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View Full Version : ADVICE NEEDED - 2nd year haunt



Haunted Yard Props
06-14-2011, 12:05 PM
Hi Guys,

We are heading into our second year running a haunted trail in partnership with the township and need some advice.

Summary of event.

We provide :

Trail setup, props (arnd. $20,000 worth of stuff). It's a 20 minute walk through (1/2mile) : Graveyard, Campground , small house and 800 s.f. indoor haunted house

They provide:

Site , insurance , parking , concessions, kids trail and a volunteer actor base.

Price for last year was $5 per entry.

We are trying to build up to a professional event and eventually make some money.

Question is:

What is the best way to build up from a town event charging $5 to a professional event charging $10, or more? I am sure we are providing a greater value then the current ticket price, but we plan to build up to a profit within a 3 year time-frame.

Is it a good tactic to present a $10 ticket price and make sure everyone gets in for less (with coupons) as a method to get people used to a higher price in the future?

What denominations of discounts seem to work for coupons and promotions?

We are meeting with the town tomorrow so any thoughts would be appreciated.

Thanks

Ed Zeltmann
www.hauntedlehmanpark.com

Allen H
06-14-2011, 03:14 PM
What is the best way to build up from a town event charging $5 to a professional event charging $10, or more? I am sure we are providing a greater value then the current ticket price, but we plan to build up to a profit within a 3 year time-frame.
****Just start charging $10. You will get fewer customers but most likely make more money. You may offer discounts for families. ***

Is it a good tactic to present a $10 ticket price and make sure everyone gets in for less (with coupons) as a method to get people used to a higher price in the future?
****YEs, perfectly acceptable***

What denominations of discounts seem to work for coupons and promotions?
*** If you want them to kep the flyer and the coupon to track your results, then I recommend no less than a 20% savings. Tracking where your coupons is one of the most important things you can do.***

Good Luck,
Allen H

Greg Chrise
06-14-2011, 10:59 PM
I'm not seeing any advertising costs being offered by either party. I would have to know what kind of attendance you got the first year. If you have $20,000 worth of stuff, this has a perishable time limit to when it is all rotted, damaged or needs maintenance. It will cost another dollar figure to replace things or make things into something else. In this day and age $10 is expected behavior. Compared to $5 it gives off thr vibe that there is $500 worth of stuff rather than $20,000 worth of stuff and has probably deteriorated consumer confidence to begin with.

I have experimented with an ignorant charity that one year went from $10 to free for one year and only half the people showed up as when it was $10. When the board decided to go to $7 they only saw 3/4 of the people and I had learned enough from them to move on.

Strategically the group that is participating in your event will also move on, lose excitement, be disillusioned and make stupid decisions that will allow you to move on. Say 3 years should be your big intention to provide as much different every year as you can and see what works even at little or no profit. Then your inventory of what you have to go pro is 3 times what the little starter haunt was and perhaps worth $12 when comined in a pro haunt. So what ever you can reinvest money wise and what ever you can make for little cost is not lost, it is all investment that at some point outweighs whether it is being recieved and compensated for by the public and your partners. Or you never know, they may honor your offerings as it becomes more obvious and upgrade their thinking for the event to match. More likely they will stagnate and do no more than they did year one.

You can actually create a social network and have the customers tell you what they would suport, would like to see and so on. When you have more online activism and support that are actually attending the event, you know if you sent out an announcement things can happen, customers will show up, customers will pay and have developed a tasted for the event.

Say over the years you have then totalled $40,000 worth of stuff, you will also find backers that originally were people you simply wanted to see your haunt and wanted to see what it was about. The bottom line is only those who really bother to show up really have an opinion. It becomes a one at a time sales effort and invite system and actually monitoring your congregation personally. Eye to eye at the front of the haunt. Being the promoter that makes sure people are attending is the most important job that no one ever does. They expect "they" will come but no one knows who they are when it can very easily be a known factor. Who ever has the customers is the real pro. It is more than stuff and knowing how to use it.

Developing the market while you do have a group fronting lots of bills is a great resource that should not be overlooked. When 800 are showing up, the real market might be 8,000 would show up if they got good customer service and were kept informed of where and when something good is happening.

