Haunt Season will be here before you know it. Between the props, electronics, costumes, scheduling your scareactors and training the team, it probably feels like there are a million things that still need to get done before you swing open the doors and let your first victims enter.
While you’re taking care of the big stuff, like that 15-foot fire-breathing demon in your dungeon room, don’t forget to check some of the most important details off your to-do list. Seemingly little things can actually make or break your haunt’s experience for guests and determine whether they return for more scares next year.
Here are the most commonly-missed details every haunt owner should check off their list.
1. Update the date
If you have signs, banners, flyers or other marketing materials with last year’s date, now is the time to update them. It makes for a sloppy first impression to see old information on a business’s sign right before you hand them your credit card.
The same goes for your website. Update your operating hours and make sure your contact information is still correct. Pay particular attention to any disclosures or policies you have on print or web materials, such as refund policies or indemnity clauses.
2. Test equipment
A dead battery has ruined many a haunt owner’s opening nights. Don’t assume that last year’s equipment is still functioning perfectly after a year in storage: pull those walkies, flashlights, scanners, payment terminals, voiceboxes, and other small electronics out of the box and make sure everything is working well before the season begins. It will save you from unpleasant surprises and last-minute hunts for replacements once your doors open.
3. Setup your ticketing
This is an easy step because our team will help take care of this for you. Don’t wait until the last minute to set up your ticketing and payments for the season. There are two reasons you should do this in advance: first of all, you can start making money as soon as you start selling tickets. Setting up online ticketing today means your guests can buy tickets now for a Haunt Season visit. This helps with cash flow, so you’re not struggling to make that final vendor payment before you open or for that first payroll of the season.
The second reason to start selling tickets now is to help you plan staffing and volunteer schedules for the season. If you know in advance which nights are selling out and which ones are going to be lighter on crowds, you can staff up or down as needed.
4. Light it up
Lighting can make or break a room’s theme. But it’s easy to get caught up in testing every last effect inside your haunt while forgetting about the exterior. Is there a lightbulb out on your sign? Will guests have enough light to find their way from the parking lot to your front door? Are your emergency lights in working order? Try to test these out at night so you can really put yourself in your customer’s shoes, and give yourself plenty of time to make any repairs or upgrades before the season begins.
5. Say “cheese!”
In this age of social media, having high-quality photos and videos of your haunt are more important than ever. It’s also super tricky to get a great shot once the season starts – dark hallways and candlelit rooms are perfect for scaring people IRL but they do not make the best photography conditions. Snap some pics now when you can control the lighting, and post them on your website & social media to promote your new rooms or effects.
Do the same with video while you’re at it. You’ll be able to use that content over and over again throughout the season for paid and organic social media reach.
6. Reach out to your past customers
The best way to get past customers to return to your haunt is to remind them that you’re still around! If you’ve been using HauntPay, you can download a list of email addresses for every guest who purchased their tickets online last season. (Here’s how.) Send an email blast to all your past customers, letting them know when you’re going to be open, what’s new, and how they can get tickets. Do this step after you’ve set up your ticketing, so you can include a link where guests can purchase advance passes for this season.
7. Revamp ad campaigns
A lot of haunts run advertisements across the same channels year after year, and that’s totally fine! Do what works. Just don’t forget to update those campaigns before the season starts. Running billboard ads? Sign your contracts and reserve space now, and pay attention to the production deadlines. Digital ads or online banners? Get your graphic designer started on creative work this week while you update the details from last year’s campaign. The same goes for social media ads.
While you’re at it, take an hour (or half if you can only spare that much time) to evaluate your current advertising strategy: How’s your ROI doing? Are there some channels that aren’t bringing in business anymore? Any new channels you want to test out? Evolving your ad strategy can help you find new customers and get the best bang for your buck.
Do you have a tip or suggestion that could help other haunters get ready for this Halloween season? We’d love to hear about it! Please share your thoughts in the comments.