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3 Simple Practices That Can Make A Big Impact On Your Business

As a business owner, you already know – sometimes the smallest decisions are the ones that make the largest impact. So it probably won’t come as a surprise when we say that the simple practices in this post come with big returns.

1. Rebook, don’t refund.

Whether it’s bad weather, flat tires or unruly children keeping customers from your tour, a good general policy is to offer to rebook before you refund. You’ll be surprised how many more customers you can retain with a simple policy change like this. Here’s why it works:

  • Customers are often more flexible than you’d expect, and will leap at the opportunity to switch times, days or even activities to prevent having to research and book with another company.
  • You’ll have an opportunity to upsell. Now that the customer’s locked in, it’s a great opportunity to offer add-ons or activity upgrades.
  • Winning the online conversion battle is hard. Rebooking gives you the chance to retain (and impress!) a customer that already chose you once.

Of course, there’s always situations where rebooking isn’t an option. Maybe the customer was only in town for a few days or maybe they simply changed their mind. There’s plenty of scenarios where refunding becomes the better option. But before you get there, offer to rebook.

Since we designed FareHarbor in Hawaii, where a large portion of the tours are water-based, we built rebooking to be as simple as possible. Whether booking into a new day, a new activity or rebooking into a gift card for future use, it’s always just a few clicks away.

And if rebooking isn’t an option, FareHarbor also offers completely free-to-you refunds.

2. Accept payments in full.

As a business owner, you’re always looking to strike a balance between what’s best for your customer and what’s best for your business. With this policy, you’ll be making an easy choice for both. Why? A paid-in-full ticket feels like a clear cut guarantee, whereas a partial payment can feel inconclusive. This one’s all about building trust and it does a great job for both sides.

  • Requiring customers to pay in full is a proven conversion booster, as it gives the customer increased confidence in their reservation.
  • It helps reduce no-shows. When the activity is fully paid for prior to arrival, the customer is more invested in the purchase.
  • For activities or rentals with a higher price tag, this is a great way to qualify customers and simplify the payment process.

3. Move check-in tasks from pen and paper to online.

One of the biggest advantages to using an online booking system is a streamlined check-in process for both you and your customers. Done correctly, this allows your staff to spend less time managing reservations by hand, and more time creating an awesome experience for your customers.

  • If your business requires waivers, use a digital waiver service to secure all liability forms before guests even arrive. This will help speed up the check-in, especially for large parties with multiple people.
  • Create and send a unique reminder email for each specific activity. Rather than a one-size-fits-all email, create an individual email for each separate tour or activity.

This gives you the ability to prepare customers or the exact activity they’re booked into – whether that means a different meeting location, warmer clothing or to bring bottled water.

FareHarbor client? Visit our help page to learn more about adding digital waivers to your checkout and using automatic emails and texts to communicate with customers.

Or, find info on our advanced check-in capabilities, like QR scanning and mobile or desktop check-ins from the manifest.

Faces of FareHarbor: Gabby

Gabby Quarantiello: Director of Account Management


gabby

Meet Gabby. Originally from Boston, Gabby leads the Account Management team at our Denver HQ. That means she’s part of the awesome group of people that works directly with live clients to optimize and grow their business. If you’re lucky enough to work with Gabby, make sure to ask her about lobster fishing. (She’s basically a pro.)

What are you usually doing when you’re not at work? Hopefully skiing, hiking, or somewhere in the mountains! If I’m lucky I’m pulling lobster traps on the east coast in the summer.

What’s your favorite spot in Colorado? That is super tough! Every time I get to drive into the Rockies I can’t stop saying “It’s so pretty!” If I had to choose, I’d say Estes Park or Steamboat takes the gold.

What’s next on your tour/activity bucket list? Pipe dream is going on a Safari in Kenya/Tanzania. Maybe throw in a hike at Kilimanjaro but will need to train for that!

