Whether you're a relative newcomer to the industry, or were running a paintball business long before Hollywood decided it was the ideal rom-com date scene (see: "This Means War," "Failure To Launch," and "10 Things I Hate About You") understanding how to market this unique sport is key for attracting new players and cultivating return customers.
Here are five helpful tips for marketing your paintball business:
1. Reach The Right Audience Through Digital Advertising
Paintball operators generally spend around 2.3% of total expenses on marketing costs, according to a 2016 industry research report by IBISWorld on paintball fields in the U.S. And while your marketing budget should depend on several factors (the industry you’re in, the size of your business, and its growth stage), small businesses with revenues less than $5 million should actually allocate 7-8% of their revenues to marketing, the U.S. Small Business Administration recommends.
Another reason to bump your advertising budget if you're able? Continued success as a paintball operator hinges largely on your ability to attract and engage a very specific group: Adolescents aged 10 to 19. This demographic—which makes up the dominant age bracket for paintball players—is expected to decline over the next five years, which "will likely threaten overall industry growth," IBISWorld points out.
Even if you're unfamiliar with digital advertising, don't get so overwhelmed that you put it off. One easy place to start is by sponsoring your content on Facebook, which allows you to "boost" your posts and deliver them to the feeds of your target audience. Here are several other good options to explore, according to MOZ:
Search/display ads: Paid advertising programs such as Google AdWords and Microsoft AdCenter charge your business a fee when a searcher clicks on your advertisement. This is sometimes called "PPC."
Local search engine optimization: Promote your services to local customers at exactly the time they're looking for your type of business. This can be one of the most time-effective and cost-effective digital marketing opportunities for local businesses.
2. Promote Different Styles of Play & Scenario Games
Speaking of themed or scenario games: According to IBISWorldPaintball, paintball businesses have seen stagnation when it comes to traditional play, but certain subsets of the sport are becoming more profitable. Speedball, for example, makes up 47.6% of the industry’s estimated revenue in 2016. This form of the sport usually takes place in arenas with room for spectators, and lends itself well to tournament play. Tournaments mean spectators, and spectators get hungry! Boom: More concessions-related revenue for you.
Another option is low-impact paintball, which can open up your business to all kinds of untapped demographics, including younger children, birthday parties, corporate groups, bachelor/bachelorette parties, or even family reunions. Check out our other article on how low-impact paintball can help grow your business:
3. Be Proactive With Your Company's Online Reputation
Major brands and corporations invest a significant amount of their marketing and operations budgets towards online reputation management. But you don't need the PR budget of AirBnB to stay on top of this. Simply follow best practices for handling negative reviews online, as well as increasing your company's positive online reviews. This can make a world of difference when a customer is deciding whether to play at your paintball facility or the competition's.
According to survey results from Dimensional Research, 86 percent of customers report their buying decisions were influenced by negative online reviews. Become extremely proactive with monitoring online reviews so that you can respond to negative feedback in a timely manner and offer up a solution. If you're receiving positive reviews and testimonials, put them to work! Share these on your on your website, in your marketing materials, and across your social media accounts. Your goal is to make a great impression quickly.
4. Cultivate Lifetime Customers
When it comes to turning one-time players into paintball lifers, a lot of that simply boils down to sheer love of the game (and that's a beautiful thing).
But on your end, there's still plenty of ways to encourage repeat business. Here are a few marketing ideas to keep players engaged:
Incentivize returning business with a customer rewards program, special discounts, equipment upgrades, etc. We love Glory Paintball's membership program.
Take high-quality pictures of games in action and post these images to your social media accounts. Don't forget to tell players they'll be featured on your social media page. This encourages them to re-share on their own accounts.
Dedicate a tab on your website to "all-star" or high-scoring teams.
Help out in your local community! Any visibility you gain from giving back will double as advertising for your business. Being socially responsible is a great way to engage customers and build trust.
Send surprise merchandise or swag. Got a loyal customer who keeps on coming back? Send them a cool customer appreciation package with your company's t-shirt, stickers, a thank you card, etc.
Continue to come up with new themed or "scenario" games, and market the heck out of these on your website and social media accounts.
5. Show Off Your Facilities
You know what they say—a picture is worth a thousand words. Or in this case, thousands of pellets being fired by happy customers! Your website is a means for spotlighting what you offer. And it's not just the playing fields and arenas that are important to showcase: Do you have state-of-the-art rental equipment? How about a special event room that can be rented out for private parties? A lounge area for parents to hang out in while their kids are playing? All of it matters.
Make a point to prominently feature high-resolution, high-quality images on your website depicting the playing fields, arenas, props, local teams, past games, equipment, or even video footage of players in action, like our friends at Martin City Paintball. And how's this for a cherry on top? Search engines like Google and Yahoo also favor original, high-resolution images over stock photography, so you're also helping your site rank better in terms of SEO.
Encourage players to post their own photos of the arena on social media as well, preferably with a designated hashtag (#) so you can easily find and re-feature. Take the fun a step further by holding contests and rewarding the best photographers with discounts.
6. Simplify Your Website
When we say "simple," we're not talking "bare bones." Navigating your website should be a streamlined experience, with information about different types of play, add-ons, rental equipment and costs neatly outlined in an intuitive and easy-to-understand way. Your website is the first impression potential customers have of your business—make it a great one, not a frustrating or confusing one. If the booking experience isn't smooth, customers are more likely to look elsewhere before dialing a phone to hammer out details. For an example of a great website, check out Glory Paintball.
Good marketing takes some extra time and thought, but the effort can pay off in spades (or in this case, a smattering of paint splats all over your arena). You're already providing an awesome recreational service—now equip your business with an arsenal of marketing ammo to help it grow and thrive.
And while you're thinking about ways to grow your business, check out these four ways low-impact paintball can help get you more players: