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Six Easy Ways to Change Your Fun Center’s Life
“If only I had the funds to advertise…”

I probably hear this statement five times a week from various FECs throughout the world. Many of these facilities are start-up companies, but to my surprise, a good number are existing FECs that have been around for many years. Struggles in business transcend age and location. Yet, during these “interesting” economic times, there are six simple ways to market and advertise that can boost revenues at little to no cost to your business.

The Press Release (Top Secret Weapon)

This is probably the easiest and most overlooked form of advertising. Its purpose is to grab the attention of a reporter and show them that you have something worth writing about.

I’ll give you a little story. A few years back, I called the local newspaper on a Tuesday about recently updated equipment at my facility. A nice lady picked up the phone, and I told her who I was and that we had just completely updated our equipment at our play facility. I asked who to talk to about getting an article. She quickly said, “Are you going to be at your facility in the next 15 minutes?” I, of course, said yes, and she responded, “I’ll meet you there,” and hung up.

About ten minutes later, this young and eager journalist came walking through my doors with a camera strung around her neck and her trusty pen and pad of paper. Twenty minutes later, she left my facility with several pages of notes and a dozen or so pictures of our newest equipment.

Our local paper is weekly and comes out on Wednesday. Guess whose article was on the front page of the family and life section? Yours truly’s. All I had to do was pick up the phone, and less than 12 hours later we had a half-page article with several pictures explaining all the great benefits of coming to our center. The total cost was zero, and I can directly attribute thousands of dollars in sales to that one article.

Host a Non-Profit Group

I once had J. J. McClatchy, a prominent business owner in the Sacramento area, as a business professor in college. He made a statement that has followed me to this day: “If you take from the community, you must give back to the community.” The idea is that you need to give back to the place your business calls home. We choose to support local non-profit organizations. Whether you choose a local or national non-profit, make it something you believe in.

Don’t be fooled. You are hosting a non-profit event to raise money and awareness for that organization, but you also have plastered your logo and name alongside those of the non-profit all around your community. You not only get the goodwill points for support, but you have just reminded your customers that you are still in business and that they need to come back.

Another huge benefit to a non-profit night is that you can get hundreds, if not thousands, of visitors through your doors — visitors who may not have come inside your facility had they not wanted to support that organization. Now, put your best foot forward and show them why they need to come back with their family, friends and business associates. Don’t ever miss an opportunity to turn a visitor into a customer.

Don’t Sell Your Product (Develop a Sales Script)

Most FECs and play centers do a poor job of even adequately selling their products and services over the phone and in person (my center has room for improvement as well). However, you shouldn’t sell your products or services; you should sell the benefits of using them.

If you were to buy a BMW M5, my dream car, you wouldn’t do so because of its features: four wheels, four doors and blue color. You would buy it because it’s fast and handles corners as nimble as a cheetah hunting prey through a dense forest; you would buy it for its sleekness, comfort and ability to turn heads everywhere you go. Likewise, sell the benefits of your business, and people will buy!

Most people think they are not a sales person. I beg to differ. If you set up the proper script, anyone can sell your product. This script should highlight the benefits of your product while still including its features. Customers will always want to know what your product entails, but if you polish the presentation to include how those features benefit the customer, they will see more value in your product, and this will lead to more sales. If you don’t know where to start, find a marketing/sales company that can help you identify the benefits of your product and create an easy phone script to allow customers to fully appreciate those benefits.

School Sponsorships

We know that kids love to compete, and they love to be a part of something. Another great way to support your local community is to sponsor a school activity. One of the current methods that many of our FEC customers use is to sponsor the honor roll. For instance, any child that makes the honor roll receives a free play pass to your center. Other ways would be to have the most improved GPA or most improved class receive a free party or passes to your FEC.

Additionally, you could sponsor a children’s drawing contest. You can use your facility’s logo or mascot to have the children color or draw the image freehand. You can have their teachers and administration judge the contest, and the winner of the most colorful, most original, most creative, funniest, etc. drawing will receive a prize from your center. Perhaps even have kids bring their drawings to the FEC to be entered. This gets them in the door, and they will likely play for a while.

