More mainstream then ever but still quite taboo, the haunted house industry is like the old, Wild West. There are no real rules in this grave new world. It is filled with gun slinging haunt owners who claim their haunt is the largest or scariest. They come packed with egos holstered on their hips and a flask of “secrets” tucked away in their breast pockets.
A friend of mine who heads up Zombie Walk Jackson once joked that we are all similar to rival mafia families. While this is not true of everyone in the haunt industry, many keep themselves guarded as if other haunts are trying to put them out of business. I feel that could not be farther from the truth. I don’t know of many people who visit only one haunt. Therefore, the more haunts or haunt related events in the area the better chance of drawing business form each other. I think another fear is having your design stolen but truth be told, we all grave rob ideas from each other. The initial stages of The Corpse Barn began with myself and the Co-Owner discussing things we enjoyed and didn’t like about other haunts we had been to. We then collaborated on how to infuse the ideas we liked with our theme and style.
The Zombie Walk Jackson organizer once visited Motor City Comic Con, met with various cast of The Walking Dead, and had photos taken with them wearing Zombie Walk shirts. How brilliant! One thing he understands as do I is this week’s topic, cross promotion. Cross promotion is an extension of the Scarevertisment sub series that we have been exploring over the past few weeks. This simple support system is generally free.
I believe strongly in the quality of the experience we offer but, keeping ego in check, realize that not all people are willing to travel just to visit our haunt. Therefore, through social media, word of mouth, or a table set up in our ticket room at the haunt we provide the service to our customers of showcasing other events, businesses and haunted houses.
Be prepared and educate yourself on what other area haunts offer. If a customer calls to ask if you have a certain feature, like zombie paintball for example, and you don’t, then quickly you can send them to a place that can accommodate their tastes. This will usually result in them visiting your establishment too. Even if you don’t care for the style of another haunt, know their strengths. There is no need to haunt bash and something to be said for karma.
Once I was making my rounds chatting with customers. It was nearing midnight and a group exited the haunt, approached me and asked if I thought they could make it to The Bone Yard which was approx. a half hour away. They were blown away when I immediately called the haunt owner, explained the situation to him, got the okay and sent them on their way. It was funny because when he answered the phone he said “Hold on.” We all then heard a chainsaw and screams over the phone. Then he answered back. Everyone laughed.
Don’t let egotistical tumble weed get between you and servicing your customers. Don’t let paranoia cause a duel at sundown between you and what should be friendly competition which helps elevate everyone to an increased level. Trade flyers, share information, and support each other.