How to sell a streamlined experience in a hyper-customized world

I recently had the opportunity to attend IAAPA FEC Summit in Arizona. In talking with many operators, I heard some of the current issues facing location-based entertainment facilities today.

One conversation that stuck with me was with Ryan Powers of Shipwrecked in Brooklyn. In essence, how can a family entertainment venue meet their guests’ changing needs with party packages when guests seem set on hyper-customization?

What a terrific and important question in times like these! We spent some time thinking about it, and are sharing five steps to help you deliver the right experience to your guest every time.

No. 1: Create compelling packages.

It should go without saying that the first step is to create compelling packages, but that’s easier said than done. When building your packages, try to keep them simple and easy to understand, with no more than two to three packages.

If you’re offering tiered packages, consider building them with an increasing number of attractions, experiences, or add ons in your higher-priced packages rather than pricing based on the number of guests. Here’s a challenge that another operator shared:

“Sometimes guests only want to reserve the lower package, but then they want us to include the things from the package that has more attendees.” 

Why this happens: The reason for this issue is that the parent has the perception that the more exciting experience is only available to larger parties, thus making party parents with fewer attendees feel like they need to negotiate to get a better experience.

If your objective is to offer two different price points, it may make more sense to vary what’s included in each package, pricing for up to 10 guests, with an add-on price for additional attendees. This approach means that the party parent focuses on the experience, not the size of the guest list. As a bonus, it will also help prevent questions about refunds for guests who don’t show up.

No. 2: Know (and show) the value of your experience.

Your party experience is worth far more than the sum of the attractions and food included in it, and you have to know what that value is so that you can communicate it effectively. Often, when guests complain about package inclusions or attempt to negotiate, it’s because they don’t see the value in your overall experience. For example, let’s say your package includes:

  • two attractions per guest
  • $10 game card for each guest
  • pizza and beverages for each guest
  • an hour in the party room for loads of food and fun
  • a dedicated party pro who manages every single detail
  • cupcakes for the guests to decorate
  • a special birthday surprise for the guest of honor
  • themed plates, cups, napkins, and/or other table decorations

Your attractions, gameplay, and food all have a cost that your guest can easily understand, but they may not recognize that all other components add a ton of value while enriching the experience. When you build your party packages, it’s a good idea to calculate the value of the entire experience so that when you sell them, you can articulate the value (more on how below).

No. 3: Speak with authority.

When selling birthday party packages, remember that you are the expert. You’ve hosted hundreds of successful parties and, therefore, are best-positioned to (enthusiastically) advise your guest on what works best for parties at your facility.

Every team member who sells birthday parties for your facility should have strong expertise for what you offer, how much it’s worth, what the prices are, and be able to communicate the overall experience effectively. If you’re waiting for the caller to ask you questions or seem uncertain, you could be sending the message that you’re not the authority; thus inviting the caller to feel like they need to direct you on what’s going to happen.

No. 4: Offer smart customization. 

In today’s hyper-customized world, it’s a good idea to give your guests some choices. Yes, I know that I just told you that you were the expert, but you’re the expert who knows your guests’ needs. Where it makes sense throughout your sales process, give your guests the power to choose from select options. That doesn’t mean that every party is a blank slate where the guest pick only the pieces they think they want; it’s more like offering a “Choose Your Own Adventure” experience that leads the guest on an exciting journey towards the perfect party. Here are a few examples of where you might offer customization.

  • You have two core attractions: bowling and laser tag.
    Might sound like: “Would Jimbo and his friends love to play laser tag, bowl, or both at his party?”
  • There are a lot of adults coming to the party.
    Might sound like: “What are you thinking about food and fun for the adults? As far as food, we’ve got some platters or additional pizzas we can add so that everything comes out at the same time. Or, if you prefer, we can have a server come to the party so adults can order pay for their items individually.”
  • Your package includes several special birthday surprises, such as a dollar grab, a prize wheel, etc.
    Might sound like: “During the party, Jimbo will have his choice of birthday surprises! He can take a whirl in our Money Machine or try his luck at the prize wheel, which even includes the chance at an X Box X!”
  • You want to convey that parties are best at your facility because of your highly trained party hosts.                                                                  Might sound like: “Jimbo’s party host will take care of every detail and will have a ton of games and activities for Jimbo to choose from to make his party one-of-a-kind.”

Also, remember that every conversation with a guest is a chance for you to build confidence and rapport, so be sure to acknowledge and validate your caller’s choices throughout the call.

No. 5: Be ready for any objections.

Even when you do everything “right,” you’ll still find some callers will attempt to negotiate different inclusions when booking a party. Be prepared with responses to those scenarios so that you can speak from your experience and expertise while still making your guest feel great about what they’re getting. In conversation, it might sound something like this:

  • Guest: “I don’t want your cupcakes. I want to bring my own cake.” (or goody bags or decorations, etc.)
    Try:  “Sure, I understand. Decorating the cupcakes is a fun activity that kids love doing together with friends at parties at XYZ Fun Center. But, no problem, we can put another activity in its place, and you can take the cupcakes home!”
  • Guest: “Can’t you just keep the cupcakes and give me a $20 discount?”
    Try: “Well, we want Jimbo to have all his birthday goodies, so we don’t mind sending them home. Our platinum package has a retail value of over $500, and we offer it for just $350, so I wouldn’t be able to discount it anymore, unfortunately. But again, we’d be happy to box them up for you guys to take home and keep his birthday celebration going!” This helps you maintain the consistent experience that you want your parties to be known for while also offering customization through adding value to the experience, rather than taking things away and decreasing it.
  • Guest: “Can’t you give me extra gameplay (VR missions, time in the party room) instead of …”
    Try: “Good question. What we have found over time is…

    • that this amount of gameplay is a great way to finish the party without guests and parents feeling like it’s too much.
    • that the inclusion of more attractions vs. a higher amount of gameplay means that guests are together, making Jimbo feel like a rockstar for his entire party. But, if you want to give them more time in the game room, great idea! I can add an additional $10 to everyone’s cards for just $90 more.”
    • that these combined experiences work exceptionally well together to give our party guests the best possible experience for their special day, however, if you’re looking for a completely customized group event, I can look at building you a custom proposal; however, the party package will likely be more cost-effective for you. What do you think?” It’s important to remember that a custom event could be the right solution for your guest, but don’t think you have to cheapen your product or offer a discount.

At the end of the day, your best bet is to build great packages, communicate them clearly, and be committed to the fantastic experience that you provide. 

Have a question or scenario not addressed here, send them to us, and we’ll provide our feedback.

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