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Did we scare our customers away?

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  • Did we scare our customers away?

    This past season was our second year putting on a charity haunt. With last year being what I thought a great success I was a little let down by this years numbers.

    I live in a very rural area and the haunt was in a city of approx 15,000 people. The nearest haunt is about an hour away.

    Our first year we brought in about 12% of our area population. Which from what I've been reading is about par for a 1st year haunt. We literally lost count of the number of people who couldn't make it through and wet themselves. There were 3 confirmed to have defecated and one who threw up. Some of those after paying decided to not even enter or chickened out after entering the first hallway.

    Personally I didn't think we could be too scary, and for the most part still believe that. But after our numbers were down a little this year (-63 people). I'm wondering if we've over scared our advertising market? This year we were in a more visible location, open 3 additional nights, tripled our marketing budget and still came up short from last years numbers.

    The frustrating part is when I hear about people driving that hour plus to other haunts and paying more in admission to be let down and they do this every year.

    Is this norm for a new haunt? I realize relocating every year doesn't help, but just trying to get ideas as what to do/expect next year. Maybe we should broaden our marketing area.

    Do potential customers see our lesser price associated with a charity fund raiser and automatically think we're a sub-par haunt?

    Thanks for your time and I appreciate any and all feedback.
    Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did itů Autograph your work with excellence!

  • #2
    well... u gotta figure, what made u a success last year. were in a busy area. was it easy to get to. was there any road construction that might limit people getting to ur place this year. did u still market to the same people. did u carry the same haunt name. did u have the same people work. soemtimes peopel that work ur haunt are ur best advertisers. how did u treat ur peopel last year... were u nice... grateful, stuff liek that. theres so many variables when moving ur location from spot to spot.

    where did ur advertising dollars go. what did u do the previous year.
    Henry GQ - Fear Factory Erie, Pennsylvania.


    • #3
      Originally posted by FearFactoryErie View Post
      well... u gotta figure, what made u a success last year. were in a busy area. was it easy to get to. was there any road construction that might limit people getting to ur place this year. did u still market to the same people. did u carry the same haunt name. did u have the same people work. soemtimes peopel that work ur haunt are ur best advertisers. how did u treat ur peopel last year... were u nice... grateful, stuff liek that. theres so many variables when moving ur location from spot to spot.

      where did ur advertising dollars go. what did u do the previous year.
      Actually this year was easier to get to (more visible from main road), marketing was increased in the way of additional radio advertisement commercials ( we only ran 6 last year and while the haunt was open), ticket give aways, etc as well as flyers, facebook, website etc...

      We kept the majority of actors from last year and actually due to the size increase of the haunt brought on several new actors. I always thank the volunteers and let them know their appreciated and that they are the life blood of the haunt. Without them it won't happen.

      Through out the month I also give them opportunities to share the stories from the night as well as give them the opportunity to provide their own input on their area as well as make changes. I encourage them to make their room/area their own.

      Word of mouth and reviews was great. Exit interviews was 9+ through out the month. There were even comments like scary enough, to scary, etc... I know most haunts that have been around this area have been kiddy type haunts and I'm trying to bring in a whole new level of haunt marketed more to teens and younger adults, but we still see all ages come through.

      As far as the name we kept the same name because we wanted to the name recognition from last year. With us relocating that's the only way I knew we could possibly carry the momentum over from last year.
      Last edited by evilmanor; 11-08-2010, 01:57 PM.
      Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did itů Autograph your work with excellence!


      • #4
        thats actually an interesting perspective on the haunt. if a charity is involved does it make less scary? or "cool" to go ?

        how about a website ?
        Henry GQ - Fear Factory Erie, Pennsylvania.


        • #5
          The website is
          Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did itů Autograph your work with excellence!


          • #6
            Hmmm...did I post this in the wrong forum?

            Was hoping more people would chime in here.
            Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did itů Autograph your work with excellence!


            • #7
              The Rangers making it to the world series hurt your business, I know it did ours. On many of our "Big" nights there was an important game. Its "local" sports and they did well and staying in with buddies is a cheaper nights entertainment.
              Also 63 people is nothing, statistically you did the same as last year. People arent chiming in because we dont have enough info to help you, I can tell you that it being just 63 people down, then the Rangers could easily be the reason.
              You arent to scary, you arent scaring your customers away, there are a ton of variables that go into people deciding not to go out. Also you moved, that will kill you, try to get a location and stick with it. People drive over an hour for haunts sure, but not for first year haunts, they hear abpout them and then go the next year, or the year after that...if they are still there.
              Id watch your advertising budget next year and expect more than this year IF your in the same location.


              • #8
                Thanks Allen

                Yeah I knew the Rangers hurt us some this year, but thought the location an additional marketing would have over come that.

                So even though we're in a small town and probably only about 3-4 miles away from our previous location that until we find a permanent home we're not going to see much growth?

                What other info would be needed for others to give me some advice? I know we're not to scary compared to some haunts that have been doing it longer and bigger than we are, but we're definitely the scariest this town has seen.