What’s your most memorable FareHarbor moment? Too many to count! If I had to choose I would say the most memorable and defining moment was getting to move to Key West to help out the transition process for a new client going live in 2015. I was fortunate to start the trip with a group of 5 others and really got to witness for the first time the DWIFT attitude spread across all the FareHarbor offices.

What makes FareHarbor different from other companies? The people and our clients. Not only is everyone who works for the company great but our customers are probably the best group of people you could ever ask to work with.

Each operator has their own unique story to share. It’s pretty fun getting to work with people who stopped what they were doing to pursue something they love.

Describe your job at FareHarbor in three words. Invigorating, Challenging, Rewarding!

Digital Marketing On A Budget

These days the world of digital marketing seems to be paved in gold. And it’s true that pay-per-click advertising is stronger than ever. Even popular social media sites like Facebook and Instagram are beginning to adopt the pay-to-play model.

Despite the changes in marketing, at least one thing remains true; time is the most valuable resource. Whether you’re operating on a small budget or just looking for ways to maximize your current efforts, we’re covering five marketing strategies that won’t make you reach for your credit card.

1. Know Your Market

facebook-insights Whatever marketing strategy you choose, having a clear, narrowly defined market will drastically improve your ROI (return-on-investment). Whether the investment you make is in terms of time or money, knowing exactly who you’re marketing to is key. It’ll keep you from spending valuable resources in areas that won’t help you reach your goals.

After you’ve decided who your market is, it’s time to dig into the details.

  • Use Google Analytics and Facebook Insights to view the demographics that engage with your business most frequently.

  • These tools are free to use and can provide data on everything from age and gender to location and device.

For example, a simple analytics check might reveal that 70% of your web traffic is between the ages of 18-35. Use this to drive your marketing strategy towards that age group by advertising on Instagram or optimizing your checkout flow for mobile.

2. Create awesome content

Writing your own content costs nothing but time. Which is great, because it also happens to be one of the most effective ways to organically drive traffic to your site.

  • Build an audience by writing relevant and original blog posts, and then sharing that content on social media. The goal is to both drive potential customers to your website, and to re-engage past ones.

  • Try writing about a topic that’s both important to your industry and that you know well. It’ll help drive clicks through to your website and build your reputation as a knowledgeable source.

And we haven’t even got to the best part. Content marketing plays an essential role when it comes to your website’s SEO. Google relies largely on keywords to decide how to rank your website.

Blog posts provide exactly the material that Google needs – keywords to indicate what your site is about, opportunities for users to visit and interact with your site and of course, strong link building as people share your content.

3. Put your social media sites to work

social media marketing Social media marketing is all about building a genuine connection with your customers. Go beyond that single intent of making a sale and use your social sites to create a community around your brand. Share images from your day-to-day, highlight customer stories, show gratitude for reviews and engage with customers over comments, likes and photos.

It’s your opportunity to really get to know your customers and to give them a chance to get to know you. Remember – especially in the tour and activity industry – customers aren’t buying a product, they’re buying an experience. Create a social media strategy that plays into that. Here’s a few basic tips to get you started:

  • Add a few, relevant hashtags to help get your content in front of a new audience.

  • Be consistent in terms of brand voice, scheduling and interaction.

  • Use a tool like Hootsuite or Buffer that offers social media scheduling and listening tools.

  • Respond quickly to customers, answer questions and offer basic support when appropriate.

  • Deliver valuable content. Keep your audience engaged by offering a mix of photos, videos, infographics, blog posts and promotions.

4. Build out an email marketing campaign

There’s dozens of free email marketing services that make reaching out to new customers and retargeting past ones as simple as a few clicks.

  • For generating new customers, try adding a newsletter sign-up form to your website. Offer something of value, like special email-only promotions or a company newsletter with recent updates, schedule changes or interesting content from your blog.

  • If your goal is to recapture past customers, try inviting them to follow you on social media, write reviews or to join you again with a return customer discount.