Further, don't make time schedules, if it takes 5 years or 10 years to develop the market and no longer get the support it deserves, let it play out. Make the case of why you jumped really make sense because the numbers proved to be correct and no one will blame you for moving on or going pro. It may take 5 years or more to play out everyone that thinks they need to have an event. You simply let them see first hand how much work it really is and question what they do with all the crap they have. Still everyone has developed a market or several types of markets and the longest vision wins.

Haunted Yard Props
06-16-2011, 03:16 PM
Allen and Greg

Thanks for the replies!

A little history of how we got into the situation.

1. Yard Haunter goes overboard buying things for his yard (including professional haunted house animations) for 15 years and realizes he has enough to do a haunt.

2. Partners up with a friend who is interested in in opening a Haunt as well and has experience in Event planning and Web Design.

3. We volunteer for local haunted trail : charging $1 for kids trail and scary trail

4. We plop down all my stuff, with not much imagination. 2000 people show up for one day on the RAIN date.

5. Year 1 : We work along with the township again , this time securing a contract to provide a Haunted Trail for 2 days.

6. We work on it from Spring to fall to provide the best professional experience we can with our limited knowledge.

7. No advertising was attempted (except a nominal Facebook ad) for year 1 , although a basic website and Facebook Page were created.

8. Again approx. 2000 showed up (and charged $5) over the 2 days. We were compensated for most of our investment through the town and ticket sales.

Overall the haunt was well received and successfully run basically as a township event. The township spreads the word through the schools , local organizations , fire departments , etc. We plan on expanding into advertising to get the word out even further and increase attendance. We are slowly raising the price mostly the accommodate the townships reluctance to raise it , but it looks like we will be charging $7 this year while stating a $10 ticket price (with $3 coupons being distributed to local stores). We have an opportunity to collect most if not all of ticket sales depending on negotiations, so it is in our interest to make sure the people show up.

Is it a feasible conclusion that if we advertise this year (assuming a competent advertising budget) that we will draw more people to the event?

We do have 2 weekends to play with in regards to dates and we are vulnerable to rain outs. Should we be buying rain insurance to protect against the potential or 2 weekends rained out?

We have been attending Transworld and NHC and spending a lot of time in the classes offered with hopes to gather the tools necessary to gain a following.

I thank you very much for your advice and respect the opinions and knowledge of all on this forum.

Ed Zeltmann

Allen H
06-16-2011, 03:44 PM
Is it a feasible conclusion that if we advertise this year (assuming a competent advertising budget) that we will draw more people to the event?
***Um...No. Thats the gamble that haunts all haunters. I had a ren-fair season destroyed by swine flu. So many factors can change and affect attendance. In a vacuum yes- more advertising equals more people. But there are no guarantees. One formula that I use is you should grow by 25% per year for your first five years if you keep the same location. It is not fool proof but it works out pretty close to that.***

We do have 2 weekends to play with in regards to dates and we are vulnerable to rain outs. Should we be buying rain insurance to protect against the potential or 2 weekends rained out?
***Do you need insurance to cover the financial risk you are taking? It sounds to me like this year you are investing time as opposed to money since you already have most of your props. Also at only 2,000 patrons a season Im not sure how economical it would be.***
Good Shows gain a following Great advertising only helps you for a few years- then the word is out as to weather or not you have a good show.

Trail of Terror
06-16-2011, 04:37 PM
how do the bigger haunts "pro haunts" push several thousand people through a haunt.. Do you alwo bigger groups?? what is a average size group should go through a haunt?? if you have 5 hours available a night....i hear some place 3 to 5 thousand people a night ,,,HOW???

Allen H
06-16-2011, 05:07 PM
At my park we have 6 attractions and put in groups of 10-15 every 30 seconds. I have to go every 15 seconds on our busiest night. Does the show suffer?-yes. its a trade off between show and profit. You do what you have to do. We are a very big and very busy park.

chuck weber
06-16-2011, 05:41 PM
everybody under estimates what their costs are gonna be. allow for alot more and un-expected costs also. good luck!!!! don't falter... think smart.....

