haunted house library

Bookmark and Share

Home > Haunter's Lbrary > Marketing, Revenue & Ticket Sales > Sales Promotions

Sales Promtions for Your Special Event
By Michael Cruz

As consumers, you and I are exposed to sales promotions daily! Think about it: When was the last time you saw coupons in a newspaper or a retailer announcing a limited time sale? Both are prime examples of common sales promotion strategies used by conventional business, designed with incentives to entice an audience to purchase a specific product or service.

And what's great about them is that they can work for your event too! The goal is to get other advertisers to publicize one or a combination of promotional offers. Companies that participate in this manner are called promotional partners.

The power within sales promotions as an event discipline lies in your attraction's ability to generate value-added features (event amenities) which increase the demand for tickets. This allows you to develop an opportunity to gain increased sales while capturing additional exposure&emdash;without out-of-pocket expenses.

Sales promotions are advantageous to new or growing events because they can amplify your marketing message. The sales promotion is a resource that is available to all events, regardless of the size of their budget. While there are many promotions available, the six most common strategies used when developing a promotional program are:

  • Coupons
  • Group sales
  • Group discounts
  • Premium incentives
  • Ticket giveaways
  • Point-of-purchase

You may ask, "How do these strategies work?" These guidelines will assist you in providing a solid foundation for your sales promotion program. The following will show you how to get the most out of a sales promotion program.

Similar to other Event Marketing Disciplines, there are many facets of sales promotion which are important to other parts of the web. In addition to generating exposure and sales, a promotional campaign also fosters goodwill, increases name recognition, (re)shapes an image, and can change buying habits. The most effective promotions strategies are interactive. Involving both the customer and the business community in a participatory manner has been proven to increase both sales and exposure.

In order to implement promotional strategies in your marketing campaign, you must first determine which objective(s) you wish to accomplish. Some these could include:

  • • Introduce or expand awareness
  • • Test customer response to a particular strategy
  • • Improve overall image and visibility
  • • Increase recognition of event name/logo
  • • Foster a cooperative effort with the business community

Ingredients for successful promotions

Just like a powerful advertising campaign, there are key ingredients required to create a promotional program which will deliver your message. Because you're using event amenities (i.e., absorbing a discount or providing free passes), you're capable of capturing space or time to provide news about your event. These types of "investments" grant you opportunities to list crucial event facts in your promotional partner's advertising and/or business locations which includes:


  • • Event name/logo
  • • Dates and times of operation
  • • Location of event and nearest intersection
  • • Ticket information phone number

If promotional partners are enthusiastic or generous with the time or space they provide your attraction in their advertising, try to expand your promotional message by:

  • • Using line/clip art in print ads to reinforce the theme
  • • Show event site on television
  • • Promote specific element

The more time or space you're capable of capturing, the greater your chances of increasing both awareness and ticket sales. When working with promotional partners, try to capitalize on the Halloween theme to further define your promotional message.

Sales promotion specifics
Even before you decide which strategies to implement, there are four important considerations that must be addressed. Close examination of these points will help establish the overall effectiveness of your promotions.

• Demographics: Targeting Your Promotions. Just like other Event Marketing Disciplines, promotions should be targeted to the audience most likely to attend your event. Always maintain this objective: Their customers are your customers. Try to develop partnerships with organizations or businesses who are capable of effectively reaching your audience.

• Timing. If you are attempting to create a promotion on an independent basis (or perhaps before media is purchased) one obstacle may be adequate time to create and structure a promotional strategy. Some industries, such as fast food restaurants, may have their advertising budgets planned up to six months in advance! However, don't let this news discourage you. Always verify this with your potential partners. Companies in smaller populated areas may plan their advertising campaign only a month in advance, so it's always worth the effort to inquire.

• Economics: Discounting can be a Benefit. In practical terms, no event organizer wants to decrease the admission price, however, if doing so will persuade more people to visit your event, you're creating an opportunity to improve your bottom line. Discounting is referred to as self-competition because your competing with your full-priced admission price. However, when considering these strategies, don't forget the value of "back-door" income opportunities resulting from an increasing customer base.

• Independent or media tie-in. A sales promotion can either be created independently, or coordinated through the media. Establishing a promotional strategy on an independent basis simply means that you or agency approaches potential partners directly without using any media contacts.