No matter what your goal, keep these general guidelines to keep in mind – write for a specific goal, keep the copy casual and always give people an easy option to unsubscribe.

5. Focus on building lifetime customers

Did you know that it costs about 5 times as much to attract a new customer than it does to keep an existing one? Yet most marketers admit to focusing on customer acquisition over retention. Creating lifetime customers not only helps generate revenue, it helps build up your brand.

Of course, the easiest way to encourage customers to buy from your business again is to pair an awesome experience with amazing customer service. If you can manage that, you’re already off to a great start. After the experience ends, the key is to stay engaged. Rely on the strategies reviewed above and you’ll have no trouble keeping your customers active and interested in your business.

Spring Cleaning: 11 Ways To Clean Up Your Web Presence

Next week, we’ll officially say goodbye to winter with the arrival of the Spring Equinox. To get you in the spirit, we’ve put together a digital spring cleaning list. From your website to your confirmation emails, we promise you’ll get you that deep-clean feeling by the end. Let’s get started:

Website

green-https-lock

1. Add SSL certification to your site. If your site doesn’t already have the green HTTPS lock, it’s time to make the switch. Not only are consumers learning to look for the lock, but Google Chrome has started marking non-SSL sites (HTTP only) that collect passwords or credit cards as non-secure.

2. Check your Call-to-Actions. Make sure your ‘Book Now’ button is visible from the homepage of your website. You should always have at least one CTA above-the-fold (visible without scrolling), typically in the header or center of the page.

Make sure it’s a button, not just a line of text, and that it is designed with some visual contrast.

Booking Form

booking-form

3. Evaluate your mandatory custom fields. When it comes to the checkout, the rule of thumb is keep it simple. Revisit your booking form and see if there are any required forms that you can cut out. Remember, the true purpose of the checkout is to convert, not to collect information for marketing.

4. Reduce your booking cutoff times. The beautiful thing about real-time availability is that you can capture those seriously last-minute bookings (that happen all the time).

If you offer any tours or rentals that have the flexibility to accept walk-ups, make sure your calendar allows those bookings to come through. This allows the customer to both check and book last-minute availability, where seeing a ‘Call to Book’ option might sway them the other way.

5. Consolidate dynamic pricing. If you’re currently offering dynamic pricing options for weekdays, weekends or groups, consider establishing a uniform price for your activities. Dynamic pricing can affect abandon rates, as it prompts the customer to re-evaluate their decision in an effort to get a better price.

Emails

6. Clean up your email subscriber lists. You’ve been collecting emails from customers past (and future!), but when’s the last time you actually looked those over? In just a few minutes, you can audit the subscriber list in your preferred email marketing platform for inactive email addresses or typos.

If you are a FareHarbor client and don’t use an email marketing service, you can check your email marketing list by pulling a Contacts report from your Dashboard.

7. Review your confirmation, reminder and follow-up emails. Haven’t checked these in a while? Now is a good time to review them for any outdated information, broken links or opportunities to improve.
Update confirmation emails in FareHarbor >

Social Media

social media edits

8. Update your descriptions and header images. This is all about fresh content. If you haven’t updated your pages lately, take a minute to swap in your latest photography or highlight that new 2017 offering.

FareHarbor Backend

9. Try a new Bookings view. Even if you’ve already customized your Bookings calendar, you may want to try out the new Grid view, which lets you organize and group information exactly how you want it, and even choose the number of days you see at a time.

10. Add new seasonal employees. Gear up for your spring season by adding new users and removing old ones.

11. Perfect your Manifest. Remove unused columns, add a summary row, or clean up your custom manifests to ensure you’re getting exactly what you need. Read all about these options and more on our help page.

Best Practices For Managing Online Reviews

Last week, the Phocuswright report taught us that 57% of tour and activity operators consider online reviews to be their most effective marketing source. We’ll be the first to say – we’re not surprised. The landscape of travel marketing has dramatically shifted. Today the customer journey almost always starts with an internet search. While your website, photos, videos and social media accounts are all on the radar of potential customers, nothing forms an opinion like an online review.

