Your 2021 Haunt Season Checklist

It probably feels like there are a million things you still need to get done before you open your haunt this season. Between the props, electronics, costumes, scheduling your scareactors, and training the team, it’s a struggle to stay organized in the months leading up to October. And things are even more complicated this year, with staffing shortages becoming more common and ongoing uncertainty around changing social distancing requirements. 

Haunt Season will be here before you know it. Before you swing open the doors and let your first victims enter, follow this handy checklist to help you make sure you’ve got all your bases covered for the 2021 Haunt Season.

Are you ready?

skeleton with neck chained to a shackle in front of a wall of old clocks

Physical Setup

Make sure your attractions are in working order and follow social distancing guidelines. Don’t forget to train your staff on the new protocols, too. 

Finalize Prop Orders

Most haunts order new props and effects in the spring to give vendors time to fulfill the orders. Take inventory of all your orders, and note on your calendar when they are scheduled to be delivered so you can check on any that don’t arrive as planned. Make sure to finalize any last-minute orders you may not already have submitted earlier in the year. 

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. 

Secure your staffing

Staffing may be particularly challenging this year, as many businesses are experiencing labor shortages. It’s important to start staffing up early. A good place to start is reaching out to the staff who worked at your haunt last year (or in 2019 if you didn’t open in 2020). If you still have open positions, start recruiting now to make sure you have enough time to fill them. 

Don’t forget to set up payroll or other compensation methods before the season begins. Now more than ever, it’s important to take care of your team.

Ticketing and Queuing

The sooner you set up your ticketing, the sooner you can start selling (and earning revenue!). 

Setup your ticketing

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. 

If you’re using HauntPay, 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. 

Another good 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. 

Set up Virtual Queues

Guests who are waiting in line are not spending money. Virtual Queues give you more control to manage the crowd flow at your haunt and give guests the freedom to visit your midway, concessions area, or gift shop while they wait. It’s a better experience for guests and your team.

Here’s how Virtual Queues work, in a nutshell: 

  1. When guests arrive at your haunt, they’ll be “checked in” to your Virtual Queue.
  2. You determine how many guests you want to allow to enter your haunt at a time.
  3. Guests are notified via SMS text when it’s their turn to enter. As they enter, you check them off the virtual queue, allowing the next group of virtual queuers to be notified.

Set up Timed ticketing

Timed ticketing can help you control the crowd flow at your event by limiting the number of guests who enter during a given time period (we recommend one-hour time slots but you can customize them however you like!). You set the time slots and a maximum number of guests per slot. This will allow you to keep that line flowing much more quickly, forecast the number of attendees before the event, and potentially charge a higher price for tickets that get through the line more quickly.

Prepare for virtual access

Scream cams, behind-the-scenes walkthroughs, lights-on tours, and other virtual experiences have become more popular in the haunt industry over the past year. And many haunts are finding that they have fans all over the country who may not be able to physically visit their venue during haunt season (maybe because they’re working at another haunt or just aren’t able to make the trip this year). 

One way you can grow your fanbase while bringing in additional revenue is through virtual access to your haunt. Click below to learn more about virtual events on HauntPay. 

zombie woman with long hair snarling at the camera

Marketing and Advertising

Communicating with guests is more important now than ever. And you need to start promoting your haunt early in the season before your customers’ calendars fill up. Follow these strategies to sell more tickets this season.

Update printed and digital materials

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. 

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. 

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.

Pitch sponsors

Sponsorships can be a huge money-maker for haunted attractions, and the partnerships can be mutually beneficial. But many businesses have used up their budget for the year by the time September rolls around. Reach out to them now and follow our guide to get a “yes” to your sponsorship request. 

Reach out to local media

This isn’t a normal haunt season; for many of us, it’s the first Halloween where attractions will be open again without mask requirements or social distancing. Many news outlets will be covering the holiday with lists of which attractions are open, which are closed, and what guests should expect or prepare for to make their visits go as smoothly as possible. Reach out to as many local news outlets as you can to make sure your haunt is on any lists of open attractions they may publish.

Set up automations

This applies not only to marketing campaigns but to tons of other business functions as well. Passage integrates with more than 2,000 apps through our partnership with Zapier, an in-this-then-that engine that automates tasks like bookkeeping, email marketing, and more. 

Click below to learn more about our Zapier integration or start creating your first Zap. 

Need help with your ticketing or setting up virtual queues? Schedule an onboarding call with our support team and we’ll set everything up for you!