Should you use the media tie-in method, ask the media to locate other advertisers who will help promote your event. Since other advertisers are purchasing the same medium, you are, in essence, reaching the same audience. Capturing your audience's attention by using help from other advertisers can extend your event's message without up-front expense. This is commonly referred to as getting your event "tagged."

• Determining discount amount. The discount you offer will have a great impact on your event. The higher the original admission price, the larger discount you're capable of offering. After consulting with numerous haunted attractions, the most popular formula is $1 off for every $5 of the admission price. For example, if there is a $5 admission for a haunted attraction, offering a $1 discount would be appropriate. Events with a $10 or $15 admission, would receive a $2 or $3 discount respectively.

This formula may be altered, depending on the promotional strategy you implement. For example, a coupon discount should always be smaller than a group sales discount. Otherwise, why go to the trouble of developing a group sales program, if a customer can just use a coupon to bypass the minimum sales requirement? To put it another way, placing a restriction on an offer can actually contribute to increased sales when you are offering a better admission price.

• Continuity. Just like other areas of marketing, it is important to maintain economic continuity for any coupon or discount offering. The better the discount, the more restrictions you should apply. This will help reinforce the value of your ticket and help offset the loss of admission funds by providing a means to influence the distribution of attendance throughout the event's engagement.

• Restrictions. Establishing Restrictions on discounts can actually increase the effectiveness of your discount offering, when properly implemented. Group sales is a prime example of placing restrictions to get a favorable result. It is important that the effectiveness of your discount is used to it's maximum advantage. This is why restrictions are applied in such a specific fashion.

• Extending Your Media Message. Don't forget that your use of certain media may substantially influence the demographic of your audience! If your budget allows you to purchase media, it is easy to extend your relationship by creating a tie-in with other existing advertisers. Furthermore, any offer can increase the buying power of your media dollars, and maximize your exposure.

• Logistics: Distribution. No promotion will accomplish anything unless your collateral materials (i.e., posters, coupons, flyers) are distributed. This is one of the most important considerations you should make before deciding on which strategies to implement. Personally, I always try to convince the promotional partner to handle the distribution process but this can vary depending on the specific situation.

If you handle distribution
It may be impractical for you or your staff to visit each selected retailer, so you will sometimes have to provide coupons, posters and complementary passes directly to the partner representative for distribution. The only downside is that you are not guaranteed all items will be distributed on time or even at all. If you use this method, make sure that you have someone contact the retailers to ensure that the promotional materials are being distributed and whether they will need a re supply.

Promotional strategies you can implement
There are numerous promotional strategies and variations that can used to promote your attraction, however, I'm going to concentrate on the six most popular promotions that any event can implement. These include couponing, group sales. group discounts, premium incentives, ticket giveaways and point-of-purchase. Let's take a closer look at each one.

1) Couponing
Implementing a coupon program is a tried and true incentive for increasing ticket sales and visibility. They're much more than simple discounts. The savings they provide will be an added motivation for purchasing tickets, but more importantly, coupons create expanded exposure on the grassroots level. Below are some standard coupon offerings employed by your peers:

• 2-for-1. The two-for-one (also known as a "two-fer") is considered the most popular discount offering. This coupon allows the purchase of one ticket at the standard price, at which time, the second one is given free of charge. When properly executed, a 2-for-1 coupon can be invaluable to an event. They are most effectively utilized during the beginning of your engagement or on low attending evenings. The objective of this tactic is to win repeat customers. For example, word-of-mouth has a tremendous impact to motivate new customers. A returning customer is almost always accompanied by a new patron.

• Half-off. Mathematically, this is the same discount as a 2-for-1 offer, and can be as effective as a 2-for-1, however there is no free admission. Just like its sibling, you should consider restrictions on the offering.

• Dollars-off. Dollars-off coupons are a beneficial method of striking an acceptable balance between your admission price and a two-fer or half-off.. They can be just as effective in situations where a 2-for-1 offer is financially unfeasible. The discount formula described earlier in this chapter would apply to this type of coupon.

2) Group Sales.
Implementing a group sales program is another avenue for extending ticket sales. This strategy is worthwhile because it creates a positive situation for all parties. The basic premise is to promote your event to community organizations and large-sized companies, because your able to reach a concentrated group through one source. This provides an excellent opportunity to build awareness of your event within the community.

