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Weaving a Web for Arena Promotion

by Susan Snyder-Davis

So you’ve decided to develop a website for your ice arena. The cost to hire an outside vendor to prepare a website averages $3,000 to $5,000, and you can spend as much as $100,000 for an extremely elaborate website. The following are tips for developing your online image:

1. Make your site user-friendly. People are frustrated with lengthy downloading times. If they have to wait too long they’ll move to another website.

2. Don’t forget to include information such as how to contact you through the Web, your address, phone number, and a map and directions to your arena.

3. Change your website frequently. If your site doesn’t change periodically, don’t expect repeat visitors.

4. Include your Web address in all promotional pieces, on your business card, on promotional brochures/flyers, newsletter, letterhead, etc. Include your website information on all space ads, radio and TV ads. Place your Web address on your outdoor signage or on your building in big letters so people can see it from the street.

5. Don’t mislead with any offers you make online. For example, don’t post one price online and then have customers find out there are additional costs when they reach your door. Be clear about prices, if you list them.

6. Don’t exaggerate your message or make claims you can’t deliver.

7. Never use language that is questionable.

8. Make your site as colorful and interesting as possible and make it fun.

9. Don’t exploit children as marketing targets. If possible, tie your website in with a charitable organization in some way.

10. Use website copy that is easy to understand, and make your site visually inviting. The more colorful your website, the better.

11. Older children and adults expect a sophisticated website; don’t disappoint them.

12. Create spaces for "kids only"; a kids’ clubhouse with active things to do encourages revisiting the site.

13. Don’t make your site too wordy; kids and adults won’t spend a lot of time reading a copy-heavy website.

14. Ask your receptionists what questions they encounter when potential customers call your facility. Include this information on your website.

15. Create a part of the website that gets parents involved; their support is critical for younger kids. Answer the questions parents ask most when they call your facility.

16. Create contests for kids to enter on your website. A coloring contest could be downloaded and brought to your facility. Showcase contest winners on your website. Create give-away contests that site visitors can sign up for once a month or once a week. Contest prizes can include free birthday party for 10, free pass for a month, free dinner for four, four free passes, 50 free tokens, $25 gift certificate to a novelty shop or your pro shop, free photo with your arena’s costumed character (if you have one), free logo merchandise, etc.

17. Use e-mail addresses collected from contests to send a regular e-mail newsletter with information on special offers, discounted admissions, two-for-one offers, birthday party specials, skating classes and more. Always make sure that those who receive your e-mail have the ability to be taken off your e-mail list at their request.

18. Feature photographs of new entertainment attractions, new food items and new novelty items on your website. Also feature the interior of your arena.

19. Linking to other websites is a terrific way to generate more traffic at your site. Some of the places you might consider linking with include websites for local tourism, local party supply stores, local bakeries, local sites for parents and kids, local kid publications’ websites, sites for party entertainers, local women’s publications websites – to name a few. Work with your website designer to create banner ads to use for affiliate programs. Ask your Web designer to assist you in setting up a link and an affiliate program at your website.

20. Website development can be costly. If you’re not inclined to spend a large sum of money, you may want to check with local universities for students who might be willing to develop a website for a smaller fee. If you go this route, plan to monitor the development and guard the image you wish to present.

21. Keep in mind that not all computer users have sophisticated equipment; this may have some bearing on the design of your site.

22. To get ideas for what to do with your website, check other sites for what’s fresh and hot on the Internet. Sites to check include: MTV (www.mtv.com), Nick at Nite (http://nick-at-nite.com), Warner Brothers (www.warnerbros.com), Nintendo (www.nintendo.com), Sega (www.segaoa.com), Rocket Scientist (www.rocketsci.com), Disney (www2.disney,com DisneyWorld/index.html), and FAO Schwartz Toys (http://faoschwartz.com).

23. Contact classroom teachers teaching Internet usage and offer to have their students visit your website to print out coupons or passes (free drink coupon, two-for-one admission coupon, free French fries, or whatever incentive you choose). Distribute promotional flyers through teachers.

24. Always be on the lookout for places on the Internet to list your facility as a fun place to visit or to have a birthday party, etc. A few sites you may want to consider are:

www.gocitykids.com – This site is especially for fun centers in Boston, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego and San Francisco, with more cities to come.

www.123kidzarea.com – Every state is included.

www.kidsparties.com– A place to be listed as a party location.

www.party411.com – Party site location directory.

www.101partysites.com – Party site location directory.

www.realfunspots.com – List your facility.

www.raisinnet.com – List your attractions.

www.birthdaypartyideas.com – Listing of party locations.

www.funsearch123.com – Attractions directory.

www.attractionview.com – Attractions site.

www.funguide.com – Listing of attractions.

25. Imprint your website on balloons you give out at parties or sell to customers.

26. Set up your logo and web address as a temporary tattoo and give them away. Contact Calico Temporary Tattoos, 315 Plantation Way, Vacaville CA 95687. Phone: 707-448-7072.

27. Put your address on a hot air balloon or on billboards.

28. Don’t forget to remind people to visit your website on your phone message.

29. The next time you do a direct mail campaign to your birthday party list or group sales list, think about sending out your web address printed on a magnet.

30. A word of caution: Be careful not to put children’s faces/pictures on your website. Parents do not want their children on the Internet where they can be seen by everyone.

It appears that the Internet is not going away soon. Since your current and future customers are the generation of the Internet, it is almost critical that you develop a website and maintain it for your arena’s added exposure.

* Susan Snyder-Davis of Kids Marketing Factory can be reached at kidsmktg@juno.com. She is editor of the manuals Marketing Your Family Entertainment Center and Special Events for Family Entertainment Centers.