Since you will already have contacts and connections with the school, make sure that you are the host of their end-of-year class trips. Give the school a tremendous discount to bring all of their students. This could garner free promotion or advertising space in school newsletters every month. Choose the schools that best fit your target market, and they will return huge dividends.

Email Marketing (No Brainer)

Probably the most inexpensive and effective form of advertising is email marketing. The most common forms are direct emails, coupons and newsletters. I’m a fan of the former two. These are emails sent specifically to customers with the intent to connect and to cause them to act. Usually, these emails revolve around birthdays, event anniversary dates and other variables.

If your party reservation system does not include email marketing capabilities, you can easily set one up using ConstantContact.com or another program. You will obviously need a way of collecting email addresses either through your website or reservation system.

The Come Back (Who doesn’t like free?)

The cost to retain a current customer is a fraction of the cost to generate a brand new customer. If you didn’t know this fact already, it’s probably costing you thousands of dollars. What this means is that your customers are potentially a gold mine of cash. This is not just because they have bought your product in the past but the fact that they are familiar with your product, content with your service and will eventually be ready to purchase again, given the right timeframe or opportunity.

We all know about birthdays and annual events, but what if you could get each customer to visit your center just one more time per year? That is big money. Even a small percentage of return business makes up a large amount of your annual revenue. So why wouldn’t you want those customers back for at least one more encore?

To get this return business, you need to entice your customers. Give them an offer they can’t refuse, that only they can use and a time limit. This seems simple enough, but many centers neglect to ride the wave of positive emotion and TOMA (Top of Mind Awareness) that the customer’s recent visit has created.

I have two proven methods of ways to get them back. The first is an immediate call-back request in the form of a coupon or gift certificate (gift certificates look better and are exactly the same as a coupon, if you word it correctly). Have a birthday child come back to enjoy a complimentary game of laser tag or mini golf and arcade play with tokens. The ultimate cost to you is only the paper and ink to print the gift certificate. The key is that the gift certificate must be used within the next 60 days. That kid is going to bring all of his or her friends to play as well, and you just brought in that many more customers for one more visit. All you had to give away was a “free” game.

The second method is also a call back that’s basically the same except it can be used in conjunction with feedback. You can have a customer fill out an online survey, and once completed you send their gift certificate in the mail or hold it at the front desk. You can also do this with paper surveys, but you should have them bring their survey to redeem it for a free game or tokens.

Don’t be cheap! Make this call back something they just can’t refuse or let pass them up. I would package a free game of laser tag or mini golf plus 25 tokens. You don’t think that child will play all those by himself, do you? Even if he does, you know that they will be buying more tokens, laser tag games or concessions.

This is a win/win situation.

How SaaS Is Revolutionizing The World Of Fun

It wasn’t long ago that we landed on the moon, we invented the personal computer and we created the pet rock. So the pet rock really has nothing to do with technology but it does represent the ingenious ways we can market something as simple as an ordinary rock and generate so much revenue. Now back to technology…

The personal computer has given us the ability to track, collect and analyze data and when used in business can create a new level of efficiency unattainable using any other method. Now with the internet we can do the same thing from anywhere in the world using a laptop or even a cell phone.

What is Web 2.0 / SaaS

I would venture to guess that almost none of my readers have even heard of Web 2.0 or SaaS. We’ll it’s time to listen up because this will be the way business is done in a very short time (if not already). Many of you have shopped on line and almost everyone has used the internet to search for a company or product. In fact I would bet that you have your own website for your company (It is 2008 in case you didn’t know). You already have a small glimpse of the power and flexibility that this new world of internet business.

Web 2.0 is a concept. It revolves around harnessing all the current functionality of the internet to create the most powerful and commanding marketing tool that can be specifically applied to YOUR business.

SaaS is a term that is so new most people don’t have a clue as to its meaning or origin. Back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s there were companies called ASP’s (Application Service Providers) and they would provide an “application” or software that could be used via the internet. We’ll with such drastic changes in the world of technology the powers that be decided we needed a new name to express exactly what was happening. This new name is SaaS (Software as a Service). Did you know that you can use Microsoft Word, the world’s leading document editing software, online. The software looks and acts exactly like the version that you load on your personal computer except you can be anywhere in the world and on any computer and can access and edit your documents.