In fact, more than 90% of consumers depend on online, local reviews to help form their decision about a business. Much like getting a recommendation from a friend or co-worker, potential customers trust online reviews to provide an honest, first-hand account of your tour or activity. Their end goal – feeling secure that your business brings the value and experience they’re looking for. In other words, reviews are just as important to the customer as they are to your business.

Here’s a few simple actions you can take to make sure both you and your customers get the most out of them.

1. Respond to every review, positive or negative.

When customers share their experience via an online review it serves two purposes; to inform others customers and to communicate with the business owner. In not responding, you’re missing out on both a valuable touch point and an opportunity to lead the conversation.

Whether the review brings praise or criticism, it’s direct feedback from your customers – and that’s always a powerful tool for improving your business. Show them you’re listening by crafting a personalized response that touches on each individual point made in the review, rather than sending a canned message.

If you encounter a negative review, respond objectively. Be kind, professional and accepting of their perspective. The worst thing you can do is respond in a way that will discourage potential customers from wanting to do business with you. Yes, negative reviews are difficult and can be hurtful to a business, but they’re also an opportunity to improve.

When the review warrants more than your acknowledgement, try offering a small discount as an invitation for a better experience. This can be as simple as, “We apologize for your poor experience, that’s uncommon for us to hear. We’d love to make it up to you with 20% off your next booking. Please contact us privately for specific details.”

Take the same approach for positive reviews. Use the feedback to figure out what’s working. It’s just as important to know what you’re doing right as it is to know what you can improve on.

Create a document where you log both positive and negative feedback coming in from reviews. When it comes time to build a new marketing plan, update website copy or train new employees, you’ll have a clear list of customer-perceived strengths and weaknesses, suggestions and improvements.

2. Set aside time to manage reviews. Every. Single. Day.

To keep review sites from becoming a one-way conversation, you need to make yourself available. Let people know that they can rely on a timely response from you by making time to manage reviews, every single day.

Remember that almost every customer searching for your business will first look to online reviews. This is a valuable first impression. In terms of establishing trust and credibility, your odds go way up when they see that you’re involved in the reputation of your business and that you care about your customers’ opinions. Plus, when you’re hit with the occasional negative review, you’ll have the chance to respond and repair any damage before it even starts.

Many review sites give the option of sending email notifications when a new review comes in. Enabling notifications makes it that much easier to make sure you never miss a review, no matter how many review sites you use.

3. Follow-up every tour with a review request.

From adding review widgets to your website to passing out “Review Us!” stickers or business cards, there’s a way to turn almost any customer interaction into a review request. But we find that the most effective ways to encourage reviews are also some of the most simple.

As a general rule, the more often you can add a personal touch to your tour or activity, the better. This makes the classic in-person request hard to beat. It’s a natural sign-off and easy to work into your final goodbye. Plus, it’s personal enough that the customer will be more likely to log-on and leave a review.

No matter what approach you decide is right for your business, we suggest that you always send a follow-up email requesting customer feedback on your preferred review site. This email should be straightforward with a direct call-to-action. You can also use this email to link to your social media pages, to offer a return discount or to simply say thank you.

Send your follow-up email a few days after the customer’s tour to maximize engagement. You’ll already have an edge as the customer will be on their desktop or device when they open the email, making their five-star review just a few clicks away.

As a FareHarbor client, this can all be done directly through your Dashboard. You can automate custom follow-up emails to be sent out directly after the tour or even a few days later.

If TripAdvisor is your top performing review site, we suggest adding TripAdvisor Review Express to your lineup as well. Review Express is another email automation tool that sends a review request directly from TripAdvisor.


Of course, your five-star tours mostly speak for themselves. These tips are just here to help you make the most of the awesome reviews you’re already receiving.

