Thursday, March 31, 2011


Two of the most common complaints about paintball fields that I see by players on paintball forums are first, it's too expensive and second, fields don't have enough decent amenities. Of course it's really no different than what customers want from any business; more for less.

The market dictates the prices that can be charged by a paintball field. That in turn determines who and how many are willing to supply the facilities. Amenities cost money. Sure it would be nice to have pristine washrooms cleaned hourly. A locker room would be nice too. Preferably with showers stocked with fragrant soap and shampoo. How about Hooter type employees walking around the staging areas supplying free fruit beverages (sorry, can't do the Champagne at a paintball field). The staging area would be heated and cooled with freshly filtered air of course.

Yes, there really is no limit to amenities once you start dreaming. But in the end, it comes down to what the customer is willing to pay for. Since the biggest current complaint about fields is the cost, take a wild guess on when the average field is going to make big improvements on its offerings. Although the more I think about those Hooter type employees, the more I'm believing that might be something that a paintball field's customer demographic would be willing to pay for. do I word that Want ad?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Word of Mouth

It has long been believed that the most cost effective advertising for a paintball field is word of mouth. The cost is zero. The benefits can be great...or not so great.

How does word of mouth advertising work? The name basically explains it. Basically your past customers are spreading the word about your business for you. It's very effective for many types of business but really effective for businesses in the entertainment industry and even more so for businesses in the entertainment industry where customers interact. Night clubs are a good example of how a business can succeed through word of mouth advertising. A popular night club is for a great part busy because it is popular. Now you are reading that and saying to yourself, Reiner, that makes no sense at all. Let me explain.

With word of mouth advertising, a business will be advertised more if there are more mouths in the community spreading the word. There is a big difference if there are 500 people out there singing your praises rather than 100 people. Makes sense right? Therefore, if your business has lots of customers and assuming those customers leave your facility happy and go out and about saying good things about you, word of mouth advertising will work great for you. That's why the busy, popular night club stays busy and popular. Large crowds of people are having a good time and then telling their friends that they should come and have a good time with them next time. The nightclub down the street that might be just as tastefully decorated, similar pricing structures and ambience, might only have one quarter of the customers. Even though those customers may have a great time and would most likely return, that's only one quarter as many people out in the community advertising for them. Therefore the popular night club stays more popular.

Entertainment businesses where customers interact very little, like a movie theatre for instance, will benefit much less from word of mouth advertising. When going to see a movie, it really doesn't matter if there are hundreds of other customers there or not. The entertainment (the movie) won't be significantly different for the viewer.

At a paintball field, the interaction between customers is huge. Even though the other customers may be perfect strangers to you, you are forced to interact with them, at least while playing the game. But even in the staging area, between games, it's very common to see people who were total strangers just minutes ago, tell each other their versions of their "war stories" or congratulating them on their roll and actions on the field. On busy days at our field, the staging area can feel and sound like it's "buzzing". Even those that tend to be quiet and shy, are at least in the midst of the "buzz" all around them. That feeling isn't there on days when there are relatively few players present. Sure the players will most likely still have fun, but it's not the same. Therefore a popular paintball field, just like the popular night club will in part stay popular because it is popular.

Let's back track a bit. At the beginning of this post I said that the benefits from word of mouth can be great or they can be not so great. Word of mouth advertising can be great when it's working for you, but it can also work against you. If your customers are having a good time, they go back out into the community and advertise in a positive way for you. However, if you customers, or a good portion of them, are not having a good time or didn't feel they received good value for what it cost them, it can work against you. Now you have past customers out in the community slinging mud instead of singing your praises. That's not good. Therefore, obviously, it's extremely important that your customers leave happy and satisfied.

So if word of mouth advertising works best when you have lots of customers singing your praises, what do you do if you don't have that large volume of customers? Answer: You get them. One way or another, you will need to attract people to your field using other means. That's where other forms of advertising, sales and public relations come in. If you are a new field and do not have the large crowds yet, or if for some reason the larger crowds have dwindled some, waiting around for word of mouth to get you to the top may not work out too well for you. If your field is really good and better than all your competitors, word of mouth alone may get you to the top eventually, but it may take a long time. Maybe too long.

So yes, word of mouth is the most cost effective form of marketing, but it alone may not do the trick. If the crowds aren't coming, you need to act.