                We heard adults and teens several times this year say that it was the scariest haunt they've been to. One local guy was quoted in a monthly periodical saying he loves haunted houses and will drive an hour for a good one. He went on to say that this years haunt was as good if not better than anything he saw at Six Flags last year. I'd think that's good, but unfortunately have never made it to Six Flags during October.

                Thanks again!
                Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did itů Autograph your work with excellence!


                • #9
                  Hard ? to answer. some people do things diff.

                  Stick with a location.. moving after your 1st year is basically like your 1st year all over again. It sounds like you did well. Keep in mind your bringing your art/ your dream to life so really let that soak in. think of your positives.
                  I visited a lot of haunts this past year and saw no difference between some for profit to non profit haunts. Actually some non profit haunts had bigger budgets and gadgets and better actors then some for profits haunts.

                  Since I have not seen your haunt I don’t have to much detailed advice to give. I don’t think being too scary is really possible “People are so desensitized by video games, tv and movies.” Are they being entertained (I don’t mean this as a dig to you) I mean this as a question to ask yourself? If so How? How can it be better? How can I make it Over the top Memorable? If not why? How can it be fixed? Really think each room through. You can hide in a corner of the rooms as people go through to see how the room can be improved. Don’t be afraid to moves walls around.

                  Another issue is marketing, think who you are marketing too. If you market it to kids in young grades and it should be for young adults maybe the marketing should be looked at. Try cross marketing with other haunts, restaurants, concert halls, paintball arenas, family fun centers. Think where are the people.go there. "Here have a flyer." It sounds like you need to keep getting your haunt out there and the people will start to come. But remember.. you have to produce a good show to have people talk about it and bring them back for years to come.

                  Bring your passion, Love and creativeness to next year and the people will come. Wish you the best of luck.

                  Peter T

                  Last thing.. Don’t forget patience.Dont rush. Quality... give a great show and they will talk and return..
                  Last edited by FablesStudios; 11-10-2010, 03:22 PM.
                  Fables Studios
                  Your Home For Horror



                  • #10
                    Thanks for the response Peter. Unfortunately I don't have any control over the location. I dont currently have the budget to invest in a business. I can see where that's going to be a problem that will eventually need to be overcome. As far as over the top and memorable we've definitely done that.

                    At least for our area. I heard great things about last years haunt weekly for about 6 months after the haunt season and from time to time after that. I know you can't always believe what you hear, but that's the things we heard. We had a group of 10 drive all the way up from Waco (about 3 hours drive) to go through the haunt. Not sure how they heard about us but was glad to have them and was glad they enjoyed themselves.

                    I honestly don't think we're to scary and like you don't think its possible. But I know that not everyone is scared of the same things and being in a small area just think based on comments from some that refused to come that they were intimidated by what they had heard and experienced last year.

                    I guess basically I was wondering if maybe there's just not enough interest in our immediate area or just not enough willing to allow themselves to be scared.

                    Thanks again for all the input!!
                    Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did itů Autograph your work with excellence!


                    • #11
                      I Can Be Too Scary!

                      As evidenced from what customers say as they prematurely leave the tour within the first few minutes, begging to be allowed to leave?!
                      If they suddenly must deficate or urinate, I pray they have their Norden bombsite dialed in, no Messershitts attack as they make their run and place those brownish bombs squarely into the smokestack of the public toilet .
                      (That is where that stuff belongs! NOT in your panties or on my rug!)
                      With this being said, we try like heck NOT to scare anybody who seems the least bit timid as they buy a ticket or walk in here.
                      Scaring away paying customers is bad business and nobody will ever convince me otherwise.
                      Creating situations in which their only response messes up their clothing is also bad business.
                      How many customers and potentual business do you want to lose each season? It just keeps multiplying as people talk to one another.or don't talk.
                      There are many people out there who are very afraid, rightly or wrongly so. We have talked many, many people into trying the house tour, or into remaining in the house.
                      I feel I NEED them to have the full experience here to stick it firmly into their memory banks.... for next time!
                      Enthusiasm from your customers is Golden! They will do much of your advertising for you! Try to imagine putting a price upon that.
                      What would the dollar value translate into being for 100s of happy, excited customers showing up on a regular schedule, willingly, happilly handing you their money?


