Or, how to give yourself a fighting chance at becoming the next Nate Martin.

I could start off with the spiel of how escape rooms have multiplied from 22 in 2014 to 1950 plus in 2017 in the United States.

I could also tell you how consumer tastes and media coverage have matured in this sector; making the escape room industry very competitive…

But you probably know all that.

And you’ve also probably guessed that marketing isn’t optional; it is critical.

The trouble is: marketing is so ubiquitous these days, you’re spoilt for choice. Do you buy Google ads, advertise on LinkedIn; or just hand out flyers at the local fair?

The first thing to clear up is that these choices – Google ads, LinkedIn ads or flyers at the local fair – are individual marketing tactics, 41 of which feature in our escape room marketing playbook.

GSOT

Creating a strategy to promote your escape room, however, does not start with tactics. A marketing strategy is best created via a top-down framework based on business fundamentals.

This framework, known as GSOT, can be used to market not only an escape room but also an Intel processor, among other things.

So, what is ‘GSOT’?

GSOT stands for Goals –> Strategy –> Objective –> Tactics, a four-step hierarchical framework that is used to create a marketing strategy.

Goal

A plan to improve some metric of your business

A goal must be SMART

Specific: It must be about a particular feature of the business. Like cash flow. Or revenue.

Measurable: You must have numbers against which you can judge whether you’re succeeding in attaining your vision.

Actionable: Can you act on the vision and have a realistic chance of reaching it?

Relevant: It must be about an issue that your business is actually facing.

Time-bound: You should have a time limit within which to attain the vision; if you fail, you need course correction.

Strategy

A general plan of how the goal can be attained

Objectives

A roadmap to implement the strategy

Usually occurs as a number of successive steps

Tactics

Your action plan to deploy the strategy to reach your objectives. 

Specific actions a la ’21 tips on marketing your escape room’ you can take to attain your objectives

Let’s now see GSOT in action…for an escape room business.

First, the Goal.

‘I want my company to be a rising star among escape rooms in the greater Los Angeles area’ sounds grand but it’s a dream only. Not a goal.

As a business, the factors that interest you probably are the same as those that interest most other businesses – profitability; keeping the lights on.

To be specific, you choose ‘revenue’ as the factor you wish to work on.

And how do you measure revenue? You choose to double it.

Is it actionable? Sure; the more people play your escapes, the more revenue you get.

Revenue is surely relevant since that’s by definition what pays the bills.

Finally, to make it time-bound, you plan on attaining your goal within 1 year.

So, SMART Goal = 2 x Revenue within 1 year from now.

How would you strategize attaining that goal?

Since you’re new to the game, retail customers will be your mainstay.

I’ll add a footnote about corporate customers and partnerships later.

Here it’s relevant to note one big issue about escape rooms – once a player completes a room it’s highly unlikely they’ll want to play it again.

Clearly, the consumer turnover will be very high.

To fight that, in terms of marketing, you can try to create a base of dedicated fans who will then become promoters of your rooms.

So, Strategy = Create a base of dedicated fans who will become promoters.

For the next stage – objectives – you need to realize that you can’t build a fan base overnight.

It’ll take time and some specific set of actions.

Our objectives are

First, reach out to people who LOVE the themes of your escapes.

Next, convince them to try out your rooms.

Third, suss out which of them have enjoyed escaping the most.*

Fourth, try to strike up a long-term relationship with them.

Fifth, incentivize them to build up a referral network.

Finally, we start selecting tactics to attain each objective

Objective

Reach out to people who love your escape themes

Tactic(s)

  • Go onto social media to see who’s discussing your theme. Reach out to them.
  • Try to get listed on a directory like Escape Room Hub.
  • You can consider bidding for longer keywords on AdWords that will include your theme.**
  • You can consider bidding for longer keywords on AdWords that will include your theme.**

Convince them to try out your rooms

  • Send them a personalized email inviting them to your escape room.

Suss out which of them have enjoyed the room the most*

  • Have a feedback/comments system at your place of business.*

Try to strike up a long-term relationship with them

  • Ask if you can add them to your newsletter list.
  • Reach out to them via email, asking if they have any suggestions about your escape rooms.
  • Send them a personalized Happy Birthday email but avoid selling anything in it.***
  • Offer a rebate if they want to retry an escape they’ve already attempted.****

Incentivize them to build up a referral network

  • Institute a points system for any referrals they bring in.
  • Points may be exchanged for, say, extra time in rooms.
  • Reach out to them via email, asking if they have any suggestions about your escape rooms.
  • Don’t offer a rebate in exchange for points here.*****

This is a precautionary step.

Normally I’d advise you to target all of those who turned up in response to your outreach efforts.

However if you find that’s beyond what your marketing team can cope with, you can try to figure out who enjoyed the most to lighten the workload

 Is there any issue with longer keywords?

** Longer keywords cost more. However since here you’re going for specific themes, they can be a good investment

Why are we passing up on a chance to sell?

*** The objective here is to strike up a rapport, make them feel good about you. If you try to add a sell on a Happy Birthday email, they may feel you’re exploiting the occasion to sell something.

Why offer a rebate here?

**** Escape rooms are a collaborative activity. They may want to return to explore the room better, try out puzzles that others on their team solved last time.

And why NOT offer a rebate here…

***** An escape room loses most of its charm once you’ve escaped. So, if someone retries it, they’re getting a diminished product, which is why a rebate makes it attractive.

On the other hand, there’s a strong social dynamic at play when your customers talk about it with their peers, some of who may also be enthusiasts.

The others will want to attend, to see whether it’s as good as their friend says it is. Plus, they haven’t escaped and the room has full value for them.

Offering a rebate here makes you look cheap and desperate for business.

Now you see the utility of this whole thing.

If you’d just picked tactics at random and deployed, if for some reason things didn’t turn out the way you wanted, you’d have been lost as to where you went wrong.

But here, since it’s all charted out, you can zero in on which tactic is misperforming.

For example, suppose you’ve got many long-term customers but referrals aren’t coming in as you’d hoped.

You immediately cotton on to the fact that your points-based referral system isn’t working and you look to tweak it. Or adopt another tactic.

In conclusion…

In light of the growing number of escape rooms in the United States, and player tastes maturing, you need to have a proper marketing strategy in place for your escape rooms.

One of the most popular ways of creating a marketing strategy is to follow the GSOT framework which is based on business fundamentals.

GSOT stands for ‘Goal, Strategy, Objectives, Tactics’ which are the 4 steps that form a hierarchy.

The advantage of GSOT is that if your marketing campaign isn’t delivering the results you were expecting, you can easily go up the chain and find the weak point.

 

I wish you all the best in marketing your escape room business!

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