So how does this SaaS help my business

SaaS is already revolutionizing the world of fun. Customers are booking parties online, parents are registering their children for classes online, adults sign up for league sports online. Now image a world where your customer can buy your product online, from their cell phone or anywhere they have internet access. You now can access this data from anywhere you have internet. Now realize that I am writing this article with my cell phone plugged into my computer connecting me to the internet AND I’m talking on it at the same time. Did you get that… I can be anywhere in the world that I get cellular service and it’s as if I have never left the office.

While attending a recent trade show a potential client called and wanted to get started using our software. As a general rule when a customer is ready to buy we don’t make them wait (I know you all will agree with me there) So I hoped on my laptop, plugged in my cell phone (while I was still talking with her) and was able to complete the entire transaction while sitting at my booth on the trade show floor. She didn’t even realize I wasn’t in the office until I mentioned it. This is global business with a personal touch.

While online sales are a big part of SaaS the real benefits are the fact that you now can have all your management tools at your fingers wherever you are. In effect you don’t even need to be at your center, if one of your employees needs assistance they can call you and through the internet and your SaaS application you can do everything as if you were standing right next to them.

Why would I want to use a SaaS service?

While I’d love to tell you that every single business in the world MUST have SaaS, you and I know this would just be a frivolous sales pitch with no substance. There are a few companies out there that may not be ready or understand the true values of SaaS as they move their business into a new era of cell phones, text messaging and internet shopping.

Are Customers really ready for SaaS?

I feel like I’m beating a dead horse with this comment but what about those gas prices? Recently on a sales trip to Orange Country California I saw prices well over $5 a gallon. I turned and said to my VP of Sales, “How can the customers afford to do anything with these prices?” After a few minutes of dialog he made a comment that made perfect sense. “Internet shopping will sky rocket as the preferred method of shopping because it cost more to drive to the store than it does to actually buy that pair of jeans.” That was a simple but all too scary revelation. It got me thinking on how we can get the consumer to seek out, research and ultimately commit to buy our products and services at our fun centers.

SaaS is the answer. By using a comprehensive and powerful internet based sales tool we can inform and persuade our customers to commit to our products without having them physically enter our building. At my fun center we have seen a number of people book their event online having never been to our location. Granted most of them have had friends or family that have been so good customer referrals are important.

Online Sales verses SaaS

Most everyone I know has bought something online, whether is be air travel, car rental or hotel reservation. While one of the most vital parts of a good SaaS service is the online sales tool, SaaS is so much more. It can been a full management, Point-Of-Sale, Customer Relationship Management, E-mail Marketing, Class Scheduling, Event Planning, Employee Management, Vendor Management… I guess I could keep going on and on but I think you get my point… SaaS is whatever you want or need it to be. All you need to do is find the right SaaS company and product that will bring you into this new business era.


So how will the use of a SaaS service help you with marketing and revenue generation? Well if you pick the right SaaS it will do everything from, management, marketing to revenue generation. PartyCenterSoftware.com has many facets to it that help you. Just like the pet rock was a simple idea, we can take many simple ideas and even simple products or services from your business process and propel them through great marketing to be one of your premier revenue streams. The SaaS ca then help you completely manage that revenue stream.

The Verdict

Is SaaS right for your company? That is a questions that only you can answer but I would say that every company should look into using a SaaS service to help improve their business process. Ultimately SaaS can be whatever you need it to be.

Fun Center Reinvented - Replay Mag

Party planning can be anything but a piece of cake. Its success is dependent upon sensitivity to detail, but the challenges of scheduling, accounting, baking, welcoming and entertaining on a customizable basis, multiple times per day, can tax even he most diligent host. If any details are sacrificed due to, say, a mistake from manual record keeping, the entire shebang an seem somehow less grand, particularly in the eyes of the paying parent.