A group sales program requires a minimum order of tickets, however, this is an amount which you predetermine. The majority of special events using a group sales program, require an absolute minimum of 12 tickets sold. Established events can set a higher minimum to receive a group sales discount, or possibly may not even need to implement a group sales program at all. Many haunted attractions such as Industrial Nightmare in Jeffersonville, Indiana requires a minimum of 20 tickets sold, it is best to use your own discretion.

The most obvious advantage to group sales is the ability to reach a concentrated amount of people through one source. Depending on the size and type of the company or association you want to contact, communicate with either the personnel department or an association's membership coordinator.

Expand your marketing message with the following ideas:

• coverage in employee/association newsletter with photo
• coupons accompanying employee's paychecks
• raffle or contest with tickets as prizes
• posters and/or flyers in break areas
• credit union statements containing flyers

If you need to locate a listing of major employers or associations, contact the chamber of commerce, or publisher of the local business journal. These sources usually offer a directory for a nominal fee. Don't forget, when initially contacting potential employers or associations, you want to speak or meet with the personnel who is the decision-maker regarding the development of promotions.

Sample Group Sales Letter


Dear Melanie:

It was a pleasure to speak with you today regarding Haunted USA's Group Sales Program. Now in our third year, we are expecting over 50,000 people to experience the scariest town in America. We've added two new and terrifying attractions, the Dungeon of Doom and Jacko's Pumpkin Patch. With all the exciting activities available at Haunted USA, I am confident that your employees will appreciate the reduced admission price which we are offering.

Per your request, I have enclosed an overview of how the Group Sales Program will be implemented. In addition, I've included samples of our promotional materials which may be placed into employee break areas. Just let me know how many you'll need.

Melanie, again thank you for your interest in Haunted USA. I will contact you next week to see if you have any questions.


Haunted USA

3) Group Discounts.
Group discounts are a variation of the group sale, but no minimum tickets or coupons are required. The biggest difference between group and individual discounts is there are no coupons used. This can be a double edged sword, providing coupons creates additional documented exposure, however, group discounts have no coupon expenses or distribution responsibilities. You still may have to distribute other collateral materials such as posters or flyers.

The discount amount can be the same as your coupon discount to avoid confusion for box office personnel. To make sure someone qualifies for the group discount, they can either mention their affiliation or show proper identification (i.e., paycheck stub, employee ID card). If you're going to place a restriction such as a limit of tickets sold to one customer, be sure to convey this in your marketing message.

Expand group discount strategies by:

• securing coverage in employee/association communications (i.e.., newsletter)
• combining with other promotional strategies (i.e., contest for free tickets)
• placing event posters in break areas

4) Premium Incentives.
Premium Incentives are material or intangible "gifts" offered to customers, thus providing added-value. One obvious advantage of premium incentives is the ability to also generate newsworthy publicity and exposure.

For example, a haunted attraction may provide "rehearsal performances" where the admission price was half off (or other discounted amount). This would provide customer's an opportunity to experience the attraction before it was "officially" open.

This intangible premium incentive would be for certain times or dates when the discount is available. Tangible premium incentives are items such as novelties or other merchandise that are distributed when attending during a specific time. For example, you may have a sponsor wishing to distribute free soft drinks. This is called a premium offer or sampling.

5) Ticket Giveaways.
People like to win prizes or get something for nothing, generating a "demand" for your tickets. Establishing Ticket Giveaways is yet another strategy in developing expanded exposure for your event. I realize that this could be classified as an intangible premium incentive, but because giveaways have the ability to bring an incredible amount of supplemental exposure, I consider them a separate and distinctive opportunity for the event marketer.

Many haunted attraction operators may be apprehensive giving away potential income, however, if you're able to get free exposure for your attraction without spending any hard cash, wouldn't this be something to take into consideration? Just like other promotions, you can place restrictions on the passes.

Not all pass holders will attend for one reason or another. Although this amount may vary expect a redemption rate between 60-70 percent.

• On-air giveaways. Many stations regularly give away items over the air, this provides an opportunity to gain exposure at virtually no expense. Ticket Giveaways are best negotiated when your agency is purchasing advertising. Regardless of how you work the ticket giveaway strategy, it can be one of the most cost effective promotion strategies because of its ability to garner exposure with virtually no out-of-pocket expense.

