Low Tech Fun... In a High Tech World

successWherever People Gather to Have Fun...

That is typically how I explain the types of venues I work with. Theme and amusement parks, water parks, zoos, attractions, family entertainment centers, stadiums and arenas and other locations "where people gather to have fun ". They are all looking for new, improved or innovative ways to increase guest spending... and employee motivation, contribution and engagement. Thats what I do.

And they are all mostly about the next big thing. New Coasters or faster rides, taller water slides, entertainment, interactive and participating games, promotions, attractions, and exhibits... thats the engine that attracts new guests. They invest heavily in efficiencies to improve the guest experience and improve their bottom line. And often have elaborate training programs to insure their staff teams are creating memories for those that visit. All good stuff!

Then there are the Pumpkin Farms (or "agri-tainment" businesses if you prefer).

I have worked in many of these venues, and recently was consulting at two of them in Pennsylvania. These types of venues are real businesses, that over a 6-7 week season, attract tens of thousands of visitors. Their focus and commitment to the guest experience matches the largest and best of the big theme parks.

What's their "next big thing".

These locations are successful because they deliver safe, family fun. The kind of fun that brings people together…and away from the "separating distractions" that computers, cell phones, texts, email, video games and tv create.

Their next big things are finding new and improved ways of; picking pumpkins, pumpkin "cannons", carving pumpkins, getting lost in a corn maze, petting/feeding zoo, pony rides, face painting, pig races, basic games of skill, sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows, pillow jumping, peddle bike races, and climbing through, and on, hay bails.

Pretty wild stuff.

Yet, they create length of stays, per cap spending and guest loyalty that would make other much larger parks and attractions... very jealous.

So how do they do it? Here are 5 ways I see that creates big business;

1. Participation: Selecting a special pumpkin, "shooting" apples, attending the pig race, building a log cabin, even getting your face painted, are all activities done together. Simply being designed to engage every member of a group at the same time... may be the biggest attraction of all. Everyone participates at the same time... and that's when people are impacted on an emotional level... and that's when you have a customer for life.

2. Entire Family: Everything that is offered on these venues is designed for the whole family to participate at the same time. From feeding a llama or feeding yourself... no one wanders off on their own. You get the sense that this may not happen on a daily basis in their lives... oh wait... it doesn't.

3. Deliver Value: Value means different things to different people. Delivering on the above points of participation with the entire family may be the biggest value of all to their guests. No easy task. From a dollar and cents standpoint these venues may be more affordable than some of the competition... but make no mistake, these are for profit businesses. While there is a moderate admission charge, parking may be free. Price points on food and beverage, additional attractions, and of course farm products (i.e. pumpkins) are fair. The "value" of delivering on the experience promise, at moderate prices, is a business model that increases revenue and profits.

4. Be Unique: The basic ness of the attractions and activities is unique in themselves. In a strange way, it is the biggest point of differentiation. But there needs to be more unique aspects….and they deliver on this. And it can't be just about buying pumpkins... you can do that at Walmart. They play off of their farm and agriculture background by providing engaging education, themed "farm fun" and even tie food into the experience. Where else will you find cider donuts, blueberry candied apples, and turning the corn they grow into amazing roasted on the cob, and take home ready kettle corn! They know who they are, and don't try to be what they aren't.

5. Better... is better: The folks that own these businesses are farmers first. They are hard working, fair minded, with a 'people first' attitude. They are intelligent, humble and eager to learn and to grow their enterprise. The secret to their success may be to never rest on their laurels, and to always be willing to learn and always seeking ways to improve... even if only through small incremental improvements. They know they may not have the best answer... yet they are determined to find someone who does. They understand that even little improvements, consistently applied, will potentially yield huge results.

How can you apply these principles to growing your business? What I saw is that it doesn't take high profile, new attractions…or the next big "expensive" thing. It takes creating an environment where everyone in the group can stay together, have fun, and not feel like they are being taken advantage of at every cash register.

One thing I didn't see? Parents with their children on their cell phones. They were too busy laughing together.

What's your formula for success?

About The Author

ken whitingKen Whiting is an amusement park and attractions food and beverage operator, and industry consultant for improvements in F&B, retail and workforce productivity. Reach out with any questions or comments you may have at: