Right now, you have advice flying at you from every angle. Some of it is useful. (“Check out the best cleaners for bowling centers — we use Froggy’s!”). Some is vague and unoriginal. (“Enforce social distancing when you reopen.”) Some is simply a waste of pixels. (I swear every WFH blog I read tells me to wear pants. You’re either a pants-wearing powerhouse or an athleisure multi-tasker, and no tip list is gonna change your M.O.)
I have to admit, I’m sick of getting e-blasts that promise concrete answers, only to deliver more of the same generic advice. Which is why I’m ditching the “what?s” of your FEC reopening marketing plan and digging into the “how?s.”
Which Cultural Entities Will People Return To (and How Can You Boost Your Numbers)?
Brick and mortar businesses have a tough road ahead, but there’s good news: As states start to reopen, people’s intent to visit cultural entities that allow freedom of movement (think art museums, aquariums, and roller skating centers) is on the rise. If you can effectively communicate with your audience and alleviate their biggest concerns, your return to business may be more successful than anyone could have guessed.
Enter digital marketing.
It’s not enough to walk the walk. You’ve got to talk the talk. Yep, you read that right. You can turn your facility inside out every hour with a deep clean Dr. Fauci would reward with a contact-free chef’s kiss, but if your clients don’t know what you’re doing, your facility will remain a ghost town. So how should you start marketing your FEC’s reopening?
Basic Marketing Timeline for Your FEC’s Reopening
- Before You Reopen
- Post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any other active social media channels. Don’t skimp on communication! Ask yourself, “what would my mom want to know before taking her grandchild into a potentially crowded area?” Talk about your facility’s social distancing standards, PPE requirements for guests and staff, changes in hours, new procedures for waiting in line or making purchases, and how (and how often!) you’re disinfecting your facility.
- Purchase signage for your facility that communicates your new procedures. If you’re part of an FEC association, you may be able to purchase posters, floor decals, etc. designed specifically for your industry.
- Update your hours on Google My Business. You don’t want your reopening to fall flat because you forgot to tell Big Brother you’re no longer “temporarily closed.”
- Set up an online purchasing platform for admission tickets. This allows for a contactless purchasing process (which customers will value) and can also help you manage capacity caps.
- Develop clear internal messaging. If a client has a question about your coronavirus procedures, how will you answer them? Will your hourly employees answer the same way? Customer-facing messaging is important, but you also need internal resources to help your team respond clearly and confidently, no matter what curveball a concerned customer throws their way. That means writing things down and sharing it with the entire team. If WFH has taught me anything, it’s that the best way to let your team into your head is to get your thoughts out of your head and on paper. Or a computer screen, as the case may be.
- Keep a finger on the pulse of your community. Don’t just flip over the Open sign. Communicate your reopening timeline to your customers and over-communicate your new safety measures. Then listen to what they have to say. This is the time to listen, respond, and adapt.
- During Your First Phase of “Back to Business”
- Keep it clean! Just because the initial wave of fear has passed doesn’t mean you can slack on cleanliness guidelines. Keep up your new cleanliness standards. And keep posting about it on social media.
- Shine a spotlight on happy customers. Chances are, your UGC (that’s user-generated content) will skyrocket when your doors reopen. After months trapped in their homes, your customers want to show off all the fun they’re having. Build on that free advertising by responding to customer posts, sharing pictures and videos customers tag you in, and highlighting positive reviews, especially reviews that mention your new safety procedures. (Not finding UGC online? Post signage in your facility reminding customers to @ you on social.)
- Speaking of happy customers, reward your first visitors with a special “thank you” like branded swag, a coupon to come back, or a goody bag for the kids. Not only will it make their day, it will make your business stand out.
- Going Forward
- Create Facebook events. Most states are planning a three-phased rollout to reopening, each with their own specific guidelines (and, unfortunately for FECs, caps on how many people can gather). Facebook events will help you drum up excitement and manage the guest list for special skate days, bowl days, or bounce days on your calendar.
- Be honest with your customers and listen to their feedback. Your job is to anticipate issues and fix them before they become problems. If you miss the mark, admit it and adjust accordingly. If there’s anything social media has taught us, it’s that covering up a problem (like a hand sanitizer shortage) will make the fallout a million times worse when it’s discovered.
- Help where you can. You’re in a rough spot. So is your community. Find ways to support local and you’ll see your social stock skyrocket. Not sure how to pitch in? I’ve seen closed facilities offer their building for blood drives, food banks, and plenty more. If you’re back in business (congrats!), set up a collection area to make use of all that unusable “social distancing” space.
- Be proactive. Some states have already announced delayed fall openings for schools. Look into virtual field trips, educational webinars, homeschool P.E. events, and other ways to drum up business while helping local parents and teachers.
How to Communicate Effectively with Your Customers
It’s not enough to say “we’re keeping it clean.” You have to convince people they’re safe in your facility. That means being honest, upfront, and transparent. I love tangible examples, so here are a few ways you can succeed (or fail) in customer communication during COVID-19.
Did an employee test positive for coronavirus? Fess up. You can’t control everything, but a dose of honesty and a confident solution will boost people’s confidence in your business. (This principle is why businesses with 4.5 star ratings get more new customers than businesses with 5 stars).
Hide cleaning fails, sick employees, and supply-chain issues. Right now, trust is your most valuable asset. If people find out (and chances are they will find out), you’ll have lost the trust of your audience. Be upfront with your customers and you won’t be this guy:
Post a video on Facebook or Instagram educating people on your new cleaning procedures. If you can, wow your customers visually like SkyZone Kennesaw does in this cleaning rundown that packs a major punch.
If your COVID cleaning video feels performative, people won’t trust you to keep them safe. You gotta talk the talk and walk the walk.
Need Some Post-Coronavirus Social Media Content Ideas? I Aim to Please
- Try some tasteful humor: “I’ve scrubbed this toilet a lot in my X years at this facility, but this is the first time doing it for an audience.”
- Show off your new normal. Whether it’s a deep clean of the facility or baking a pizza with your kitchen cleaning standards front and center, people love a good time lapse.
- Don’t throw past you under the bus: “Check out our facility’s standard cleaning procedures and how we’re taking it to the next level.”
- Be real! “When my parents bequeathed their business to me and my brother, I never expected we’d see times this tough. But when our community did XYZ, it reminded me why I love my job.” (Be specific too!)
- Make ‘em an offer they can’t refuse. You don’t have to give away skate passes and birthday parties to win over your customers (but I’m not gonna lie, if you’re willing, it can mean a major win for your reputation). Find a quick, inexpensive way to say “thank you” to customers who support you. That could be a personalized shoutout on social media, a free fountain drink with every food purchase, or a complimentary upgrade for missed birthday parties.
- Don’t wait, educate! Under shelter-in-place orders, people found creative ways to practice their hobbies. Skaters put rubber to the road, bowlers set up living room alleys, and trampoline park lovers . . . well, their mattresses may be a little worse for wear. Post a simple explainer video teaching your customers how to check their equipment for wear and tear. Then give a lesson in DIY repair—and plug your pro shop while you’re at it.
5 Things Your Digital Presence Needs Right Now
1. A social media makeover.
Since we’re being concrete, this means: an updated cover photo, a high quality logo as your profile picture, and a pinned post with the latest information about how your facility is handling COVID-19. People click on business pages when they’re looking for facts: hours, cleaning procedures, and how you’re supporting your employees. Make the most relevant info easy to find and attractive to read and you’re already a step ahead.
2. A home page COVID update.
Humor me for a minute. Find a friend who hasn’t visited your website lately. Ask them to visit your site and track how long it takes them to learn whether you’re open, closed, or in coronavirus deep cleaning mode. Did it take them longer than 5 seconds? You’re losing potential customers. Now ask your friend what they learned about your COVID-19 response. Is the information up-to-date? What didn’t they learn that customers will want to know? In the FEC industry, it’s crucial that the first thing customers see on your website is reliable information about your coronavirus response. This could mean:
- A pop-up
- A new home page slider or featured widget
- A COVID-specific landing page on your navigation bar
- An “above the fold” text update
- A shiny new announcement bar you can keep using when coronavirus updates are a distant memory
3. Coronavirus content.
There’s no getting around it. Communication is the key to keeping customers in the age of coronavirus. Whether it’s a landing page, a flyer, or a blog post, you need a dedicated source of coronavirus updates to give your customers peace of mind. Make sure to include visuals like icons, photos, and flyers and break your list into an easily digestible format. Numbered lists, bullet points, and headers are all great ways to help people find and retain useful info—and since you’re reading this blog, you know I’m not just saying that! Not sure how to fill up a page? Talk about:
- New cleaning procedures. Don’t be afraid to get down and dirty with it! Oversharing wins more customers than undersharing.
- Specific precautions taken at your facility.
- Individual cleaning and safety information for every open attraction. People want to know what they’re getting into. “Daily deep sanitization of inflatables and hourly disinfecting of the inflatable entrance” instills a lot more confidence than “regular cleaning of bounce area.”
- PPE requirements for both staff and guests.
4. A virtual offer.
An online sales component can fill some of your current revenue gap. Here are a few ways I’ve seen FECs kill it online:
- Virtual deal purchases and donation jars. We’ve partnered with Hownd to help FECs earn direct revenue now. Think it’s too late to pivot online sales? Experts predict that customers will keep purchasing tickets and specialty products online long after stay home orders are lifted.
- “Buy now, party later” birthday offers.
- Online pro shops and merchandise sales. If you have a pro shop or sell branded merchandise but haven’t taken the digital plunge, you won’t get a better opportunity.
- DIY repair kit sets. Help customers keep their equipment in reopening-ready condition.
- At-home birthday party kits with balloons, goodies, and paper products, and curbside pickup.
5. A check-mark in every “website best practices” box.
I get it: things get busy. When you own an FEC, your website maintenance checklist falls below “buy a mountain of cleaning supplies” and “onboard our new hires” on your priority list—if you even have a web maintenance checklist. Well, if you didn’t before, you do now. This is the time to show customers you have your act together. The bare minimum for a trustworthy website includes:
- Good UX. That’s tech speak for “user experience.” In layman’s terms, is your website visually appealing, easy to navigate, and full of good information?
- A mobile-friendly website. Over half of all web searches are completed on a mobile device. If your website isn’t mobile optimized, I have one question for you: why the heck not?
- An SSL certificate. Let me set the scene: you’ve landed on a website, ready to learn, purchase, or otherwise engage with a brand. You’re ready to click deeper, but a bright red alert catches your eye in the url bar: “Not Secure.” Will you take the risk? Or are you already Googling a competitor to find what you need? The good news is, all you need to secure your site is an SSL certificate purchased through your hosting provider.
- Good site speed. Did you know that Facebook has two different methods of tracking traffic: link clicks and landing page views? Here’s the difference: Link clicks track how many people click on a link. Landing page views track how many people stay on a page for a minimum of 3 seconds. Why does the distinction matter? Believe it or not, these two campaign metrics tend to have vastly different results. If people don’t stick around, it doesn’t matter how many find you. And slow site speed is the #1 reason site visitors click away before converting.
- Clear contact info. Your web visitors are ready to convert into paying customers. Will you make it easy on them? Don’t make them work to give you their money. Make it easy to find your phone number, address, and service request forms.
Do you still have questions about how to market your FEC’s reopening? TrustWorkz is here to help. We have almost a decade of experience helping family entertainment centers send traffic to both their virtual and their physical doors. Not sure what your digital footprint needs? Ask about our free website analysis. Ready to drive traffic to your door? We’re experts in digital advertising, content marketing, web design, and reputation management. Let us develop your personalized marketing strategy to meet your business’ needs right now.