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Part 2 – Strategic & Pre-season, the first 4 of a dozen.

Our lavender festival brings guests and revenue into late June & early July which coincides purposefully with blueberry picking season.

Part 2 – Strategic & Pre-season, the first 4 of a dozen.

Last week, we started looking at how to plan for what turned out to be a rainy season (and for future rainy ones). We’re breaking our planning & strategies out into five categories.

  1. Years in Advance
  2. Strategic Choices
  3. Pre-season Actions
  4. Day of Weather Event
  5. Post-apocalypse

Today, we’ll briefly review “Years in Advance” and then move through “Strategic Choices” & “Pre-Season Actions.”

Years in Advance. Some choices that enabled us to survive 2023’s rainy season we made years ago. You can’t turn on a dime to activate these activities, investments, or crops during a rainy season.

It’s easy to get caught up in current year plans and marketing, to drown daily in a never-ending to-do list. I’m a big advocate of stepping back and looking out years in advance to plan for stabilizing our business.

Do you take time to think years forward? What’s your process for evaluating paradigm-level changes in your business?

Some Years in Advance examples:

  • Flower festivals to stretch season/month weather exposure
  • Winery license to expand fruit use and access the alcoholic drink market
  • New crops – Strawberries can pull your season forward. Tulips open in Spring, and Christmas trees are 7-8 years from pick-your-own. Each is different strategically.
  • Digging a pond for your bumper boat rally.

You can sense the time scale for planning additions to your operation like these and how long it would take to bring such initiatives into reality.

That’s the review.

I promised a dozen strategies, here’s the first 4 of 12.

“Strategic Choices.” Strategic choices are actions you can plan for and activate in one year or less. Let’s look at some examples that helped us through this season.

#1 Pricing. If you aren’t tired of my blogging, speaking, sharing, teaching, cajoling, and encouraging around pricing – You must be new to my blog. Pricing is critical to success; the answer is NOT always higher prices! (Though raising prices is likely a good place to start:-)

High enough. Admission is the most significant single source of profitability. Period. Admission must be high enough to ensure it’s contributing to profits as it should.

Here’s why:

  • If you aren’t high enough to match or meet the market value for the experience you provide, you leave money on the table. Plain & simple.
  • If your admission is too low, you can’t make strong, appealing offers to motivate buyers. 50% OFF a $24 ticket is much different than 50%OFF a $10 ticket. (What dreams are you going to build $5 at a time?!)
  • If you offer discounts at the gate, you can build your customer list and make marketing cheaper. We offer a discount for online ticket purchases at the GATE, well right before the gate, so they can give me all of their family info, email, & mobile phone numbers when they buy online, on-site. Now I can text & email them any time for FREE.
  • In a rainy season, higher admission means I need FEWER guests to hit my revenue goals. Think about it: It takes 10,000 guests x $10 to get $100k. It only takes 6,667 guests at $15—just 5,263 guests at $19 per ticket. Fewer guests needed means fewer people to convince with your marketing.

Your admission doesn’t need to be astronomical, but it does need to be high enough.

#2 Push the per cap. We’ve always wanted to increase the dollars spent per person, but after the NAFDMA Advanced Learning Retreat at Wickham’s in NY, we got laser-focused on it.

I’ll admit that when I was young, back in the late ’90s/early 2000s, I only cared about more people through the gate. It was my only metric. Now that I’ve grown up a bit, I realize that it just makes more sense to have fewer people spending more money per person.

Think about it – EVERYTHING is easier. You need fewer people, less parking, fewer bathrooms, less staff, and less security, and you can still hit your goals.

Here’s how we’ve pushed the per cap:

  • Signature drinks, different at each event. We offer cider slushies, fresh-squeezed lemonades, lavender lemonade, wine-soaked lemonades, wine slushies, beer, espresso & iced flavored coffees. Each drink is $5-$12 each.
  • Simplified menus & speed. Our snack bar used to have nearly 30 options because we thought choice was what sold food. After enough sessions with guru Mike Holtzman, we realized that reduced options, quality & speed make the difference. We’re down to 5 options, plus two choices on the burger option. Now we get compliments instead of complaints on speed of service and the snack bar revenue was up 6% with attendance down 15%.
  • Ticket bundles. General admission is great, but you should have an Ultimate Ticket that allows access to something BIG. — We did it with our Super Mega Slide & Trackless Train. Our general admission is $19, and Ultimate Access [which includes UNLIMTED Mega Slide and UNLIMITED Trackless Train Rides] is $24. Stick with me here… 49% of the guests bought up! — Think about that: what if you allowed 49% of your guests to pay MORE? (It doesn’t have to be a Mega Slide, but it could be 🙂 Choose whatever enables your ticketing to be ULTIMATE, then charge for it.

How are you purposefully pushing your guests’ per cap spending?

#3 Multi-day/Multi-night vs. Must-have dates. Choosing your events by date structure is a broad strategy we’ve seen deployed well by our winery friends.

  • The “must-have” idea is that if you hold a Cinco de Mayo party outdoors, you’ve only got one shot at it – It HAS to be the 5th of May. It’s a must-have date.
  • If you do a summer music series, and it’s every Friday & Saturday night in June & July, you spread the risk out over many weekends. Sure, it might rain out one, but you’re open many weekends.
  • Another example for Spring is that Easter Egg hunts pretty much have to be the Saturday-Sunday before Easter, and maybe the Saturday before Easter Sunday. Still, no one is coming the following week, and no one is hunting eggs three weeks before Easter.
  • Baby Animal Days is a clever way around Easter’s strict date demands. Baby animal days can go on for two months! If you miss a rainy Friday, it’s no big deal.

How are you structuring your events based on Multi-day vs. Must-Have dates?

#4 Indoor space. We just built a BIG barn in the middle of the Fun Park. It was a massive upfront investment, and then, within four hours of hanging the last sliding door, we held our Wine Your Way Out event… and it started to rain. The barn saved the day… the same day it opened.

The indoor space has already inspired new event ideas, some while we were inside during the rainy Wine Your Way Out. It’s a big investment and a significant weather shield.

Is there a way for you to create more indoor space?

OK, I reached the end of this first section, “Strategic Choices,” and realized you might be bored at 1,000 words.

Is this interesting or helpful?

What’s striking a chord or prompting you to start brainstorming?

What am I missing that you’d like to know more about from your season?

Let me know, though I will probably keep writing about it anyway:-) It’s a good way for me to process, and I hope it also provides value to you and your business.

We’ll tackle “Preseason Actions” next week.

Have the Happiest Holiday Season with family & friends! (I’m leaving now to pick up my son, Ian, at the airport.)

Best from PA,


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