Sample on-air script announcing giveaway:
Caller thirteen receives two free tickets to Haunted USA&emdash;the southland's largest factory of terror. Complete with over 20 attractions, show and rides, this is perfect for the entire family. Haunted USA is open nightly at 7pm now through Halloween.

Sample on-air script congratulating contest winner:
Congratulations to (name) who was caller 13 and received two free passes to Haunted USA, the southland's factory of terror. Haunted USA is located at Interstate 5 and Exit 1 in Lakewood now through Halloween.

• Test drive giveaway. Auto dealerships are usually enthusiastic about integrated promotions because they will bring increased traffic to the dealership (and potential sales too). If the test-drive promotion is done correctly, the event marketer will secure a large portion of the dealership's print space dedicated to the promotional ticket giveaway. The end result is to receive additional media exposure, costing you virtually nothing except the value of the tickets provided for the promotion. Think about it…that's a lot less than paying for the space yourself!

To discover more about the test drive giveaways, Eureka offers an Instant Report available that can show you how to use this particular promotion. Call (310) 439-5342 from your fax machine and request document 301.

• Coloring contest. If your attraction appeals to children, work with your local newspaper in creating a coloring contest as an option. The idea is to get the publication to promote the contest in their newspaper. You supply the artwork, tickets and rules, letting the publisher promote the contest at no out-of-pocket cost to you. Obviously when they promote the contest, they also include basic event information&emdash;sounds like more free exposure!

6) Point-of-purchase
Just walk into your local supermarket and you're sure to see many point-of-purchase displays promoting a particular product. Keep in mind that there are unique considerations in producing and displaying your point-of-purchase materials. Printing, design expenses, and securing the display space are a few things that will be important in determining the feasibility of such promotions.

Four Steps for an Effective Promotions
Now that you are knowledgeable about the sales promotions discipline, you need to use the 4-Step Program below to create an effective promotion campaign.

Step 1. Identifying potential partners
Step 2. Tailoring your offer
Step 3. Pitching your promotions
Step 4. Promotion implementation/distribution

These steps will allow you to create a simple and effective plan for finding promotional support for your Halloween event. Each one assists you in developing a different aspect of your sales promotion program.


Step 1. Identifying Potential Partners

The first step of the promotions process is to compile a thoroughly comprehensive list of potential promotional partners. Start by purchasing a copy of daily and community-oriented newspapers in your area, searching for major advertisers. Car dealerships, local retailers and financial institutions typically consume the largest portion of news print advertisements. If their audience is compatible to yours, try to "sell" them on your event and a promotional strategy.


To effectively assemble the best group of probable partners, you will want to research organizations before you approach them. The most important piece of information needed is the person(s) who will make the decision on developing a promotion. When inquiring, always make sure to get the correct spelling of their name and official title.


As to determining your most likely partners, you should seek out well known grocery, convenience, and fast food chains which offer a large amount of retail traffic. Arrangements with these types of companies should include being tagged onto their advertising, spotlighting your promotion, and providing exposure for your event at the same time. Try to work with established retail firms with a large number of locations within your event region. This way, only a few people need to be approached in order to secure a large number of locations, reducing the consumption of an event marketer's time (which is already short enough).


Step 2. Tailoring your offer

At this point, you need to determine which potential partner should receive which strategy. You want to reach your audience by intriguing and exciting methods, to motivate, educate and select the best partner for the best promotion.


As previously mentioned, your objective is to convince each potential promotional partner your event has something beneficial to offer. Creating a promotion proposal is much simpler than a sponsorship package, because you're not directly asking for financial assistance. While there is no set standard on how long such a presentation should be, the following items should be included:


• Introduction

• Event history

• Target audience

• Projected attendance

• What you're proposing

• Strategy outline

• Benefits for partner

• Benefits for event


A section of your proposal should contain an outline of the specific promotional strategy in a simplistic format. Present your offer detailing each party's obligations to the other. Spelling out what you will provide, and what is needed in return, establishes a foundation for creating an effective sales promotion. You want to show that your event is providing greater resources for the promotional partner. A sample outline for a $2 off coupon may look like this:



1. Make Fast Food exclusive restaurant promotional partner.

2. Absorb discount offer.

3. Provide 10 free passes, valid any night (a $100) value.

4. Provide 2 free passes to event for each restaurant manager.

5. Provide 20 VIP Passes (a $2000 value) to Fast Food management.

6. Tie-in a radio station to co-promote offer. Station WXYZ will run 40 promotional spots touting the discount offer.

7. Event personnel will distribute any promotional materials, flyers, or materials provided by Fast Food.



1. Tag on all existing media - tag to include event dates and location on 7-second radio and television tags.

2. Print discount coupons -to be bag-stuffed with every sale for two weeks starting prior to event.

3. Provide space for event posters.


The following must be taken into consideration when developing your outline:


• Determine how much space or time you will be able to receive. Ask for an advertising calendar to calculate how much exposure you will receive. Again, try to get as much space or time possible. In addition, attempt to get your event tagged in all of their advertising mediums, not just one.


• Print production. If coupons are to be printed, you will need to determine who is responsible for this expense. Since you're absorbing the discount, you may want to ask the partner to pay for printing.


If the coupons are to be printed by the partner, make sure the coupons are on the same color & weight of paper. You may want to consider changing the ink color to signify a difference from other coupon denomination amounts. Other promotional items such as posters or flyers are always provided by the event.


• Distribution. Collateral materials can be delivered through the partner's internal communications or independently by the event personnel.


• Quantity. Amount of comp passes that will be issued for partner's use. Try to be conservative when initially offering a specific amount of passes. You can always increase the amount if you feel that is what it takes to close the deal.


• Additional amenities such as hospitality, VIP passes, etc. Ask the partner to issue a memo or letter to concerned parties (i.e. retail managers, etc.) alerting them of a new promotion that will be implemented.


• Combining Promotional Strategies. You can also combine two different strategies to extend your marketing message. For example, creating a group sales program and offering a contest for free event tickets, to be promoted in an employee newsletter. Automatically, you have doubled your exposure!


Step 3. Pitching Promotions

Now that potential partners have been identified and a proposal has been developed, the next step is to sell your promotional strategy. Developing a sales promotion is really not that difficult, especially if you possess some salesmanship skills. Depending on the individual company, you can either pitch potential partners via phone, fax, mail or in person. Some companies may require you to mail your proposal, while others may be already familiar with your event and want to set up meeting. Regardless of how you communicate with potential partners, your objective is to gain their attention and generate interest in what you offer.


When you speak with the decision-maker or their staff, be sure to stress the benefits they would receive by becoming involved as a promotional partner. In addition, inquire if there are any specific goals or objectives relating to your event which they want to accomplish. By asking a potential partner questions, you're displaying your interest in satisfying their needs and this, could ultimately benefit you!


Step 4. Promotion Implementation/Distribution

Once you have finalized the details of your promotion, you need to make sure everything goes as planned. If you promised complimentary passes by a specific date, make sure they are in your promotional partner's possession as agreed. In addition, you want to keep in contact with your partner periodically to make sure everything is in accordance to your agreement.


If you're responsible for distribution

The retailer tie-in becomes labor-intensive during the actual distribution phase. It is recommended that you have an event representative visit each retailer to ensure that everything is going as agreed. For some events, this is not possible, however, if you have the opportunity or can "scare" up help, it is in your best interest to do so.


When visiting retailers, always ask to speak with the general manager. This will save time and explanations to those who are unable to meet your requirements. Always bring a copy of your signed agreement. This will prevent location managers from saying "I knew nothing about this and I need to check with my regional office about this promotion."


If you are utilizing posters, always ask to hang the poster, eliminating the "inconvenience" to store personnel; this will ensure that the poster goes up (remember to bring clear tape).

Chapter Highlights

• There are four important considerations for every promotion: demographics, economics, strategy and logistics.

• The six most popular promotional strategies are coupons, group sales, group discounts, premium incentives ticket giveaways and point-of-purchase.

• Always mention your event's dates and hours of operations, location and a phone number for information. The greater amount of time or space you can obtain, the higher the probability of getting your message exposed.

• Combining promotional strategies can further enhance your overall marketing efforts.

Back to Top

Home > Haunter's Lbrary > Marketing, Revenue & Ticket Sales > Sales Promotions

haunted house trade magazine