View Full Version : How do I get the word out on a budget?

Timothy Quay
11-25-2012, 06:23 AM
This was my first season I opened a Haunt (4,000sf) The haunt was great people that were there said is was much better than some area Haunts. BUT only got 700 people go through in 3 weeks that should have been a night. This year The Institute Of fear is making Saratoga Scare Fair 8,000sf. Sounds great doesn't it well flyers didnt seem to work. What can i do on a budget to get the word out?

Front Yard Fright
11-25-2012, 07:10 AM
Word of mouth works wonders. From the sounds of it, you'll already have a following for next season.

Facebook is one of the newest and biggest ways of promoting businesses as well as the use of Twitter. Both are free and both have several advantages to help spread the word about your business as well as ways to keep in contact with your fans.

11-25-2012, 07:11 AM
Google Guerilla Marketing. Start there. Also work on cross promotion with other haunts and business.


Allen H
11-25-2012, 11:21 AM
Try to be open 5 weekends- by the time word of mouth started working for you- you closed. It takes time, give it a few years.

11-25-2012, 06:08 PM
Depending where you are call the radio stations. Commercials are be quite cheap.

11-25-2012, 06:31 PM
Hi Timothy,
Buck (Capt. Chaos) is quite right; there are tons of results when you type "guerilla marketing" into Google. Give it a shot!

Also, I'm not sure if this helps or not, but every year we have a marketing person doing a little market research and briefly interviewing people after they have exited our show whenever possible. By an overwhelming margin, the way that people hear about us is: 1) our 8' x 16' billboard on the street outside the haunted house (we are, quite fortunately, on a very busy street), and 2) via the Internet. We have spent lots of money in the past trying TV commercials, radio ads and print ads, with only marginal return on those investments, at best. The Internet and the billboard outperform them by far.

I don't think you can stress enough the importance of having a presence on the "Net! If you prepare a press release and send it to TV stations and newspapers, more often than not they will, at the very least, then include you in their Halloween events listings on their web sites. The more web sites, links, etc., you can get on, the better, I think.

But, as far as how to get the TV stations and the newspapers to come to your show and do stories on you... this completely baffles us! I have no idea how some folks get the TV stations to come out, and the newspapers to do stories on them every year! Does anyone else know how to achieve this, specifically?


Jim Warfield
11-25-2012, 08:20 PM
For me this is simple. (Your results may vary)
Be Creative! Invent or re-invent yourself, your "story" (You DO have a story, don't you!?)
Leave your story slightly under stated, mysterious in a natural way (because nobody ever really knows all the information, not really.
How did CNN 's web site happen to feature a nice story about Ravens Grin last October?
They called and I was home to answer their call-simple, huh?
Of course we never leave this haunted house because it is also our home... yes, this is kind of strange, unusual.. maybe that is a partial reason the reporter girl called us?
Maybe several other odd, unusual reasons added to this quest for many writers?
By gosh! Maybe being odd, strange, different (or at least reguarded as such a "critter") just so happens to be what all of this is all about?
I didn't really know what I was doing when I began my haunt, but I did have many desperate ambitions, tools, experience using those tools and knew how to succesfully experiment with the often meager resources at my disposal.
Those incredibly long hours of concentrated effort passed quickly because I was in such a "place" of enthusiastic thinking, coordination and doing. When I became totally exhausted, I would lay down fall asleep for a few hours and begin again.
I had nothing and no other opportunites for me except to build a successful business, the ditch with the old door spanning it was my next place I would be calling "Home" if this did not work.
Would I have worked this long and hard if I was just trying to copy what everybody else had already done? Doubtful. This was going to be "mine" as much as possible, I was building MY IDEAS.

11-25-2012, 08:42 PM
If you haven't already, check out Jim's Ravens Grin Facebook page. I know his set up is unique because it's his home and it's year-round, but his posts are delightful. Not too frequent, never political or religious or spammy... just frustrating little bits of story that leave you wanting more.

Jim Warfield
11-26-2012, 08:18 AM
My Thanksgiving "Turkey" story felt like a novel writing it.(Facebook) all true, just the turkey's names have been changed for legal reasons.
Recently a woman returned after several visits over the years with her new "man". They were delightful, fun, interested, so I indulged them and myself putting on my show for them, talking too about various things, they had a great time, not to be forgotten soon as an actual 3 hours passed by! (It never seems like it)
She even handed me an actual cash tip at the finale. (Never expected)
I guess I'm doing almost everything "Wrong" here by common standards and defintions of what and how a "Haunted House" is and should be, but I like it and this whole thing does financially support us, just the way that it is....no "Day Job", no inheritence of cash or stocks, but I did find that $3.00 laying where I scared some people lately!
People have fun here, I'm having fun here too, maybe it's contagious?

11-26-2012, 09:57 AM
Hey Tim,
We went the way of groupon and living social. If you want to get the word out about your haunt these two sites are great. groupon i found to reach more people. Granted they sell your tickets at 50% off and then you get 50% of that. you can reach a lot of people through them. then you can try to make up the low ticket price by getting them to buy other things while they are there.our admission is only 6 bucks so they sold two for six. I only got about 1.25 per ticket sold but we doubled our attendance over last year. we added a zombie shoot to our after haunt things to do and it went great got a lot of up sales from the groupon people. we are going to sell a vip pass on groupon next year for 10 bucks. so two for ten so i will get about 5.20 per ticket. They do not charge anything up front so no out of pocket expense. they take thier money off the back end once the ticket is sold. they do everything for you. check it out
Good luck Joe

11-26-2012, 12:32 PM
Have an awesome promo video and push face book. Every like you get will put that promo video on hundreds of ppl's news feeds.

