Prop Hunt: Sourcing props for your escape room business
10 Marketing Tips to make your Escape Room boom
Escape rooms are a bit of an enigma. Their basic devices—elaborate secrecy, challenging puzzles, videogame-like immersion—can also be what holds them back when it comes to advertising. In fact, escape room owners are often asking themselves: how do I effectively market something without giving anything whatsoever away, but which also plays on this secrecy to fuel intrigue, trickery, and fun?
The good news is that, unlike almost every other industry, escape room marketing has a limited history, which means veering from regular trends and unwritten protocols aren’t just advised but expected. In fact, the very nature of escape rooms—puzzle-solving, teamwork and mystery—is essential in marketing new and existing escape room businesses to create a fresh vibe. In such a saturated world of entertainment, we should see escape rooms as a type of offline Virtual Reality experience, and pushing the limits of offline marketing comes with the territory. So here are our Top 10 Tips to help your business go boom.
1. Take the afternoon off to visit your rivals
Regardless of whether you’ve only just started your business or you’ve been in existence a while, you should always know your competitors. Take the afternoon off and go stake out what they’re up to. What rooms do they have? Which ones are the most popular? Least popular? What are they doing right/wrong? You can use these to ensure your business is on the right tracks.
It’s not just a research exercise, though. The nature of the industry dictates that each room is often a one-time-use experience—customers won’t bother paying for the same room again. Having good ties with your competitors can ramp up your overall traffic. Customers that have already experienced competitors—and enjoyed it—are likely to give your rooms a go, especially if you’re new to the industry or area.
What’s more, an overall high-quality experience in any escape room in your area means it’s a thumbs-up for the industry in general, resulting in more people wanting more rooms to conquer.
2. Know your limits
Public trends tend to change quicker than UK weather. One theme might be super-popular at the moment, but a few weeks down the line the world has moved on, leaving you with an unused room awaiting immediate refurbishment. Target the themes that don’t and won’t die; zombie survival horror or detective-style mystery. What about a popular wizard or riddle-like theme?
Depending on your budget, regular refurbishment might not be a major problem. Using current TV programmes and films can elevate your business, just remember to use the other tips here when refurbishment is complete.
3. A call for actors
Employing dedicated, motivated staff often results in an elevated status for your company. Not only will it garner more positive ratings from customers, but you can use your staff’s skills to be a true escape room innovator. Once you’ve chosen your themes, having your staff dress up and roam the streets in a similar theme is certain to appeal to fellow adventurers out there. Imagine it, you’re walking down the street and spot an investigative detective wandering the streets, or a suave spy hiding around buildings. With top talent, your escape rooms can be the go-to for real-life Virtual Reality.
4. Have your actors be active
Using your staff in less conventional ways comes with the industry’s territory. Having costumed staff build interest from the high street is an excellent start, but it doesn’t have to stop there. Have the same costumed staff attend community events, fundraisers, and charity gigs. People have natural intrigue. When they draw links from your remarkable actors to your business, they’ll want to experience escape rooms to see what all the fuss is about, and, because your business is the one they think of first, it’s your business that they’ll go to.
And go even further.
Having your staff attend ad-hoc local events could bring a uniquely amusing star factor for your business in your community and on social media. Have them to stay in character throughout whole events and before long, hashtags and photos on social media could be launched to promote awareness and curiosity.
5. Time to tease
Whilst mystery might draw some customers in, others just need a little push to get them over the line. Successful escape room owners are often inundated with questions concerning the ins and outs of each game as they want to know exactly what it is they get before they hand anything over. A small 1-5 minute teaser game is certain to get their hands in their pockets. Make sure it’s well-thought out, doesn’t give anything away, and is dripping with cleverness and appeal to capture the curious among us.
6. Reach for the crowds
When on European city breaks, Segway tours and ice bar experiences are the type of activity you do in a group. They’re often one-time-only activities that help with team-building, development, and just having fun whilst in a group. Escape rooms work in much the same fashion. Consider the location of your business. Does your city or town have a regular influx of tourists? Are there a lot of large businesses around? Targeting these groups could expand your reputation exponentially, and, of course, you’ll get more feet through the door.
Having just experienced truly memorable fun, a nice touch is to offer your customers a small gift or token of appreciation. Escape room owners suggest it helps with brand awareness and ensures that, should they recommend a similar business to friends or family, it’ll be your business they recommend. The gifts can be as little as fridge magnets or stickers.
Offering larger gifts such as photos, t-shirts, and mugs for customers to purchase is also another worthy add-on to personalise the customer experience.
If there’s one thing to spice up customer interaction and motivation, it’s a contest. Run awards such as ‘Fastest Time Ever’ and ‘Fastest Time of the Month’ for chances to win money off or discounts on next visits. Anything that offers money off is sure to be popular. But again, try to be creative. Not all teams want to rush through it and may care more about team-bonding. Be creative with awards such as ‘Best Teamwork’, or use humour such as ‘Best Worst Effort’. The more awards you offer, the more freebies and discounts you’ll give, which should result in stronger numbers in returning customers and referrals.
9. Go behind the scenes
Given the level of secrecy and mystery to escape room businesses, there isn’t much coverage into how they work behind the scenes. Using social media to showcase a typical day will add customer participation and gives them a sense of the work and detail that goes into each room. It also encourages sneak-peaks of projects in the pipeline—new rooms, renovations and refurbishments, etc. You could even run debates and polls on what your next room could be, which provides instant excitement and engagement before the project even begins.
10. Be puzzling
Puzzles and trickery are what you’re all about as an escape room business. It’s your bread and butter. So creating other puzzles in conjunction with your rooms should be a doddle.
‘Geocaching’ has become a popular trend in which participants use GPS to hide and seek small containers or ‘geocaches’ in public places. Within the waterproof ‘geocaches’ are logbooks and small token gifts for participants to log and swap miscellaneous items.
To add further curiosity and community presence, use this hide and seek model to promote your business, whether you’re established or just starting off. Provide riddles and puzzles for people to work out with free entry and discounts as prizes. This should get those adventurist spirits out there hunting. Through social media and word of mouth, you can expect an increase in customer participation and unique feedback opportunities, so that you can continue to interact with your community in a distinctive way.