5 Statistics That Are Defining The Tour And Activity Industry

Back in November, Phocuswright, the travel industry’s leading research firm, conducted an in-depth survey covering key trends of the tours & activity industry. We’ve been anxiously awaiting their analysis, as Phocuswright is the global authority when it comes to travel industry research. In fact, their work has been covered in major news outlets like Forbes, CNN and The New York Times. And now, they’re giving us a comprehensive look at the industry we love the most.

As many of you donated your time to helping Phocuswright get the data right (you’re the best!), we wanted to share a few can’t-miss-highlights from the report:

  • Online tour & attraction gross bookings will more than double from 2015 to 2020, growing from 11% in 2016 to 21% in 2020.

Key takeaway: We love this! Customers are using desktops and mobile devices to research and book more than ever. So what can you do to capture these bookings? Make sure you’re prepared by adding SSL to your site, optimizing for both desktop and mobile and having a conversion-minded checkout flow.

  • Travel activities account for 9% of global travel revenue, are the third-largest travel segment and are growing faster than the total travel market.

Key takeaway: The shift from poolside margaritas to surfing, snorkeling and banana-boating your way through vacation is real. Travelers are seeking experiential travel – active adventures, educational tours and adrenaline-packed experiences are now an essential part of the getaway. Play into this by building up the full experience of your tour or activity by sharing beautiful Instagram posts, adding customer stories to your Facebook page, and interacting with customers on Twitter.

  • 57% of businesses consider traveler review websites as their most effective marketing channel.

Key takeaway: It’s hard to dispute this one. Reviews matter. In fact, 92% of consumers read online reviews. The good news is that an awesome tour and great customer service usually do the trick. If you’re looking for a little more advice, check out our interview with TripAdvisor’s 2015, #2 tour in the country, Real New York Tours. Or, if you’re with the 40% of tour operators that find SEM (search engine marketing) to be a highly effective marketing channel, take a minute to read over these essential AdWords tips.

  • In the US, an average of 40% of customers are domestic travelers, 31% are international travelers and 28% are local residents.

Key takeaway: When it comes to local travelers, US-based tour operators receive an average of about 20% more traffic than the rest of the world. Put that data to work by shifting some of your marketing focus to people looking to explore their own backyard. Register with local business directories, add neighborhood discounts to your site and target locals with digital ad spend and copy.

  • Only 13% of reservations from distribution partners are made via real-time connectivity.

Key takeaway: If you’re already partnering with FareHarbor, you should love this statistic – it means you’re ahead of the curve. With FareHarbor Connect, you’re already able to accept real-time bookings from our network of third-party distributors. Bookings from Viator and Expedia Local Expert flow directly into your Dashboard, no manual work needed. (And if you’re not already taking full advantage of our partner network, just get in touch.)


Although we’ve only covered a fraction of the data covered by the Phocuswright report, it’s clear that the future of tours & activities is bright. Of course, we’ve always believed that, but we’re excited to finally have trusted data to prove it.

Now that we have had an inside look at the industry – past, present and future – let’s put the data to work.

All data sourced from Phocuswright’s Global Travel Activities 2014-2020: Tours & Attractions Come of Age

Tour and Activity Businesses: Make 2017 Your Best Year Yet

The New Year is officially in full swing, meaning there’s no better time to put your 2017 goals into action. To help you decide exactly what those goals should be, we asked a few people from our team to weigh in on how business owners can ensure this year is one of their strongest years yet. Here’s what they came up with.

Get your site the green HTTPS lock.

green lock Especially on websites where a transaction is being made, customers are learning to look for the green HTTPS lock at the top of their browser. This lock is enabled by a form of security technology called SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). While the FareHarbor booking process is 100% secure without the addition of SSL to your site, it acts as a visual indicator that your business is a trusted online merchant.

On top of building trust, adding SSL to your site can help boost your search engine optimization efforts. Much like your customers, Google has learned to trust sites that have added SSL and tends to rank them more highly.