Enter Scott Drummond, president of Agile Software and Marketing LLC and former owner of Bounceopolis in Folsom, Calif. Drummond spearheaded the development of Party Center Software, a feature-rich, web-based party management and POS program that systematizes an in-house celebration from initial contact to following up for the following year’s event. The system has streamlined party selling and strategizing for Bounceopolis for four years and has been doing so in small- and medium-sized facilities around the world for more than one.

Drummond told RePlay that Party Center Software is not only about revolutionizing parties but also about shifting to a mindset of “working on your business, not in your business.” That’s a twofold company motto: it means being free to focus on improving overall operations because the detail handling is automated and also literally working away from the facility. An owner may work remotely, for example, at another location while monitoring sales and numbers online.

“Our software is a facility management tool,” said Drummond. “It’s about scheduling and management after the parties. We’ve got checks and balances and the ability to instantly contact vendors. You can press a button and send a message to vendors for an order for this many people or for a specific number of goodie bags or to the café for pizzas. To have a full, perfect party experience is the goal, so that customers never know the difference if mistakes are made.” The software includes a customizable interface for a fun center’s logos, products and descriptions. The program connects to the location website and even allows customers to book parties realtime via the Internet.

Additionally, POS components allow for customizable touchscreens at different stations, plus cash drawer and receipt printer connections, while the inventory configuration gives availability of times for reserving; the ability to add, modify or remove products; the flexibility to assign different pricing based on times of the day or week; the inclusion of taxable and non-taxable items; and the ability to oversee rental items and non rentals like cakes and piñatas. Plus, the invoicing feature eliminates overbooking — one of the worst nightmares, often unknown until two parties show up simultaneously — with a clear display of reservation availability. The ones that get away can take with them hundreds of dollars, a lessonDrummond learned the hard way. “Most places handwrite invoices, the calendar, everything,” he said. “That’s a lot of manual processing. People forget to write down one event, then the call is not made in advance to confirm the reservation. It’s just a small mistake, but you can lose $500, $600 or more.” That’s an extreme scenario, but it happens every day.

Party Center Software mostly saves time and money in a variety of smaller ways by eliminating haphazardly organized paper trails. That makes features possible such as the automatic emailing of bills and the saving of party details and marketing efforts into perpetuity. Cancelled orders are also saved, as well as the login of the user who adds or edits details.

As an employee management tool, the software allows employees to clock in and out, to swap shift schedules and to input their availability so the system can best connect hosts to parties. Beyond this practicality, the software is also peace of mind for owners and managers. A businessman and largely self-trained computer tech, Drummond notes that this product answers a multitude of daily challenges in which he, as an operator, paused to ask, “Can this problem be solved with business logic or training?”

“You are putting low-wage, starter employees into a process that allows you to control their actions and interactions with the customer; the software just sets up the perimeters,” Drummond said. “It’s as if the business owner is right there telling them exactly what to do. You set it up one time, and, in effect, it comes out exactly the way you want it every time.

Everyone is empowered to make the company succeed.” He added, “Our software is only good insofar as you can use it.”

It’s the double helix of Drummond’s personality — the business and the technical sides, along with the dual vision for seeing whether an idea can be programmed and how — that has maximized the potential of Party Center Software and continues to do so in fresh ways.

The ability to seamlessly integrate QuickBooks into the system is one of the first feature expansions in 2008, as well as modules for class and daycare management and franchise and advanced reports. “I don’t know how you could design a product without having some sort of experience with the needs it’s addressing,” Drummond reflected. “I have a passion to help people succeed, but firsthand is the only way.”

The year promises to be significant for Agile Software and Party Center Solutions, the division of the company in which the software is already the centerpiece. Drummond frankly confessed that the company has been too busy consulting with start-up amusement facilities while revamping others to actively market their services till now. Their website (www.partycentersolutions.com) is expected to launch this month.

“If you came to us with a business plan, we can have a feasible, workable idea in place in six months,” Drummond said. From search engine optimization to groundwork feasibility to better operating and marketing techniques, the company is “a full-service shop and all-inclusive network where people can obtain all of their resources,” he said.