Greg Chrise
06-16-2011, 09:56 PM
If they only want the facilty open one or two nights I would nix the advertising and just live with 2,000 attendance, getting what ever money you can get from the event. It the township is not taking much or any cut, that is the total job as it where. Just like a job might be go build some barn for $10,000 or do a custom paint job or bring your rig to the carnival for one night after the town's parade. Done. Get the check. Save some percentage of the money if you can but keep supporting the customer, the township as professional as possible with no whining.

Spend a percentage of the money to renue props yearly to keep up the wow factor. It is like being in the party rental business.

Now, going pro someday? This stepping stone built the resources to do that. The money you saved and the skills you learn, the fun you have are valuable. You may just wish to enjoy this event and know you have done something that gets the community together for a night or two and how cool that is alone in today's world. Actually making it bigger might be less enjoyable, cost more money percentage wise and bring greater hassles with higher numbers of people.

Like I say, at some point especially with a township, every 2 years someone different will be put in charge that doesn't get it and it will get complicated. All of a suddent there will be countless emergency meetings as a bunch of people who know nothing try to get all serious with trying to read insurance liability policies and making it impossible to do at all. They will bail, stall, miss the date, cancel and you will be free. Now free with what resources and skills is your brain work.

The reality is liability is low, insurance should be a minimum but when some scared person who doesn't know the real world is defered as being in charge or it has to pass three administrative desks to be approved it will be over. Or they will ask you to buy a policy and be squeeky clean legitimate contractor will a million dollar insurance policy, pass the buck. Obviously if you were going to spend $2500 it would not be for one night, it would be for a whole month to get your moneys worth. Bam you are pro. When it comes down to what do you have to do and how much do you get it is a job. Is it a good job or a pain that somehow has had the fun taken out of it. An event you can handle as an enjoyable side job is wonderful. Once there are checks written above say $10,000 or some figure that someone made imaginary rules about, the whole event will have to be approved in front of the board, old farts will inject stupid questions and vote against it as it has nothing to do with their relm of enjoyment.

So, there is a bigger picture like the props are used and shown off then stored, new ones are offered, new eye candy that this is where the money went, it went to materials for your "job"/"event. Things that are broken and rotted can always be recycled in a haunt later. It is a skill. New and different for the event and satisfaction of the attendees, Every year they are now junk and stored, gone effectively. Only you happened to hoard the junk. Props can be reskinned, costumes can be revamped, walls can he repainted. You can buy new light bulbs and ends for all the extention cords. And you have a know amount of money coming in every year to work with, a managable amount of doing things and fun until it blows up.

I think 2000 if it is only one or two nights is great. No way will they understand that in the rest of the country it goes on for two weeks or 6 weeks and volunteers won't do it if originally it was only having to be a community supporter for one night to be somebody. You want me to be here for 3 weekends? For free? And it is hard work? I wish I could but, all of a sudden I have other obligations.

Now if this event goes on for say 10 years with no hitch or legaleez people taking over that have never done anything in the world than have a job that pays on Friday, I would say you have to support this AND do a pro haunt as well and use both events to advertise the other, support the other.

Now customers will increase at the pro haunt like Allen says 25% or I say if you don't increase 30% a year you suck. It is going to come down to a pro show might be in a building all year long to be worked on or at least have a month before and a few weeks after, compared to an event that is only running 2 nights, how much can you do being a party rental business with a short gig compared to building a fully detailed location that doesn't have to be in a gypsy wagon.

Now the other secret is the your pro haunt is "owned" by someone else, not you stealing away customers or having some $10,000 conflict of intrest. That other guy is a real bastard. He advertises, has proven the town can see 20,000 customers and making the townships event look lame and embarrasing. You can be in deep in several businesses and are represented as only someone who comes by to help and give advice every so often. You possibly sold all those rotted props and walls to that guy to pay the storage fees that has accumulated over the years.

I'm just saying. Don't go pro in the same area until all the resources are there and would be wasted otherwise. Or they stumble and lose, too bad, life goes on. I have done jobs for the city and if it is $2500 there are no questions asked except the payment seems to be in 5 different in boxes not having been looked at yet for 3 weeks (that seems to be funny to them because they got THEIR check last week and every week, it is just hillarous but, they will look into it) but if it is an $11,000 job you might as well spend a month in an institution being evalutated for all the conversations and demands that take place. All the little rules that someone thinks should apply before anything is allowed to transpire at all.