Every amusement park, water park, trampoline park or FEC owner wants to increase revenue and control operating costs, but both of these goals can take a hit during the offseason if the right steps aren’t taken.

As we say a bittersweet goodbye to summer, it’s time to start thinking about how to prepare your park or outdoor FEC for success in the offseason.

The seasonal slowdown can be tough. Tougher yet is figuring out how to connect with potential guests, understand their drivers and offer them exactly what they want to keep them coming back for more. Here are some great ways to pull guests in and make them repeat customers using the power of technology and a little bit of planning, no matter if your facility is open all year or completely shuts down.

1.  Think creatively, target strategically.

The offseason may not be the best time of year to pull in your typical target customers. For example, with kids in school and parents bogged down with more responsibilities, there’s little free time during the week. But that doesn’t mean all is lost.

If you’re open year-round, think creatively when driving guests to your facility during the slow months. Analyze your customer demographic information. Is there an untapped or underserved age group that you can begin prospecting? This past season, was there a type of guest or group that held surprisingly successful events in your park? Make a list of the top guest or group types that you would like to host more and get creative when reaching out to them.

Is there a group that shares a vision similar to your own? Perhaps consider hosting events or park showcase events, offering to host offsite business training or meetings, or holding fundraisers or meetup events with like-minded organizations to get exposure to new leads and opportunities.

Once you have the information on who to target, develop an outreach strategy to entice them into time slots where you need them the most. Be creative about how you’re going to reach out to them. Consider all communication methods that make sense, including traditional cold calling, social media outreach, strategic email and text campaigns, and good old-fashioned networking.  Dust off that presentation clicker and offer to speak about the benefits of regular team building, laughter or family dinners together at a local community breakfast or chamber event.

Not only will you discover new leads, but you’ll also build your reputation in the community as the go to place for great group events.

2. Offer packages, passes, discounts & deals.

A little downtime is perfect for rethinking and adding to your existing packages and deals. Drive in-store traffic by offering creative packages that include enticements for future visits. Think loyalty program achievements, discounted admission for a second visit or a follow-up ticket for a special function, like Christmas in July, breakfast with the Easter Bunny, or a Halloween Mascot Masquerade.

Look at where you have dips in daily traffic and see if this highlights any opportunities for new offerings. If you have a bit of a lull for a certain period of time, here are some great ideas to generate buzz and reel in guests:

  • Daily Happy Hour—Unique bundles of your most popular food and attraction items.
  • After School or After Hours Specials— Offer all-access admission or attraction passes for a specific amount of time, or beginning at a certain time. For example, offer Half Day Admission passes that begin late afternoon to pull in the post-theme park crowd.

That referral program you didn’t have a chance to work on while the season was in full swing? Now’s the time! Look at your demographic data and consider who is visiting when, and offer rewards for new or referred event bookings, bring-a-friend days, best pictures in the facility and any other behaviors you want to see more of.

Build recurring revenue by using your offseason time to develop and offer membership and season pass programs if you haven’t already. Membership programs appeal to prospective guests and keep them coming back for more. Try family season passes as stocking stuffers or including branded merchandise as a package to entice purchasers. Consider offering special pricing or incentives to encourage sign-ups during the slower season.

One thing to remember—discount wisely. The goal should always be to get people back to the facility without cheapening your product. Don’t offer discounts on everything. If you bring in less on admission, be sure to upsell things like food and beverage or other entertainment options to help offset the discount. Plus, if you’re delivering a stellar guest experience, they’ll be sure to come back for more!

3. Create an exceptional guest experience.

At the end of the day, an exceptional guest experience that is both unique and efficient will bring in repeat customers every time – no matter the time of year.

From the second your guests learn about your facility to the sincere goodbyes they get from staff at the end of their visit—investing in perfecting every detail of your brand during the offseason largely contributes to building a guest experience that’s second to none.

An exceptional guest experience stems from two places:

#1: Your Website

Your guest’s experience starts far before they enter your facility. From the moment they visit your website the experience should be crystal clear and pleasurable. Can your guests buy tickets or book a party online? Are your package descriptions clear and enticing? Are the details on your website understandable? Do you have plenty of photographs?

Make sure you include clearly marked buttons, banners, and navigation so guests don’t have to go on a scavenger hunt to find what they’re looking for. Just a few simple fixes can change the guest experience on your website entirely.

#2: Your Team

Although the industry skews young, with a workforce made up primarily of high school and college-aged individuals, treating team members like they’re temporary will make them act, well, temporary.

Building and offering a program of continual training and mentoring will make your team members feel like they are part of something meaningful and that their work is valued.

Take the time during the offseason, even if you’re open all year, to invest in your team. The result? Team leaders and members that are invested in making your facility a success.

Review some key data points on team performance across the entire busy season including:

  • How well did your team members upsell?
  • Did everyone meet their interaction goals?
  • Were there any inconsistencies in guest feedback scores?
  • Have your team members identified or flagged any areas in need of improvement?

Then, build training and coaching opportunities into the schedule when traffic to the park or facility is slow. And if you don’t have a team to actively work on in the off season, take the time to build training programs, address performance management and create incentives for the following year’s recruits or when your steadfast employees return for another season. You’ll not only improve the efficiency of your operation but also improve the relationships with your team members and ensure your facility expresses the kind of culture—sales, service, safety or otherwise—that you want to be known for.

Seasonality is something that affects parks and FECs everywhere, no matter the temperature or location, and you can make all the days in your offseason count with these tips.

Remember, guests are excited to be at your facility, sharing laughs and making memories with friends and loved ones. It’s your job to make sure it happens more than just once.

How are you preparing for offseason? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.

To see how CenterEdge can help you leverage analytics, build programs to maximize your offseason and provide an excellent guest experience, schedule a demo with our team.

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