Is your site missing the green lock? Adding SSL to your website is a simple process that can be easily be done with the help of your web developer or through your hosting management. If you are a FareHarbor client, you can read up on website security and adding SSL here.

Collect more reviews.

review express

Research shows that 92% of consumers read online reviews, and 90% say their buying decisions are influenced by what they read. By these numbers, nearly your entire online customer base depends on reviews of your business to help them decide to book.

Ready for the best part? Review sites are free for your business and the customer. That’s an incredibly powerful marketing tool that can increase site traffic and sales with nothing more than a little elbow grease. While offering an epic tour and remarkable customer service is always the best way to encourage reviews, there’s also a few tricks to the trade.

Here at FareHarbor, our favorite way to collect reviews is by connecting to TripAdvisor Automated Review Express. Once you’ve connected your business to the program, your customers will receive an email at the conclusion of their activity that comes directly from TripAdvisor. The automated email will encourage customers to leave a review about their experience – and it’s quite good at getting results.

As a FareHarbor client, adding Automated Review Express couldn’t be easier. You can simply email us at support@fareharbor.com, and we’ll take care of the process for you. Otherwise, you can sign your business up for the program via TripAdvisor.


If you choose not to use this service, we still suggest sending a follow-up email that encourages customers to review their recent experience. This can be done manually, through an email automation service, or through your FareHarbor Dashboard.

Get organized.

custom calendars fareharbor

Every interaction with your customer should be considered a valuable touchpoint on their end-to-end journey. So while checking-in guests or fielding questions about meeting locations may seem like a routine process to you, it’s much more than that to the customer.

In fact, 84% of customers report getting frustrated when their guide or agent doesn’t have the necessary information. And 13% of those frustrated guests claim to tell 15 or more people when they’re unhappy, while 72% will tell 6 or more people when the experience was positive.

So the question is, how to get organized? For FareHarbor clients, we suggest setting up custom calendars and manifests to ensure that the information you need is quickly and easily accessible.

With a custom calendar, you can save a set of filters and display options to create a Bookings view personalized for you. This allows you to drill down by activity, get a quick view of all tours with available seats, or see tours that a certain staff member is assigned to. Spend less time searching through bookings and more time focusing on your customers.

Custom manifests work in a similar way, allowing you to add columns, filter information, and summarize data to create a daily snapshot of your activities. With a custom manifest, you can quickly see which guests have not been checked-in or who still have a balance due, check email statuses, create a summary of custom field answers, and much more.


Use one or both tools to ensure that all the details that matter are just one click away.

Bottom line

All of these tips are designed to improve a different piece of the customer journey. Whether it’s the first impression or the last, they all present an opportunity to make the experience great. Put them into effect, and watch customer satisfaction and revenue rise.


PBN’s Best Workplaces: #1 in Small Business

Last night, our Hawaii office joined Pacific Business News for their annual ‘Hawaii’s Best Workplaces’ award ceremony. The food and company made it a five-star event early on, but the highlight of our night came when FareHarbor was awarded the #1 Best Workplace in the Small Business category.

best workplaces 2

The award was granted based on employee surveys and a review of office culture. Our close knit team was a natural fit, as they’re experts when it comes to balancing hard work and a good time. Hours of head-down productivity are always paired with sunset beers, ‘family’ dinners or midday ocean swims. Of course, being in tourism also helps, as its one of Hawaii’s most vibrant industries, and we get to work with incredible people and businesses on the daily.

“Hawaii is our headquarters, our home and where we got our start, and the hundreds of tour operators we serve in this market have become our staunchest supporters and our friends. I’m very proud of what our Honolulu office has accomplished and I’m delighted to see our business, our employees and their work ethic recognized by this important award.”

-Lawrence

We’re incredibly proud of our Oahu team for creating an culture of dedication, growth and best of all, family. Now to celebrate!

