5 Ways to Save Costs on Special Events
No one can top the attractions industry when it comes to creating memorable experiences and events. But looking ahead to fall and winter special events, attractions are in cost containment mode. The following tips can help save money without losing the fun factor guests expect.
1. Host a competition or contest on behalf of another organization.
Have you ever heard of a "Feis"? It's an Irish dance competition, with scores of events devoted to the pastime. Every Labor Day weekend at Quassy Amusement and Waterpark in Connecticut hundreds of children converge at the two-day event to compete, bringing their parents, grandparents, and siblings with them. Not only has it turned what can be a softer date for many attractions in the United States, Labor Day weekend, into a busy holiday event for Quassy, there's no real investment required to hold it.
"As the host site, we don't have upfront costs. We also don't charge for admission, but the event draws 600 or 700 dance competitors and their families who buy food, beverages and tickets to the water park," says Ron Gustafson, director of marketing and public relations at Quassy Amusement & Waterpark.
The key is to hold an event with an established patronage. The Labor Day competition held at Quassy is sanctioned by the World Irish Dance Association, which gives their events prestige and extra promotion.
2. Gear traditionally “grown up” events towards families
Halloween events geared toward families can be less expensive than an elaborate haunted house, and parents are looking for more kid-appropriate fare for the holiday.
Buy mini-pumpkins for kids to decorate (another tip from Quassy), and have costume contests. Throw the region’s most anticipated “Trunk or Treat” in your attraction’s parking lot, with prizes for best-decorated, funniest, and most originally decorated vehicles.
Mardi Gras may be best known for rollicking fun in New Orleans' famed French Quarter, but kids everywhere love the beads, masks, and general revelry associated with the holiday. Providing the supplies to make costume accessories is both affordable and entertaining. So, too, is inviting kids to join parades that dance and weave throughout the attraction.
If you've yet to hold a Mardi Gras event, designing one for kids and families is an affordable test run for what could become a successful soft month event.
3. Get the word out via "micro-influencers"
Many local and regional bloggers carry clout and getting them to write about your attraction can significantly boost attendance. And they cost little beyond comped tickets to get the word out.
At Silverwood Theme Park, care has been taken to cultivate loyal online brand ambassadors—known as "Conductors"—whose posts convert to plenty of ticket sales.
"We've found that the conversion rates of a link on a Conductor's blog post to our website and a ticket buy comes out to over 10%," says the park's director of marketing, Jordan Carter.
4. Explore different entertainment options
Entertainment comes in many different forms, which makes it a highly variable cost. As such, this is typically where you have the most opportunity to save money without compromising the guest experience. From live music to virtual reality experiences to temporary ice skating rinks, you have options at very different price points.
However, one word of caution about variable costs: they can be difficult to contain in the absence of a firm budget cap. Once you've decided on a live act, for example, you now face additional choices, some considerably more expensive than others. Be sure to put a spending cap in place and stick to it.
5. Borrow from proven brand launch strategies.
There is a significant parallel with hosting a special event for the first time and launching a new brand. With both, you typically have one chance to get it right. "Test, test, test. Run pilot programs. See what works and then allocate your funds towards that," advises Abby Endres, president and founder of marketing agency LIFT.
So how do you test a special event in advance of actually hosting it? One way is to solicit feedback year-round from guests about what they'd like to see and experience at the park. These are also the people most likely to attend the special event.