Business Resources - Promotions - February 2019

ALLEY CATS ENTERTAINMENT

Alley Cats Entertainment uses its website, social media, e-mail marketing, and mailers to share its variety of deals on bowling, mini-golf, and games. (Credit: Alley Cats Entertainment)

Deals! Deals! Deals!

FECs can use coupons, discounts, and package bundles to effectively drive business

by Mike Bederka

In a perfect world, guests would routinely pay full price for a family entertainment center’s (FEC) games, food, rides, and attractions. However, even the rookiest owners and operators will probably attest that customers often need a nudge to get them in the door and plunk down some money. 

Coupons—when used properly—can be important business drivers that allow management teams to show their creative side, says Julie Dion, president of Dion Marketing in Jacksonville, Florida. “With so many options for fun at most FECs, effective promotional price points and discounts are practically endless.”

Dion and Jay Trietley, director of operations for Alley Cats Entertainment, describe some best practices with couponing.

Spreading the Word

FECs should promote coupons and discounts anywhere their potential audience might be, Dion says. In particular, her clients have found the most success through opt-in e-mail marketing. “They are the ones who want the information,” she says. 

Digital advertising via search ads and social media also can reach the potential audience because of their targeting capabilities. “Digital advertising has become so sophisticated that we can now retarget to anyone who has been on the website, delivering them with landing pages that contain the exact message we want to be communicated,” Dion explains.

A Small Price to Pay

Alley Cats Entertainment, with locations in Arlington and Hurst, Texas, uses its website, social media, e-mail marketing, and occasional hard-copy mailers to share its variety of deals, especially during slower times. For example, the popular “After-School Madness” special runs Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to close and gives students an hour of bowling and shoes, unlimited mini-golf, and a $10 game card for just $9.99 per person, and the half-price Tuesdays promotion includes bowling, laser tag, rock climbing, and game cards.

“You need to create a full-service customer experience when they walk in,” says Trietley, a fan of bundled deals.

He also firmly believes in the big-picture power of giving away thousands of dollars’ worth of game play. In a promotion with area schools, he will send $5 cards to every student who finishes a bowling module in gym class. He just requires that parents add their child’s name, phone number, and birthday to the system so they can be added to the FEC’s birthday list for future promos.

“The $5 game card doesn’t last long, and it generates some good overbuys,” shares Trietley. “You can’t worry about how many $5 coupons you give out. Just know that people will appreciate the offer and will likely spend more money when they’re there. It’s a small price to pay.”

Trietley applies a similar philosophy to his December holiday promos, where over the course of two weeks, he will feature six deals like a free climb on the rock wall, round of mini-golf, and pizza for dine-in. 

“Hopefully, they will buy sodas to go with that and play some games,” he says, noting they participate in the national Kids Bowl Free campaign, as well. Here, children under 15 years old get two free games of bowling per day from April 15 to Sept. 30. “We have some of our best summers as a result.”

Going with Groupon 

Trietley also uses Groupon among the facility’s discount arsenal, initially favoring deals like guests pay $10 for $20 in game play, $20 for $40, and $25 for $50. However, he found the popularity of the low-cost daily deal put a strain on the staff. To thin out the discounted crowd and make it a bit more manageable, the FEC raised it to $50 for $100 in play and all the way up to $100 for $200. 

“We keep the deals simple,” he says. “We don’t do anything with bowling because we only have 24 lanes and don’t want them to get filled up in discounts. We’ve never done food with Groupon, either. That way, we’re not discounting any of the things they overbuy when they’re in the building.”

For a Groupon or any other daily-deal voucher, there should be an opportunity for upselling on site, Dion adds. “If an FEC sells a three-hour pass through Groupon, once guests redeem their voucher, they can be upsold to an all-day pass for an additional dollar amount, and the FEC keeps 100 percent of that revenue.”

ALLEY CATS ENTERTAINMENT

Julie Dion of Dion Marketing recommends FECs promote coupons and discounts anywhere their potential audience might be. One avenue includes opt-in e-mail marketing. (Credit: Alley Cats Entertainment)

Five More Couponing Tips

  • Marketers should work with the operations and finance departments to make sure the offers won’t undercut regular business that’s expected or budgeted, Dion says.
  • Knowing the FEC’s per cap—or estimated per cap—will help determine what to offer. “Any discount that’s the same or above the per cap is worth trying since it won’t reduce per caps,” she says.
  • During peak season, having a coupon not valid on already-busy Saturdays can help drive traffic to the days of sluggish attendance, Dion says.
  • Each promotion should be evaluated to see if it should continue, but if a promotion falls flat the first time, Dion would not necessarily call it a dud. Several factors can be considered first, including timing, days offered, price point, and advertising effectiveness—the creative used to promote the offer, the offer itself, and advertising media used.
  • Trietley instructs his employees to not be sticklers when it comes to letting guests use a deal 15 minutes before the designated start time or honoring a just-expired coupon or even one from a competitor. (The goodwill generated usually results in repeat business.) An expired Groupon is an exception to the rule, though. The FEC will let the customer use the dollars originally spent but not the bonus bucks.


Contact Funworld Contributing Editor Mike Bederka at michaelbederka@gmail.com.