A special thanks to our teammates for making FareHarbor all that it is. And also to Pacific Business News for the fantastic event and great honor.

50 Miles of #DWIFT

It’s no secret that we’re all about the #DWIFT (Do Whatever It Takes) at FareHarbor. In fact, it’s become more than just an acronym for our team – it’s something of a lifestyle.

So naturally, when Davis Cutter, one of our awesome Account Executives in the Needham office, decided to run a 50-mile race and come in first place? We couldn’t help but brag a little. Here’s the inspirational story from the man himself:


“Why?!” It’s the main question I’m asked when I tell people that I willingly signed up to suffer. Admittedly, it’s a fair question. There’s a million reasons to not run 50 miles, and I think about them everyday. You can probably guess the usual suspects: the time, the heat, the cold, the sheer distance, social sacrifices, solitude, discomfort, and work/training balance. Even the simple prospect of defeat is daunting enough to say, “maybe next time.” Yet, in the end, they’re all merely excuses – just reasons never to toe that starting line.

So, let’s not dwell on the reasons one can’t or shouldn’t. Instead, let me tell you why I did.

There comes a moment in every endurance race that looks something like this: My hands are on my knees, chin to my chest, and I’m exhaling in exhaustion, frustration, and fatigue. No matter where my mind wanders—to the beach or even my desk at work—I always return as the same, stagnant puddle. Something grabs my attention, perhaps the blister on my heel or a scratch on my knee.

It’s the quintessential pose of failure, a brief moment between steps where there’s a clear choice: move forward, or quit. But, there’s a silver lining. You see, I’ve already made up my mind long ago, and I’ve been preparing for this moment since I decided to sign up for the race. Before I know it, I’m running again.

While some see this as a “breaking point,” it’s really the heart of discovery.

To give some background, I decided I was going to run a 50 mile race about a year ago, when I ran the world’s highest marathon in the Himalayas. Since the race was in such a remote location, the majority of runners were local children from Ladakh, a mountainous region of Northern India. As I ran with my GPS watch, electrolyte drink, and pen-scribbled pacing goals on my forearm, the local kids were blazing past me, smiling, wearing their only pair of run-down sneakers. This wasn’t a race for them, it was a social event! So, when I saw a massive banana fight among a group of runners at mile 23’s aid station, I hissed with disappointment. This wasn’t what a marathon “should” look like. Are people actually enjoying this?

I realized two things during that race: 1. Challenging things can actually be fun, and 2. The majority of physical hardships are won mentally. Even though the race was difficult and at high altitude, I survived. It was time to go bigger, and longer. From that point on, I prepared to my mind and body, (mostly my mind) to run 50 miles.

And then before I knew it, I achieved my goal. It took me 10 hours and 23 minutes on slippery roots and rocks, mostly in the dark, but I ended up coming in first place. More importantly, I had fun.

One of my best friends paced me the last 25 miles, and now we have a great memory to share over a beer (particularly the moment where I broke down from dehydration and yelled at him that we were lost running in circles). My parents were even at the finish line at 1am — cheering in the rain. And my colleagues at FareHarbor have been overwhelmingly supportive, motivating me to achieve even more — both professionally and athletically.

So, when you arrive at that moment, staring at the ground, watching sweat drip from your nose to your feet — you’re faced with a decision. Either you quit, or you keep moving forward.

I’ve always been a firm believer that challenge breeds excellence. Whether it’s an emotional, physical, or all-encompassing wall, you always end up better on the other side. For me, running is a therapeutic challenge, a means to push to the limit, keep pushing, and then push some more.

Running isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. We’re not all runners here at FareHarbor, and the team ranges from surfers to mountain bikers to cross-fit heroes. We’re all just trying to be better in our own ways.

The Key To Room Escape Success? Know When The Experience Starts.

Every room escape company knows that great products equal great games. They design, build, test, iterate, and maintain their rooms, because that’s where the money comes from. Right?

