How to Leverage Free Channels to the Fullest


Escape Room Niagara Falls has become an Ontario staple in just two short years. All the while, owner Sarah Fenn Thomas has maintained a lean approach to advertising, budgeting no more than a few hundred dollars per month for radio spots and boosted Facebook posts.

Escape Room NF has largely focused on its TripAdvisor profile to build publicity, and it’s working. It’s #1 out of 36 in Niagara Falls, and #2 out of 540 “Fun & Games” listings in Ontario. People routinely tell Thomas that they either discovered Escape Room NF on TripAdvisor, or that they consulted the profile before booking their experience.

Thomas spends almost nothing to broaden her publicity through TripAdvisor and, in exchange, her business earns massive returns. Plenty of other tour and activity companies have placed as much emphasis on their TripAdvisor profiles, but few have ascended so quickly to prominence as Escape Room NF.

So, what’s the secret?

The key to the company’s success has been its commitment to strategy. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that marketing is nothing if not strategic. Willy-nilly plans seldom make an impact and almost always leave a big hole in your pocket where your wallet used to sit.

The other part to this winning initiative, of course, is the sway of TripAdvisor reviews. Before getting into Escape Room’s marketing strategy, then, let’s take a closer look at why online reviews are so influential to your customers.

Peer-to-peer recommendations

Customer referrals are the holy grail of marketing these days. There’s nothing more powerful than the buzz created by customers.

While some studies cite that as much as 90 percent of customers say their buying decisions are influenced by reviews, one thing’s for sure: online reviews outperform traditional forms of advertising.

This survey from Nielsen says that online consumer opinions are the third-most trusted form of advertising behind in-person recommendations and branded websites. From 2007 to 2013, consumers’ trust in online reviews grew 7 percent, topping print ads, digital ads, email blasts—even newspaper editorials cause more skepticism than online reviews.

Imagine words sitting upon a diamond-, sapphire-, and ruby-encrusted pedestal that was dipped in gold and then wrapped in dollar bills. That’s approximately the value of your glowing customer reviews published on a public platform like TripAdvisor.

Something this valuable deserves some strategy, don’t you think?

Read on, you’re only three steps away from bringing Thomas’s winning marketing strategy to your business.

Step 1: Delight your guests with a unique activity and memorable customer service

How can you boost your marketing if you don’t give your customers something to write home about?

That means first differentiating yourself from your competitors, and, just as importantly, executing your tour at a level that wows your customers.

As far as standing out, Escape Room NF had its work cut out for it. There are dozens of other escape rooms in Ontario. While most feature dark, mature, and scary content, Thomas set her business apart by offering an activity that’s guaranteed to be family- and HR-friendly. The game also has a more “indie” feel, Thomas adds, which appeals to Ontario’s trendy market.

1 2 3

About Author

Julia Barrero is a contributing columnist for Adventure Park Insider and the head of marketing at Xola, the booking and marketing software that zip lines, adventure parks, and other tour operators. Julia is also the lead writer behind Xola University, a business and marketing blog for tour industry professionals. She claims to have a writer's heart and a scientist's brain, which makes her a natural marketer. She specializes in data analysis for tour and activity companies. Through her blog posts, she hopes to turn tour operators everywhere into Jedi Marketing Masters.

Leave A Reply