In Part 1, we covered the incredible timeliness of Pricing Strategy Bootcamp that encouraged many of us to increase prices BEFORE inflation arrived. Price increases allow better profits with fewer guests to manage.
In Part 2, we lamented the “Death of Novelty,” about the continuous reinvestment and ingenuity required to feed the public’s insatiable desire for a new product, food, or experience.
In Part 3, we can make a big difference by dialing up the intensity. We’re going to look at intensifying the experience.
“Intensify the experience.” Lessons from 2021 – Part 3 of 4
The measurable amount of a property, such as force, brightness, or a magnetic field.
I don’t go to gyms anymore. I work out in my basement by myself because I’ve been to gyms that were not intense. It was “Bro Time;” talk about how to workout and get ‘swole’ for 15 minutes between the actual weightlifting sets. It was NOT intense.
I don’t know about you, but I got 30 minutes in the morning, and that’s it, so it better be intense.
While visiting other operations, you might see operations that have been in business a long time. Some that just started. Some that had a master plan. Some that simply bought a few attractions and plopped them down wherever they go unloaded from the truck.
Corn mazes are the same. Some go to great lengths to create a guest experience (I’d like to think Maize Quest does that!), and some that mow down some corn and call it “good enough.”
“Thrifty” would be the kindest word I could call the early years at Maize Quest. We were starting, and if there was a way to squeeze a nickel out of a vendor, find something used, borrow something from a scrap pile, or make a crazy deal, we were on it. I’d do anything to boost my attraction count, expand the Fun Park’s footprint, and jam more people in the gate.
That, my friends, is youthful business thinking.
While I look back on those days and shake my head at that miserly younger version of myself, it’s what we had to do to get where we are today.
Today, however, I’d propose that many of you readers are further along in the business curve, and I hope that we’ve learned enough not to repeat the miscues of the past. Moving forward in your business and attraction development might require less ‘youthful thinking,’ less “growth at any cost,” and instead, a more focused intensity.
Intensity of Experience
Foodservice is a strengthening trend to intensify experiences in agritourism. Upgrading to gourmet burgers, specialty bakery products, fresh lemonade, and wood-fired pizzas are making the rounds through our industry, bringing taste intensification.
High-quality food also brings profit intensification. If a guest is going to buy a burger and you sell a cheap version from a Big Box store, you might be able to charge $5.50. If you are grilling a fresh beef patty with lettuce, tomato, and your signature BBQ sauce, you can pull down $8.00 and fresh-cut fries in a combo for $12.
The rule of thumb in pricing is: Until you have a ticket or item so expensive, NO ONE buys it; you don’t yet have an expensive enough ticket or item.
I’ve got a friend running a Christmas experience that’s $22.95 per person, plus $10 parking, plus $20 for pictures with Santa or $45 to download all your signature pictures from the night. He’s sold out. People want this intense Christmas experience.
To create this experience, he invested heavily in theming, top-quality props, life-like costumes, and more – This isn’t Santa in a shed alongside the Christmas Tree lot.
We add a few general admission attractions or puzzles. Still, the game-changers for our home park have been the significant additions with limited access, such as our Hidden Gem Railroad and our Super Mega Slide. Each took a minimal footprint; in fact, the slide took over a small corner of the corn maze, but each brought big experiential thrills for guests.
Intensity of Profit
With the additions mentioned above, we intensified our profits through pricing changes. Our home park went from $12 general admission to $14 / $17 / $20 options in three years, and 34% of the guests bought the $20 option! (I’ll admit, even I was nervous pushing a $20 ticket until opening day. Turns out I was nervous due to my internal limiting beliefs.)
The Fun Park needs fewer guests each season to get to breakeven on costs, and profits rise quickly once we pass that point. Fewer guests, more profit = More intensity.
Capacity / Scarcity
Years ago, my buddy Stu first introduced me to the concept of “selling out.” He simply sells tickets out in advance, just like a concert would, then operates at his total capacity without exception.
He manages expectations and his operations’ ability to perform a great show. He knows the limit, so rather than trying to jam more people through, he can charge more on peak nights, enhancing profits without degrading the guest experience. Guests learn to buy in advance or completely miss out on his incredible haunt.
Intensity of Aesthetics
- a set of principles concerned with the nature and appreciation of beauty, especially in art. The branch of philosophy that deals with the principles of beauty and artistic taste.
Trees & landscaping.
Vala’s Pumpkin Patch has always been, IMHO, the leader in aesthetics. They have a nursery dedicated to growing more trees and bushes to plant around the farm. During the NAFDMA Advanced Learning Retreat, we learned that landscaping, yes planting trees and bushes, is a competitive strategy.
The old saying is: “When is the best time to plant a tree? Either 20 years ago or today.”
I was so convicted by this when I returned home. The THREE trees we planted 20+ years ago look amazing, then I never got back to tree planting, so I have to start today.
Think about it: Any competitor interested in Vala’s market is nearly 30 years behind in planting trees to create a similar ambiance. Now THAT’S a competitive advantage.
For 2022, where are you going to invest in intensity?
- It could be you have a signature BBQ recipe that creates a foodservice option guests crave.
- It could be that you are embarking on a multi-year tree planting master plan that creates the right ‘feel’ in your park.
- It could be that you need a price-changing-scale attraction to get you into a higher profit per person zone.
- It could be a new, deliciously intense wine and food experience that no other winery can pull off.
Intensity might be your target for 2022, and I’d love to hear your ideas. Feel free to write back and share what’s sparked your ‘intensity thinking!’
Next Week: We round things up with “You might have already won.” Lessons from 2021 – Part 4 of 4
PS Thinking about Super Mega Slide for your operation? December 31st is the deadline for May delivery, and, of course, saving on your taxes. Watch our FREE video series at www.SuperMegaSlide.com, then order online or call.