Digital marketing pro, Dan Honkanen of Rugged SEO, specializes in helping escape rooms grow their business and online presence. In this post, he shares a few pro tips with us on how best to boost your revenue and reputation — both online and offline.
In 2014, there were still only 22 escape rooms in the US. Fast forward a few years, and the industry has exploded with growth. What started as a video game niche in Japan in the early 2000s has grown into a global phenomenon, with over 5000 escape rooms in 90+ countries offering “IRL” escape experiences. There’s no escaping this trend: escape rooms are huge right now.
Escape room owners often spend a lot of time, energy and money creating amazing rooms that make players feel like they’re on the set of a big budget Hollywood movie. But too often, those same owners are surprised when they see minimal bookings and low customer footfall once open.
The problem? Overlooking their marketing strategies.
As a digital marketer that specializes in escape rooms, I’m here to give you a rundown of a few techniques that are essential to the successful marketing and growth of your escape room. Let’s dive in!
1. Show some love to Google My Business
In the past, potential customers would Google you and then click straight through to the homepage of your escape room website. Not anymore. Now, searchers spend more time on your Google My Business page, before deciding whether or not to actually visit your website.
Your GMB page (or Knowledge Panel) is essentially your new “homepage”. Here’s an example of what it looks like:
Users can use this panel to click through your photos & videos, check out FAQs, and see user-written reviews. These are vital tools for potential customers to access all the information they need — so make sure you’re keeping track, updating media and posting responses where necessary.
Answer customer questions via the FAQ section
Keep your photo/video section updated with new and enticing media!
Pro tip: Name media files with your target search phrase (e.g. escape-room-cleveland-logo.png) for maximum search results!
GMB is also a place for potential customers to read reviews from past guests
Another cool feature of your GMB listing that you may not be utilizing is Google Posts. These are posts where you can promote events, offers and other fun details. Here’s an example:
Every seven days, your Google Posts will expire. So, be sure to hop back in and create a new one. Make sure you use the appropriate type of post (i.e. what’s new, event, offer or product), and there you have it — a super simple way to direct even more customers to your page!
Pro tip: In order to accurately track clicks on your posts in Google Analytics, use a URL builder such as this one.
It doesn’t matter how much time or money you spent on creating your website. If your GMB page doesn’t convince them to click through to your website, they’ll simply move on to a competitor.
The lesson? Don’t neglect your Google My Business page. It may be the last chance you get to make a great first impression.
2. Fewer competitors, more partners!
Too often escape room owners don’t utilize the offerings of their competitors in the best way. This is a unique industry — you only have a limited number of rooms for people to play, and once a customer has played all the rooms at your facility, it’s likely that they won’t return.
Many of these players will also ask the escape room owner for recommendations on other escape rooms to try. This is where a partnership is key.
Take some time to have fun and try out the other escape rooms in your area. When you’ve identified your favorite(s), why not reach out to the owners to see if they’re interested in a joint promo? An example of this could be:
The owner of Escape Room A recommends Escape Room B to players who’ve played all of their games.
The owner of Escape Room B may want to further entice those players by letting the owner of Escape Room A provide a special discount code. And vice versa!
The lesson? Partnering with other great escape rooms can drive more customers to your business without you having to spend a penny. Win-win!
3. Bump up your reviews
Reviews are vital for any escape room business. You want your customers to be surprised by what’s inside your rooms — that means the information you’re able to put out can be limited. This is where reviews come in: let previous guests entice new customers by expressing what a great time they had inside your escape room!
Here are a couple of ways to make sure you’re getting as many reviews as possible:
First, ensure you have a system in place which captures the names and email addresses of each of your customers.
Every couple of weeks you’ll want to extract the list of customers from the previous few days and upload that into your online review or reputation management tool, if you have one. This will help you to build a positive brand image and online reputation.
Once you have your information, you can fire off review request emails to the customers!
Every now and then, you should also create social media posts to let your followers know which platforms you’re listed on for reviews. Remember to keep it casual — don’t directly ask for more reviews. Just give them a subtle encouragement by reminding them where they can do it. Check out this example:
Remember, owners and staff can’t review their own business. You also can’t give a negative review to a competitor’s business, unless you actually were a customer and genuinely had a bad experience.
You should also make sure you’re not offering any compensation — like discounts or free games — in exchange for reviews. A smart social media campaign that gives players a gentle reminder to review you can be just as effective, and ensures you don’t get in any trouble!
The lesson? Don’t just rely on your own marketing content to sell your escape room. User reviews are vital to building trust in your brand and convincing potential customers to make that booking. Tactics to boost your reviews should be an integral part of your marketing strategy.
4. Know your audience — and target them wisely
We’d all love to get our ads out on as many platforms as possible. But sometimes, the budget just won’t allow spending on money on all those paid ads. So, what do you do?
Choose your platforms wisely.
I always recommend using a maximum of two social media platforms to target. How do you decide which two? Start by considering your location and key demographics.
Based in a college town? Trying to reel in young professionals? Sharpen up your Instagram posts. Targeting high school age customers? Get on Snapchat. Want to appeal to families? Head over to Facebook.
It may be that you have a mix of demographics, so try to identify your most popular client base and appeal to them through their preferred social media channels.
The lesson? Don’t spread your paid marketing too thin. By focusing on specific platforms, you can have a big impact — even if you don’t have a big budget.
5. Consider working with a digital pro
Gone are the days of traditional advertising: billboards, radio ads, flyers. Sure, you can still attract some new players this way, but chances are they’ll be few and far between. Plus, there’s no good way of accurately tracking the results of these techniques.
To keep up with the competition, you need to spend time analyzing the competition to see what they’re doing in terms of digital marketing.
If a certain competitor is appearing higher than you in the Google search results for a certain term (i.e. “escape room” + city name), there’s a good chance they’re spending more time and/or money to keep up with their digital marketing and remain on top.
You should make sure you’re spending serious time keeping up to date with the frequent changes in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) — either that, or consider hiring a digital marketing professional —– like me!
Remember, you’re great at what you do. If entering the confusing world of SEO and digital marketing isn’t exactly your strong suit, don’t be afraid to invest a little in getting advice from a pro. If they can bring more potential customers to your website, you can go back to focusing on what you love — creating and running an awesome escape room!
Are you currently running or thinking about starting an escape room? Want more expert tips from Dan? Check out his website here!