With social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, advertising can be quick, efficient, and CHEAP!
Developing a brand for your haunt with a name and logo also helps the public retain info about your haunt. "I remember seeing this on Facebook!" kinda thing.
You can also release short teaser videos before season to help gain hype about your haunt or display.
As far as non-internet base marketing goes, old fashioned flyers and posters around your hometown do wonders. You can also contact your local pizza chain and ask them if they can dispense your fliers on their pizza boxes. (Think of all the times you read the fliers and coupons on top of the box while eating dinner!)
These are just a few simple things we did while running our show and had great results. Good luck!
Offer to trade advertising spots. In other words, put an ad or even a coupon on your flyer for the pizza place, in trade for them distributing your flyers, coupons, etc.
Maybe give the pizza place some tickets to give away, do drawings for, etc.
"you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours"
You might also try some of your local radio stations that cater to your desired market. Maybe get them to broadcast from your haunt, and again, give some tickets for them to give away too.
I think the main strongpoint of advertising these days is done through social media no doubt. A high percentage of people who go through haunted houses are teens and young adults. My generation is ALL OVER social media. They cant get enough. Anytime a big new thing comes out (Vine, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) everyone signs up on the bandwagon. Given some people do not have social media you can advertise on radio stations or by TV. I think the main selling point for teens and young adults is social media. Post often, even regularly. Try to spread your haunt so it gets as many followers as possible. Maybe even give coupons. Make it known, make it look cool and flashy, something that gets someone's eye. As a teen here, I've been on all the social media sites, the one that is currently being used most often i think is Twitter. What catches my eye is sneak peaks of the haunt. Teaser pictures that give you a taste of the quality and originality of the haunt. Also it costs absolutely nothing to make a profile for social media and thats what makes it the best advertiser. The cost is null and more and more people are using it.
That would be my method but you also need things like put out flyers, advertise in radio stations and stuff like that. That way you get the maximum amount of people at your haunt.
The old saying of "You can't judge a book by it's cover" just doesn't hold true for haunts. So much of our business comes from how the public perceives our haunt or event by what they see in ads, hear on the radio, etc.
How soon/early in the year, do you start your marketing, and do you do any particular steps in any particular order?
I guess ideally, I'd like to have a basic formula that will work for most haunters, new and old, to get or keep their haunt "alive". I realize that there will be some different approaches, if for no other reason than geographical locations, but I'd still like to hear everyone's thoughts. Knowing timing issues (and their results) can help eliminate many problems or hassles that haunters run into simply because they don't know or hadn't thought about it.
Social media is okay up to a certain point, but for most haunts, people go looking for you on the internet if they already know you exist, so it's kind of a "Catch 22" from that end of things. Don't get me wrong, social media's great, but you kind of need to "plant the seed" that your haunt or event is there, and give them a name to look for. Just expecting people to sift through the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of flags for "Halloween", "Haunt", etc., ends up being far more work than most people want to do, so they go for or search for a name or event they already know of or have heard of. With so many haunts copying names (and artwork) it's tough to discern what haunt has what on the internet.
When we had our haunt over 10 years ago all we did was make up posters and put them in local shops. The first year we had almost a hundred, the second year we had over 250 and the third year we made the front page of the newspaper and though we did not advertise at all we had 550+ people come through! Word of mouth works!
On that third year, you got your advertisement via the newspaper.
Word of mouth is great, but it only works if there are "mouths" that know about you, those first couple of years of advertisement is how you got the spot in the newspaper.
Before social media, I observed teens and adults just whip out their flip-phones and tell their friends..."you ain't gonna believe this sh*#. You've got to get over here". If they see it once and are impressed, you can bet they will make a point of coming back. We never saw a reduction in crowd from year to year.
In the last few years, we've focused almost completely on social media. Most platforms let you really define your target audience so you're not wasting money marketing to people who are unlikely to visit... we generally start publishing ads in early September about 3 weeks before opening weekend. Also making sure people can "check in" to your haunt on social media while waiting in line is huge (and free)