Bobby Arel's "parade advertising" how much hype would you generate by walking two zombies around with chains through a mall? Or a local young bar scene?

The groupon would be awesome for new haunts, set on specific nights, early in the season. Think of the low ticket revenue as advertising costs. My mother told me about a haunt in the area she saw on groupon, so you never know who they will tell.

Target your marketing. If you're after kids and families, don't use bloody savage zombies for your parade, use a cute cuddly mascot creature, and hang out around the kiddie play area of the mall (just be sure somebody is with you so you don't end up looking like a perv lol)

People remember things they see in person, so make a huge impression and you'll be remembered.

11-26-2012, 12:53 PM
I meant to say ppl remember STRANGE things they see in person. When I was in my early 20's, I saw a guy at the mall walking around with a dildo strapped on his forehead. I asked him what the hell that was about... apparently it was some confidence building thing to talk to hot chicks while wearing that, so he could be more confident while not wearing that, and pick up hot chicks lol. That was at least five years ago... but I will NEVER forget that!

While at universal Hollywood horror nights, I could barely tell you all the scares in the houses, not even 50%. But I can tell you tons of details about the scare zones. I believe that is because you are in more of a normal frame of mind when walking to the next house. Some times I got the crap scared out of me in those zones... THOSE are the moments I remember. Hit ppl when they are in "normal" mode, thinking about regular things... that is the way to create lasting impressions.

In my massage practice I give bizcard magnets, not because I want them to have my number (which is what I tell them) but toestablish a presence in their everyday lives. I can't count the times ppl have called because they were reaching for ice and saw my card!

I plan on going as far as scaring ppl on the street (well my actors at least) then saying when's the last time yi7 were really scared at a haunted house, as I give them the card/flyer. These days everybody is so numb and self absorbed, it seems like you have to ingrain yourself into that selfishness, or snap them out of it for a second. Preferably both.

11-26-2012, 10:35 PM
In my massage practice I give bizcard magnets, not because I want them to have my number (which is what I tell them) but toestablish a presence in their everyday lives. I can't count the times ppl have called because they were reaching for ice and saw my card!

I plan on going as far as scaring ppl on the street (well my actors at least) then saying when's the last time yi7 were really scared at a haunted house, as I give them the card/flyer. These days everybody is so numb and self absorbed, it seems like you have to ingrain yourself into that selfishness, or snap them out of it for a second. Preferably both.

* . . . tears of pride welling up . . . I'm feeling a little verklempt . . . *

11-29-2012, 08:08 PM
Facebook and Twitter were key for us this year, but the banner in the front did most of the work. I also sent the wife to a Harvest Festival in the neighboring town on one of the nights to pass out flyers. That had great results as well. I might do a few radio spots only because we are in a really rural town and radio is all they have out here (and its cheap - $10 for 60s spot). I posted something fresh on FB and Twitter every day (sometimes twice a day) to draw new followers. There are great apps out there to assist with that. A friend of mine that does consulting showed me one I am adding this year called TweetAdder that actually helps you find others tweeting about Halloween, and helps you narrow your focus to specific areas.

Be religious about your posting and make it interesting. Not just stuff about your hours, etc. Tell stories, carry news about the holidays, post facts about Zombies, Viruses, etc. Soon you will build a following. And it will continue to grow year after year. Yeah, I did say year after year. It has to be cultivated so if you thought you were going to make a big profit year one, sorry. Even though we had a 600% increase in revenues this year, I am still far from a profit, and still in my growing stages (growing meaning both in attendance as well as building the haunt to be bigger and better every year).

Isn't running a business fun!

01-27-2013, 10:09 PM
I seen a lot of people mention Google. The whole local search is huge now. We are out in California and we have our door person ask where people found out about the haunt at and the majority of them came from generic Google searches for haunted house. We did some work to get the haunt so it showed up on page 1 of Google for local search terms and we saw about 70% of our visitors coming from that work and once you get it all up there it is fairly affordable depending on who you go with. Look to make sure you have your Google Places listing properly optimized along with Yahoo, Bing and Yelp. We saw great results from those listings and those are one time setups if you pay someone. If you have any questions feel free to hit me up, I did it all for the haunt this year and do this stuff for work so will be more than happy to help anyone with any questions.

Ken Polisse
07-04-2013, 10:19 PM
We've been doing a haunted house in connection with the local fire department for six years, after a brief hiatus we are finally back this year (gotta love political reasons). Anyhow, some of the techniques that worked for us in the past in getting the word out were through press releases, word of mouth and parades. I've been in the media industry for more than 12 years, so crafting the press releases were pretty easy. It's always a plus to know what the local papers or stations look for in the releases, yet not giving everything away. In our early years we had a lot of help from those still in high school. Not always the best crowd to work with, but putting them in charge of flyers, around the area and throughout the schools was huge. They used to take stacks to of flyers to school and just hand them out.
Our haunt has always been geared to the 16 and up crowd, but we were always able to do walk throughs for those younger. One of our biggest though were the local parades. We are located in a small town in Central New York, and every year there are a variety of parades from Old Home Days to Field Days events. We also have the privilege of being in the same town as the Boxing Hall of Fame (Canastota), which has a huge parade every year. In the past we built a mini haunted house on the float, it was basically a pitch black hallway where the actors could reach out at those walking through. As the float would move we'd jump out of fog off the back of it and scare the crowd. When we were stopped for the progression to move, we'd pull people in to walk through it quickly. It made a lasting impression.
This year we're taking advantage of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even shooting short teaser trailers leading up to it. We'll still reach out to the papers, tv and radio stations but will rely mostly on word of mouth and social media.

Ken - The Butcher