                      • #12
                        The Worst Way

                        To Scare away someone is with a dose of the supernatural truth.
                        Many local, elderly citizens here told me not to buy the house because it was haunted.
                        The incidents they related to me were not like a Hollywood horror movie at all, still the unknown things in this life play havoc with some of us, maybe more by reputation than actual events personally experienced?
                        Whether you believe in ghosts, supernatural, doesn't make any difference to what I am saying here , because their fear is Real. Those afraid will usually remain afraid illreguardless of whoever or whatever happens to cross their path.
                        When I was first open I sure didn't tell everyone this house was haunted. A purely selfish reason behind this non-disclaiming" ,I was starving to death and had been for quite sometime. I could not afford to scare anyone away.
                        Then as time went on more and more of my patrons began asking me to tell them how I was doing this incredible special effect they were enjoying in the wine cellar?
                        There was none. It was an actual appearance of the resident ghost here , who began at least as long ago as 1925.
                        I eventually envisioned a painfull scenario in which much guilt and overbearing responsibility for another's severe troubles could become laid squarely upon my shoulders if I was not informing customers right upfront about the house's hauntings.
                        I imagined some mildly nervous or timid person flipping out as they realise the effect was a real ghost.
                        I have seen some things that had sounds announcing their arrival that then vanished right before me.
                        A very many highly "Coincidental" things have happened as they were being spoken of or thought of here.
                        Some of my October helpers have had frightening things happen to them, some left never to work here again.
                        Ever heard of "Orbs"?
                        We have seen them here seven times now with the naked eye and photographed them once as we saw them floating around in the wine cellar. Not a lense flare, moisture, dust on the lense, not a film problem or a camera problem, not when two people, (myself being one of the two) see it with the naked eye, THEN take it's picture!
                        Telling people your place is haunted will bring some new customers as it scares away some old ones and scares away some new potentual customers, net gain = "0".


                        • #13
                          Our charity haunt is in it's 13th year. In the last 10 years, we've only been lucky enough to be in a given location 2 years at most before relocating. It's a big challenge to overcome, but once you establish a name for yourself, it gets a little easier.

                          One note about "charity" haunts. Many competitors of ours refer to us as "that little haunt" or otherwise. FYI - we were over 1/4 mile long last year and draw from over an hour away in many cases. But it stands to say, don't spend too much advertising on the charity aspect. It may do more harm than good.

                          Make sure your advertising, web site, signage, etc. looks professional. No handwritten fliers as it makes it look backyard-ish (not that there aren't some awesome backyard haunts).

                          Weather and sports play a big part. We struggled with the Tigers making the World Series one year (YES, it did really happen!) and local HS teams, homecomings, big rivalry games, all take a bite out of sales. 2 years ago, it rained about half of our open dates. We have started keeping better records, but logic tells you that rain = fewer customers.

                          As for being "too scary" - isn't that what people are paying for? We used to do a "Light Fright" for the first hour, keeping our actors to no-scare roles. We barely had enough people coming through to make it worth it. We eliminated that 3 years ago and saw an increase in sales. People are coming to be scared, not just to see your props.

                          Also, remember your target market. Ours is 16-35 year olds, especially males. Not that other demographics don't matter, that's just our target audience. Sell to them and the others will follow.

                          Good luck haunting!
                          Chris Riehl


                          • #14
                            First impressions are everything. Having a professional looking website, flyers, and any other ads you use a key to drawing in customers.


                            • #15
                              Ravens Grin-Differences

                              We are open every night of the entire year plus Sat. & Sun. afternoons.
                              People do get scared here, our mission doesnot include making people vomit or mess themselves but rather to entertain them , and even make them laugh! (Which for many is a much more difficult task than just the scare)
                              We seem to have many more female patrons of all ages than males. This is all right afterall who might get drunk and bust up your place? Male or Female?
                              We see many familys here, also familys with small children, we work to keep everyone in the house and thereby create happy memories to further promote our business in the future- long run.
                              We adjust the show to try to accommodate whatever kind of audience we are looking at.
                              I was told by a very long-term haunter about the haunt he used to work in, they decided to go for the most hideous costuming and in-your-face scares... their business went definately down and down every year after year. Other factors could have also greatly influenced this as we all know, but these were his perceptions of it. Customer counts dropped 3,000 to 5,000 Every year plummeting from 35,000 to 5,000 eventually.
                              It took me many years and interveiws and customers and hawking my house in the parking lot outside my front door to overcome the average, possibly timid person's fears made via attending other haunts, usually a very fearfull childhood experience, never forgotten , which manifested itself as never spending another dollar to see ANY HAUNT!
                              So my opinion, research via actually talking with and asking people about their opinions on haunts shows me that blood, gore, roaring chainsaws, pitch black rooms with overly threatening or agressive personalitys waiting there Do Scare People Away.
                              As children grow older, become adults, most of them do not wish to find themselves at the mercy of the unpredictable things found in the average haunt. Most adults seek predictability in all facets of their social, economic and work situations.
                              Life itself can be too scary for many adults and it is not getting better, is it?
                              Some do become scared here, some very scared. I try to temper such extreme reactions with distractions and humor. Two nights ago I happened to record an incredible scream made here by a young woman (She was not in my bedroom!) I put such testimonials on my answering machine sometimes. I guess I will be trying to give my customers and patrons whatever I can to please them and keep the possibility of them wishing to come back again sometime wide open for them.
                              Tonight a large group is to be here, some are returning , some have just heard about us.. its a group of carnival workers! Talk about a fun group! (They won't be getting the kid's tour!)