It’s true: room escape companies live and die based on the quality of their games. However, far too many companies forget that in order to play that brilliant game, players first need to find the company, purchase a ticket, and then get to the facility.

To make sure you don’t cause friction in these pre-game and pre-purchase steps, focus on creating an easy, positive experience for the customer long before they step through your door.

Remember that the customer experience begins as soon as their interest is sparked. A poor booking experience or a weak website can either sour a player’s experience before the game begins or dissuade a player from even booking in the first place.

Sound all too familiar? Here’s a few easy tips to make sure your players are already loving your business before you say ‘Go.’

Website Must-Haves

Your company’s website is the primary customer touchpoint before the game begins. It should inform and comfort potential players and always encourage them to purchase tickets.

Your physical address

This should go without saying, but every single room escape company website needs to have their physical address in a large, readable font on their homepage and contact page. If a player can’t find your facility, that’s the first red flag.

Game details

There’s a certain amount of intrigue that comes with hiding details from players before the game begins, but it’s more important to effectively manage expectations.

Is your game scary, sexual (there are a few of them!), or too challenging for players with mobility, hearing, or vision impairments? Make it clear who the game both is and is not for. Define your audience early to help people self-select into the right game.

Tips, comfort, and encouragement

Those of us who spend a lot of time around room escapes aren’t weirded out by the concept of paying strangers to lock us up in a giant puzzle. We’re a bit desensitized to the fact that the basic description of an escape room sounds like what Batman villains create to stop the Caped Crusader.

Understand that people might be afraid of the concept behind your business. Some don’t like the idea of being locked up; others are worried about claustrophobia; still others might be nervous they won’t be smart enough to contribute.

Your website provides a great opportunity to kill some myths about your game. Use it to:

  • Explain how your emergency releases and exits work.
  • Give players a sense of how open your game is.
  • Provide tips and help your players realize that communication and teamwork are far more valuable than math, logic, and booksmarts. (For some ideas, check out Room Escape Artist’s Player Tips.)

“Buy now” buttons

Make purchasing tickets easy and clear. Nothing is more frustrating than having players that want to give you their money, but are too confused by your website to figure out how to pay you.

Every single page on your website should have a “Buy Now” button on it that links directly to the page where players make purchasing decisions.

The Who, What, Where & When

Different customers will always prefer different communication channels. Make sure you’re available for open and easy communication, no matter what their preference. At minimum, you should be easily contacted via email, phone, webpage submission, Facebook, Twitter.

You should check and respond to each of these daily, if not more regularly. After all, you might only have one shot to help your customers with their purchase decision before they turn to another room escape or an entirely different activity.

Map & review sites

Although it might feel like there’s too many to count, it’s important that your business is properly listed on all – yes, all – of the big mapping and review sites. This includes:

  • Google Maps
  • Apple Maps
  • Bing Maps
  • Yelp
  • TripAdvisor

You should also send your company’s information to the Escape Room Submitter, which will get your company listed on a number of different room escape maps and lists.

Once you’re listed on these sites, verify that the pins are in the correct place. The first puzzle of your game should not be finding your facility.

Create enthusiasts

As teams of players come and go from your facility, it’s easy to forget how much effort it takes to get a group of adults in the same place, at the same time. Do your part to make it as easy as possible for your players to find, book and arrive at your game.

Once they’re there, all the hard work you’ve put into creating an awesome room escape experience will speak for itself. Between a seamless booking experience and exciting room escape, you’ll create a group of passionate repeat players that’ll support long term success.

Make it easy to love booking with your company; then focus on the fun part – the games – and watch your business grow.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: This post was written by our friends over at Room Escape Artist, experts in all things room escape, including reviews, products, design and players tips. Visit their site, www.roomescapeartist.com, for helpful posts, recommendations and industry news.

You can also find them on Twitter, @RoomEscapeArt, or Facebook. Give them a follow!