areas in their local yellow pages. Being listed in “Amusement Places” and “Entertainment” is fine, but look for “Laser Tag,” “Party Planning,” “Arcades,” etc. and get your name and information out there.
Assuming you have put these basic promotional ideas into practice, you should start to tap into alternate forms of marketing and promotions that will drive more customers into your arms. It is important to identify which marketing group(s) you are looking to target, and to tailor your approach to those you wish to reach. Also, try to utilize your promotions to capture the interest of one event to lead into another. What do I mean?
Promotions that you utilize internally can make a huge difference in sales. As an example, let’s examine a potential promotion to corporate clients. Everyone knows that you offer parties, group discounts, etc., but every adult that walks into your door likely has a job, and that company is looking for group activities to bolster morale. Make these customers your advocates. If you are providing a great experience, and I am sure you are, it is time to let these customers know about corporate packages.
- Print eye-catching posters that briefly mention corporate event team building, blowing off steam, etc., and place one of these posters in each of your party areas.
- Offer corporate brochures in highly visible locations at your front counter, concession counter and redemption counter.
- Make sure you have a prominent corporate package page on your website and have a blurb on your front page to guide folks to it. Make sure your page can be found by online web crawlers.
These are only a few ideas to execute. Corporate packages are an obvious example, but seriously consider using your empty walls and counter space to advertise all those things you do. It will pay off.
To further the reach of your brand on the web takes more than a great website: social media is a very powerful tool in your arsenal. Over the years, as the online tools have expanded, I have noticed that many companies utilize one or two ways to get the message out there, but you have to be relentless: the internet offers almost infinite ways to reach potential customers. This means that your online work is never done, but casually searching for new sites to attach yourself to is something you should do weekly, just don’t get too crazy or you will stress yourself out.
It should be noted that social media does require weekly maintenance. You have to post something regularly. You need new pictures to go up on occasion. In other words, talk to your potential customers on a regular basis and never stop hammering on them to come have a good time.
- Keep an updated Facebook page.
- Keep an updated Twitter account.
- Utilize LinkedIn for yourself and to connect to potential and current customers.
- Look into using a site such as HootSuite to tie it all together, this even allows for scheduling updates, a huge time saver.
- Search the web not only for yourself but for your competition and keep any business profiles you find up to date with links to your website. You will be amazed at how many websites are set up to guide potential customers your way.
- When all else fails, talk to your staff, party parents, etc. (this is a very powerful marketing tool) and find out what sites they visit when looking for entertainment. Make sure you are listed there.
- So far we have looked at promotional tools that you can handle with just a little know-how right from your desk. The truth is, promotional tools are available everywhere and you should never stop looking for an edge, but what are some outside tools you may wish to consider?
- Print advertising is one of the least expensive options available to you. Having an occasional coupon along with your info and some stunning imagery in a local family oriented magazine is worthwhile.
- Radio advertising can be useful provided you are hitting the right audience. Local pop and kid-friendly stations can be a boon if Mom is keeping the kids entertained in the car and the advertising reaches her.
- TV, movie theatre ads, and the like are mostly hit and miss as well as your most expensive option. The trick with these kinds of advertising is you have to capture your audience’s attention. Since this is a timing issue for maximum impact, it usually translates into high-dollar spending. Use it wisely.
- The above are just a few ways to promote your center successfully, but there are many more ways to accomplish this goal. Never stop learning and asking other operators about their promotional strategies. Here are a few more tips:
- Don’t over saturate your market with coupons. Too often if you offer coupons constantly you inadvertently educate your customer base to only show up if there is a coupon. Also, you are probably undercutting yourself by giving coupons to people who were going to show up anyway.
- New specials, such as an all-you-can-play night, should be left in place at least six months to really be proof of concept. It is easy to pull a new promotion too early before the word has gotten out. Don’t be afraid to shift said promotions as they weaken. Bring them back later after a prolonged absence.
Well-thought-out promotions will generate much more money than they cost. If you find that this is not the case, rethink your marketing and try something new. And, if something really works, pass it on to your fellow operators. –Back