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Home > Haunter's Lbrary > Marketing, Revenue & Ticket Sales > Haunted Marketing on the Web

Haunted Marketing on the Web
By Christopher Brielmaier, Member

My family and I are true Haunted Attraction fans, and going to Halloween events each October is a sacred tradition. I search high and low for the best events to visit and load everyone up in the family car for "Haunted House Hopping" in and outside of my state to experience the thrill of the fright. Over the last few years, the World Wide Web has been a great asset to me in my Haunt hunting. However, while looking on the Internet for attractions, I find a plethora of boring Haunt sites with few if any images to look at. Haunting is a visual presentation and the web is a great medium for visuals, but in many cases all that was available for a Haunt was an address and sometimes a phone number to call for more information. Few of the events that did have sites provided more than directions, hours, and a list of sponsors, and only a handful offered a photo gallery, a background story, message board or entertaining content.

Having a Haunted Attraction is a labor of love and sometimes love is the only thing that keeps you going. As a result, when it comes time to decide how you're going to promote your attraction, the web is often overlooked or, worse yet, a site is something thrown together at the last minute. Haunted Attractions are really about entertainment: we try to get as many people as possible to our attractions, scare the pants off of them, and entertain them along the way. Successful Haunters put a great deal of money into marketing their event through radio, newspaper and billboards, yet they are missing an inexpensive opportunity to let vast numbers of people see how great their event is on the web. Haunters put a lot of work into their Haunts to pull off really scary and entertaining décor for the victims brave enough to wander through, and a well thought-out web site would allow them to show off their efforts and provide more information to the public than a 30-second radio commercial, a billboard or a print ad could ever dream of. Whether you pay to have a site done or put it together yourself, a web site is a powerful and economic marketing tool for promoting a Haunt and should not be overlooked.

Most attractions use a storyline or mythology for their event to create a framework for their displays to adhere to, but more importantly this creates added entertainment value for the visitor. It gives them an entertaining story to uncover that adds to the mystique of the attraction. This storyline is something that can take on a very important role on a web site. Why is this place Haunted? Who are the main characters and what is their history? Each of these questions should be answered on your web site so that your fans and potential customers can become involved with the event. If done effectively, the story can do an excellent job of raising the level of interest in your event and drive traffic to your ticket booth.

I recommend you buy your own URL (a "dot com" for the uninitiated) address for you site. They are so cheap now there is really no reason not to. You can buy one for as little as 7 bucks at godaddy.com; however they will make you park it on their server for 3 months before you can move it to your own server or hosting provider. Other cheap alternatives are powweb.com and Ipowerweb.com, both of which offer very reasonable hosting rates to go with their cheap domain registration prices. Regardless of whom you buy your domain through, just be sure to read the fine print and make sure you do not have to keep the domain with a particular service for a period of time before you move it. When choosing a URL, be concise! It is much easier to remember (and to type) "www.Joeshauntedbarn.com" than "http:/geocities.com/Halloween/users/56891/hauntedhouse/index.htm." Try saying that in a 30-second commercial. Web hosting is also getting very reasonable, and in some cases is even free (keep in mind that "free" usually means you'll have to deal with banner ads or pop-up ads on your site). My favorite hosts again are powweb.com (where I have 3 sites hosted) and Ipowerweb.com, both of which have rates as cheap as $7.95 a month with up to 200 MB of storage, more than enough for the average Haunter. Once you get your URL, put it on all of your advertising. Radio ads, print ads, and even television spots can all tell potential customers to check out your web site for further information.

Make sure that your web site not only has the address of your event, but also a map and directions on how to get there. Provide a coupon that visitors to your site can print out and that you can track when they bring it to your door. A phone number, if not a 1-800 number, is a must to provide a means for patrons to call for questions not covered on the site, and an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page on the site can help decrease questions like "When does the 7 o'clock show start?" Provide a calendar of dates that your event will be open and which hours you will be open on those dates. List any sponsors for your event, along with thank-yous and links to their sites. Offer not only images of your Haunt but also a photo gallery of each year's best rooms or characters. Explain in detail the history and background story of the Haunt, complete with "historic" news clippings. If you're brave enough, you may even like to include a message board where visitors can review your Haunt. Post a "Monsters Wanted" page for recruiting actors, offer interactive tours of the attraction, and document the "making of" your Haunt, or offer downloadable movies or commercials of the Haunt.

"To Flash or not to Flash" is a question I get asked all the time. Flash is a multimedia presentation tool that comes with most web browsers and can also be downloaded. In most cases it is quick, slick, fun to watch and is being used more and more often on the web. It is used to make animations ranging from simple web page transitions to complex, high-quality animations and videos telling the storyline of a Haunt with voice dubbing and music. Flash is a wonderful tool that if correctly used can add a powerful impression to your site, but too often it is used as just an opening image that takes far too long to load, followed by static pages. Carry the same level of entertainment throughout the web site. Incorporate Flash in a menu or for the whole site. The misconception is that Flash is only good for splashy introductions or, if it is used for an entire site, it must be constantly moving and jumping. Instead, the best implementations of Flash are often when you are not sure it is Flash you are viewing. It should be subtle and compliment the subject matter rather than completely overshadow it. The Haunt industry is a visual medium and Flash is designed just for that. Deciding how much Flash to use is the key, and I recommend providing an HTML alternative version of the site for those who do just want the information as quickly as possible or are running older machines.

Once you get your web site done and it looks great, now you need to get the word out so people come look at it. First, contact all of the Haunted House listings services on the net and request a link on their site. A few more commonly used listings are Hauntworld.com and Horrorfind.com. These sites often let you list your Haunt by state, which makes it easy for your audience to find you. Finally there is the mystery of how to get your site into the search engines. Yahoo still makes any business pay to get listed, but you do not need to do that! Search engines like Google.com are gaining in use dramatically. They actually search the web using meta-tags to rank sites. Meta-tags are more or less site descriptors. They list the name of your site, the content, and a description of what the site is. The majority of search engines "spider" out and look for these tags that meet what the user has requested on a search. Writing great meta-tags is key to getting your site listed in the top ten when someone types in "your state Haunted Houses" for example. I recommend a visit to http://searchenginewatch.com/webmasters/meta.html for a great "how-to" article on writing meta-tags along with links to meta-tag generators that will make writing them a breeze. Best of all it is free to get your site listed on some of the hottest searches on the net. Web rings are sometimes useful as well but they often require that you have a long-loading image map pop up at the bottom of your page that does not fit with the look of the rest of your site. It may be better to just avoid these.

Everyday more and more people are logging on to the web to look for everything from books and videos to interesting things to do at night, and these numbers will only increase in the future. With a good web site you can have a powerful tool that will work hard 24 hours a day to bring your audience to you and give potential sponsors or investors exposure or "impressions," even in the off-season. You have worked hard to put out the best Haunt you possibly can; do not sell your vision short with a bad web site or no site at all. Let the web site be the powerful marketing tool that it can be for your attraction!


Christopher Brielmaier is the owner of Rogues Hollow Productions, a web design firm. He can be reached at infor@rogueshollow.net and http://RoguesHollow.com by phone at 614-408-3137.

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