How to Develop an Escape Room Marketing Strategy

by Ian Maier

Finding the right marketing tactics can feel like trying to solve an escape room puzzle…

You need to get more bookings before time runs out.

There are 5 other people yelling ideas around you.

“Try Groupon!” someone suggests.

“No! Don’t do it!” someone else responds. “It never works!”

You think you have the solution.

You try Groupon, and it fails.

You need to try something else before the clock runs out. Maybe Adwords?

You try it… and it seems to work!

Are you close to success? Hard to tell. But it’s time to move on to the next puzzle…

We all know these feelings. They’re the same feelings that make escaping a room so exhilarating. But they’re less exciting when there’s no game master to give you clues and your business is on the line.

There are hundreds of tactics you could use to market your escape room. The problem is, if you pick the wrong ones you will end up tired, frustrated, and with a shrinking bank account.

If you want to be the smartest marketer in the room, you need a marketing strategy. You need to define your goals and develop a plan. You need to know which tactics work, and which ones don’t. And then, you need to execute!

To get started, we recommend reading this guide to escape room marketing tactics. It’s extensive, and backed up by research and interviews with successful escape room professionals. It covers topics like:

  • When (and why) to use Groupon
  • How to save money with targeted advertising
  • How to promote to corporate groups

Download The Ultimate Escape Room Marketing Guide Ebook

After reading the ebook, you’ll understand which marketing tactics work best for escape rooms.

But remember: every escape room is unique. Some are just getting started and some have been established for years. Some have 1 room and some have 3. So before you go spending your entire marketing budget on Adwords let’s figure out which tactics work best for your escape room.

To get there, let’s review some business fundamentals…

Back to the Basics: Goals, Strategies, and Tactics

Any successful marketer (or business owner) should understand the difference between goals, strategies, and tactics. Here is a quick refresher:

  • Goal – an observable and measurable end result for your business. (e.g. increase revenue by 25%).
  • Strategy – your overarching vision or plan to achieving your goal. (e.g. increase # of repeat visitors to increase revenue per customer)
  • Tactic – a method for implementing your strategy. (e.g. send 1-time customers coupons via email to encourage repeat visits).

Many marketers (even the pros – ghasp!) fail to distinguish between strategies and tactics. Sadly, this is one of the main reasons marketing campaigns fail…

As an example, “start a blog” is a tactic, not a strategy.

Sure, you might have seen a lot of businesses build an audience by blogging. You may even be a great writer. But that doesn’t mean writing blog posts will help you reach your escape room customers or sell more rooms.

If you pick your tactics (i.e. start a blog) before your goals and strategies, you risk wasting a lot of time on marketing that just plain doesn’t work for your business.

Take a look at the diagram below. Instead of taking a “bottom-up” approach, focus on your goals and strategy first.

Goals Strategies and Tactics Diagram

Define your goal

Your business goal(s) should be SMART:

  • Specific – Does your goal refer to a concrete and specific area of your business?
 (e.g. revenue)
  • Measurable – Can you measure your goal using quantitative or qualitative data? Can you measure your progress using a measurable target? (e.g. 25% increase in revenue)
  • Attainable – Can you (or your employees) actually achieve this goal?
  • Relevant – Does the goal apply to a specific problem faced by the company?
  • Time-related – What is your deadline for achieving your goal?

Example of a SMART goal:

2x monthly revenue by the end of Q4 (December 31).

Example of a not-so-smart goal:

Grow my business.

Keep in mind that your SMART goal does not have to be perfect. There is still guesswork involved. But if your goal is SMART, you can measure your progress against your goal. You will know when to change course if you begin to veer off track or aren’t making progress. You will know when to turn on the gas if progress is going well.

Develop your strategy

Your strategy describes how you intend to reach your goal. It should be broad enough that it does not prescribe specific marketing tactics (run Facebook ads is NOT a strategy!), but specific enough that it describes:

  1. Who you are targeting to reach your goal, and
  2. How you will target them.

Example: Increase revenue by turning 1st-time buyers into repeat purchasers.

Choose your tactics

Once you defined your goals and strategy, you can begin choosing between the tactics available to you. I suggest referring to this escape room marketing ebook for tactical ideas. Browse through the table of contents, pick out the tactics that fit in your strategy, then get to work!

Here’s an example…

Let’s pretend we just launched a new escape room. Our main concern is keeping the lights on and developing a sustainable revenue stream. We need to grow our business, but can’t go over budget.

  • GOAL – Generate $30,000 in monthly revenue and >$0 in profit within 6 months.
    • STRATEGY #1 – Identify and acquire a small set of enthusiastic customers.
      • TACTIC #1a – Identify escape room enthusiasts in the area (via blogs, facebook groups, quora, etc.) and offer them a discount to try the room.
      • TACTIC #1b – Distribute flyers at pub crawls, intramural sports leagues, and other organized group events.
      • TACTIC #1c – Offer large-group discounts.
    • STRATEGY #2 – Turn the early enthusiastic customers into loyal promoters.
      • TACTIC #2a – Involve early customers in design and business decisions by asking for feedback. Make them feel like a friend or advisor instead of a customer.
      • TACTIC #2b – Run a debriefing at the end to answer questions, debate puzzles, and give groups who “lost” a sense of completion.
    • STRATEGY #3 – Collect and display social proof to encourage more “conservative” prospects to buy.
      • TACTIC #3a – Send automated emails to customers asking for reviews on TripAdvisor.
      • TACTIC #3b – Encourage customers to review your room on Yelp by posting “Review us on Yelp” signs in the office.
      • TACTIC #3c – Offer an extra 5 minutes in the room if the group likes your Facebook page before starting the game.
    • STRATEGY #4 – Build a referral network
      • TACTIC #4a – Give current customers an incentive to invite friends through a referral program.
      • TACTIC #4b – Offer gift cards so that customers can buy them for friends and family.

Here it is in visual form…

Escape Room Marketing Goal Strategy Tactic

Notice how the goal and strategies affect which tactics I choose to use in my marketing efforts? Because my escape room had a limited budget, we focused on tactics that cost more time than money.

Had I neglected to organize my marketing around goals and strategies, I might have done something expensive and foolish (like spend all my marketing budget on Facebook ads).

Because I have well defined goals and strategies, I can safely experiment with different tactics and change tactics if they aren’t helping me reach my goals.

Looking for more escape room marketing ideas?

Here are a few extra resources if you want to learn more:

Download The Ultimate Escape Room Marketing Guide Ebook