FEC Education – January 2015


‘Little Things Make a Big Difference’ at FECs

The family entertainment center (FEC) track at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2014 started with a literal bang as Shaun McKeogh led the packed meeting room in a chant of “IAAPA,” followed by an audience volunteer thumping a drum.

After the booming introduction to “Little Things Make a Big Difference When It Comes to Training,” McKeogh described how the “insignificant bits” can have a huge impact when it comes to brand, procedures, safety, retention, and—especially—profits.

“They’ll be able to upsell your hot dogs and popcorn,” said McKeogh, vice president at Management Resources and head of International Training Academy.

Among the tips he provided:

Issue Training Invitations to Staff. Don’t just tack a barebones schedule on the wall that reads “customer service training at 9 a.m.” Instead, describe in personal invites how the session will be a fun-filled day. Spell out the expectations that staff should be ready to participate and share ideas.

Make the Meeting Inviting. A sterile classroom setting with employees staring at a PowerPoint presentation at the front of the room will surely have people asleep after a few minutes. Host the meeting off site, which shows management is willing to make an investment in training, or make it a more conducive learning environment in the facility. Pick a brightly lit room with a round table, and have all the materials set out before the team arrives to show ample preparation. “You need to establish an atmosphere,” McKeogh said.

Have Purposeful Training Games. Even the most attentive employees can start to zone out after some time. To help keep everyone engaged in the training process, it’s important to have training games designed into the program. Management then should debrief the process at the game’s conclusion: talk about the observations; share how people felt; describe any challenges; detail what strategies helped the teams be successful; and finally, explain how the game translates into the workplace. “Don’t do games for the sake of doing them,” he said. “Do them for a reason.”

Social Media Marketing at FECs

During “Social Is More Than Facebook—How to Build an FEC Inbound Marketing Machine,” Katerina Williamson described one of the biggest mistakes facilities make with social media.

“Most see it as a sales channel,” said Williamson, founder and CEO of Strategic Marketing Academy. “To me, that’s completely wrong. It’s about being social.”

Use social media to entertain guests, share videos, and post interesting industry facts, she said. In addition, FECs can link to light blog posts (holiday traditions, for example) housed on their own websites.

The blog, which she calls a “non-threatening environment,” can serve as a bridge to more sales-driven content and promotions on the FEC’s website. Just make sure guests can easily navigate between the two with clear links, she stressed, adding that Facebook continues to be the No. 1 social media channel for business owners. With custom branding and custom apps for contests and specials, it provides the most tools, making it well worth the time necessary to effectively maintain the social network.

“When someone likes your page,” she said, “they’re promoting you for free.”

Focus on Active Selling at POS Ticket Counter
The usual simple, passive question of “How can I help you?” leaves money on the table, said Martin Desrochers, during “Maximize Revenue in a New Sales Culture.”

Facilities should be more active with their selling, especially at the point-of-sale ticket (POS) counter, said Desrochers, senior partner of Operation: Pineapple.

It all starts with creating a compelling product lineup and knowing the audience. Staff well versed on the offerings should be having a conversation with guests to establish trust (“Where are you from? Is this the first time at the park?”) and direct them to the best ticket type.

Desrochers also advised to keep the POS environment clutter-free and make the signage simple. “Focus on the benefit and value, not price,” he said. For example, a park can feature an unlimited package for double the time for just $15 more.

To sustain POS ticket sales success, facilities should analyze weekly productivity reports and provide meaningful feedback to ticket sales staff on their performance, he said. Commissions, while a tough sell to management, may prove to be an enticing incentive to staff, Desrochers noted. One such reasonable commission structure would be 3 percent to 5 percent of incremental revenue. So, if an employee upsells a customer from a $35 general admission ticket to a $50 package, he would receive 5 percent of the $15 difference or $0.75.

FECs Create Unique Promotions to Drive Traffic
During “Winning Promotions,” attendees heard a handful of creative ideas that can help to boost FEC business.

Julie Dion, owner of Dion Marketing, described Putt for the Fallen, a turnkey solution that allows FECs to help out the community. During September (a typically slow month), participating facilities ask guests for a $5 contribution to the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation. For their donation, guests receive a paper ball that they can sign and post on a designated area as well as a bounce-back BOGO coupon. The fundraising kit, which costs $199, comes with the paper golf balls, coupons, primers for staff, promotional materials, and recognition on the Putt for the Fallen website. In the first year, the program raised $30,000.

Funhaven implemented a “Friday Night Live” program for adults to drive traffic during an off-peak time, explained Joann Thurlbeck, community and fundraising manager. The FEC stays open until 1 a.m., and for $30, guests get unlimited attractions, along with a $6 game card and pizza meal deal. “It puts us top of mind for future corporate and family events,” she said.

Funopolis Family Fun Center turns into “Fearopolis” during weekends in October, shared owner Brent Greenwood. Starting in 2010 with haunted laser tag, the FEC has added additional dark and fall elements over the years, including a haunted house, zombie hayrides, outdoor horror movie screenings, a corn maze, and a pumpkin inflatable. October revenue with “Fearopolis” jumped 34 percent compared to the last October without it, he said. “The revenue growth represents increased guest traffic, group sales, and residual play at other attractions.”