Comprising the company are Jacob Scalzi, who explores how facilities will best qualify for their product in order to give a private, specialized demonstration; Ryan Griffin, a contractor who is the main developer and technical support guru; and Andy Van Conia, who focuses on web, graphic and technical design, as well as pinpointing what a customer wants, what they need and what they can afford — a fine line, in many cases. Finally, Rachel Goutermont oversees bookkeeping, scheduling of tutorials and keeping operations well greased.

Drummond’s authentic enthusiasm and keen business sense informs his unique position in the amusement industry as supplier and operator. When quizzed about the state of the fun center business, he is cautiously optimistic yet boldly hopeful. Indeed, his ongoing dialogues with contacts and clients, not only in the U.S. but also in Canada, Europe, Israel and the Cayman Islands, suggest that it’s on the rise.

“It hasn’t really shot off,” he qualified, “but the whole industry is up. We’re at the beginning of it. The economy overall is starting to turn around; people are getting more comfortable with it. They still spend a lot of money. Look, the ones that had money in the Great Depression spent it to going out to the movies. Everyone was poorer than the day before. People will not give up their entertainment.” So party on!

For more information about Party Center Software and Scott Drummond, call 888/804-1166, ext. three. Also see www.partycentersoftware.com and www.partycentersolutions.com.

Bounceopolis, Baby!

The Bounce in Scott Drummond’s step these days clearly comes from Bounce¬opolis, a 6,500¬sq.-ft. chil¬dren’s enter-tainment center in Folsom, Calif. Since taking over the attraction in 2004, original¬ly as a means of investing in corporate real estate, he got hooked on the business of fun, moving the fa¬cility and add¬ing new attrac¬tions.

Originally located in El Dorado Hills in the middle of a business, re¬search and de¬velopment area, Bounce¬opolis now sits across the street from sev¬eral hundred shops in an outlet mall with a movie theater and backs up to a freeway. Although situated nearby, the cities are separated by a hill — more of a psychological divide than a geo¬graphic one that kept Folsomites closer to home.

Subsequently, business has surged and also thanks to a custom-made at¬traction by Orca Coast Playground that Drum¬mond said has tripled their walk-ins. It’s a two-crawl bounce attrac¬tion designed especially for the six-and-younger crowd — a de¬mographic easily over¬looked with soft-play sta¬tions catering to children up to ten. The piece has be¬come the earn-ings-record¬breaking play structure in a coterie of soft-play appara¬tuses includ¬ing a slide, ob-stacle course, joust, bungee and bounce house. Recogniz¬ing a good thing when he saw it con¬vinced Drum¬mond to ex¬plore franchis¬ing Bounce¬opolis. Keenly aware of his strengths and shortcomings, though, he recognized where other concepts outpaced his own with the exception of one outstanding factor. “I didn’t feel like I had the ‘it’ factor, but I had the software,” he said. “All of the start-up franchisees and many others who I contacted wanted to buy the software. After the fifth or sixth time, I decided that I would rather spend my time focusing on selling it to small-and medium-sized customers.”

Expanding the features of Party Center Soft¬ware, along with the consulting department of his firm Agile Software and Marketing LLC, has occupied more of Drummond’s days. Yet he remains ded¬icated to Bounceoplis, a proven testimony to Party Center Software’s capabilities, by rein¬venting it anew.

For 2008, a daycare component is in the works inspired by the expertise and proven numbers of Thesea Iliff, owner and operator of Iliff’s Childcare and Recreation Center in New¬ton, N.J. Keeping kids younger and younger en-tertained, while parents are involved with their slightly older children, can be an impressive business stream that has been largely untapped, according to Drummond, who has a young daughter.

It is this relationship perhaps more than any other that has underscored his increasing dedica¬tion to children’s and family entertainment.

For more information, see www. bounceopolis.com or call 916/933-9493. Also see www.campiliff.com.

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Scott Drummond is the President of : PartyCenterSoftware.com, Agile Software and Marekting and former owner of Bounceopolis Indoor Play and Party Zone. His experience in marketing and software, along with running and operating an FEC, give him a unique and cutting-edge perspective into the life and operations of the fun center world. Through the worldwide use of PartyCenterSoftware.com in almost every size and type of FEC, Drummond collects and analyzes industry data.