April 10, 2024

Marketing on a Dime

Where do you look when you know you need to advertise and market but don’t have a fortune to spend? There are so many options out there right now that it becomes overwhelming.  

Social Media

This is naturally the first place to look for cheap marketing ideas. Creating a solid social media presence is essential to communicating with your guests. 

Be sure that this is a two-way conversation and that you aren’t just talking to your customers but instead talking with them. The key here is engagement. Not all regions or demographics are the same regarding social media. In some parts of the country, you couldn’t meet anyone without a Facebook account, but in other areas, you will find out that Facebook is “not cool” and that most people in this area don’t even have a Facebook account. 

Some areas they are on are Instagram, X, and YouTube. Sound demographics lean towards TikTok. Know your audience and who you are trying to engage with. Regardless of which social media outlets you use, remember: This is not your grandpa’s marketing strategy. This is a whole new ballgame.  

People aren’t buying a product or service….people buy from others. They want to know you. They want you to interact with them. They don’t want to hear your special of the day or week or how much your Laser Tag prices are. They want to see your operation behind the scenes. They want to meet your staff and feel like you are their friend and part of their social network. They want to see you as a human they purchase from, not just a big company. 

They need to see emotions. They want you to entertain them. You need to show yourself as human. Let them see you make mistakes, have fun, get frustrated, etc. Tell a funny joke or share a cute picture. Hold a contest every once in a while for a prize. Join in on week’s themes like #ThrowbackThursday and try to stay current on trends. You must show that you are part of the community, not just a business. Involve yourself and your staff in community projects. 

Hold a photo or video contest with a prize; multiple people will visit your location and advertise for you. Find a funny picture and hold a caption contest.  

Data Mining

I know most of us do it. We gather information from people who book parties. Sometimes, we will have a place where people can register to win a party or game card or something so that people will give us their information. We have tons of information, and often, it gets underutilized. 

Find a service like Constant Contact to connect with your guests. Once again, don’t bombard them with specials, party flyers, and coupons. 

Yes, those should come occasionally, but find things your guests want to read about. Teach them something, share something funny, or give them some information.    


Videos are a powerful tool. There is much information about videos offering a higher retention rate than print and a higher conversion-to-sale rate than print. Most people are very visual. You don’t need a professional film crew to make a great video. Most smartphones can take a great video these days. 

These are great activities to get your staff more involved. Task them with making a video. Don’t give too many guidelines, and see what they come up with. You may be surprised at some of the talent you may have on your staff. Maybe even make this a stiff competition for a prize by having teams compete against each other.

Photo Op

Ensure that your logo appears in the background anywhere guests often take pictures. One of the best places is on your party table. 

Parents often take pictures of the cake, presents, and birthday kids at the party table. Ensure the table, balloons, and plates all have your logo visible. You will immediately get free advertising when they post those smiling pictures on their social media. Create a cutout, background, red carpet, or statue with which people will naturally take photographs.    


Give a birthday shirt to each party guest of honor and tell them that if any of your staff catches them wearing the shirt around town, they will get a free attraction. I have seen radio stations do this successfully with bumper stickers. This is a win-win. They start wearing your logoed shirt everywhere they go. When you visit one at a grocery store, you give them a free attraction. They return to redeem that free attraction and spend more money on food, arcades, and other attractions when they are there.


Create your hashtag. 

#FUN, FUN, FUN. Whatever creative # you come up with, start using it on everything. 

Have some stickers created that say your hashtag line. Plaster them everywhere. Ask guests to tag their pictures with that hashtag.

Loyalty Program

This doesn’t have to be complicated. 

Sometimes, simpler is better. A simple punch card will do the trick. 

People like to save those. Buy 10, get one free. It’s simple, inexpensive, and it works.  

Create a Flash Mob

This is fun for your staff and guests and makes an excellent video for YouTube or TikTok.  

Treasure Hunt or Poker Run

This is a great way to cross-market with other businesses. Create alliances and make friends with other businesses that will complement your business. Think about a cake shop, toy store, or anywhere else that may have some of the same customers as you do. Have a few brainstorming sessions and get creative on ways that you can help each other grow.  

Auto Wraps

Wrap your car with a creative, fun, and eye-catching wrap. Remember to obey all traffic laws and be a courteous driver.

Trivia or Karaoke Events

A place near me started a monthly Name That Tune/Karaoke event. The hosts play a song, and people try to be the first to guess the song to win some tickets; after the song is guessed, as many people as want to can come up front and sing it to earn more tickets. 

Ultimately, the person or group with the most tickets wins the prize. This family-friendly event has become so popular that you have to show up an hour or two before to get a seat. 

Another place near me has bi-weekly Wednesday trivia nights that are also family-friendly. These nights fill to capacity, and their most recent Taylor Swift trivia night was so full that it crashed the system.  

Word of Mouth

I saved this one for last because this is the best way to market. Ensure that everyone entering your facility is treated like VIPs, and go above and beyond to WOW them. Not only will they return, but they will also tell their friends and family about their experience and share it all over social media. You only create the WOW factor if you get those positive comments and ratings. You may be doing good, but more than good is needed to use word of mouth as a marketing tool. You have to be the best. I firmly believe that this is all about your people. This is where having the best staff in the world can overcome almost any challenge you are having with equipment or other issues that will naturally happen in any business. This is where you can rise to the top. Invest in your people. Make sure they are happy so they can make your guests happy, and this will create an environment where marketing isn’t as important. One of the most incredible steak places I have ever been to is located in a terrible location in Idaho. It is not near any town; from the outside, it isn’t fancy and only looks like a little. 

Even when you walk inside, it’s not terribly fancy either. It has a dirt parking lot and has been added several times. This place has been around since the 1970s, and they have never had to advertise. Why? Because their customers do it for them. You can ask anyone within a 4-5 hour radius of the Wolf Lodge Inn, and they will know about this place. Celebrities have eaten here, and you can only get a table with a reservation. They don’t have the fanciest restaurant or the newest equipment. They make an incredible steak that would rival Ruth’s Chris or any of the country’s finest steakhouses and provide excellent service. The same thing can be said for any business. If you offer a superior product and exceptional service, marketing will be done for you.    

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Amber Lambert

Amber Lambert is the Regional Sales Representative for Betson Enterprises. She began her career in the amusement industry 12 years ago when she started her own family entertainment center, which she built from the ground up. She also managed a corporate-owned family entertainment center, held a sales role with an industry supplier, and is active in industry associations.