‘Build it and they will come’ is a phrase made popular by the Kevin Costner movie ‘Field of Dreams’. While this phrase is actually speaking of a baseball diamond built in the middle of a remote corn field, for some reason many new small businesses seem to think it applies to them. Too often the excitement for their new venture clouds their viewpoint into thinking the business they’re about to open will be so novel that all they will have to do is open the doors and they will be flooded with new customers. While this situation can happen, it is extremely rare and even more so for a business that appeals to such a limited demographic like a paintball field. The reality of the matter is if you don’t have a meticulous marketing plan set to start at least 8-10 weeks before opening day, you are already planning to fail.
The unfortunate statistic for small businesses is an 80% failure rate in the first 18 months. Forbes magazine will tell you the main reason for this is because they run out of money. While this is the reason they end up closing their doors, the reason behind this is simply from a lack of planning. Many new paintball field entrepreneurs get so caught up in the layout and construction of their business, they either completely forget about marketing or it’s an afterthought at best. Most of the time, the reason new start-up businesses run out of money is because they didn’t start their marketing efforts early enough or misfired their marketing altogether. The bottom line is they weren’t able to generate enough business to keep their operation running. Not starting your marketing efforts early enough will ensure your first few months of business will be slow and stressful. Misguided marketing is even worse as it wastes valuable time and limited start-up money to produce nothing.
Even though paintball may be one of the field owner entrepreneur’s favorite past times, it takes an adult to step out of oneself and realize not everyone has the same interest. In fact, paintball caters to a very small demographic making marketing to a broad spectrum audience useless. Because of this, it’s smart to avoid costly television commercials, radio and newspaper ads designed to ‘keep your field’s name in everyone’s mind’. This type of media should only be used to boost hype for specific events and not to provide the ‘regular exposure’ most sales reps will try to sell you. Since the game of paintball tends to only attract certain types of people, your most cost effective form of advertising is to target these specific groups. This is called niche marketing and if done correctly, can be very effective. The first task is to make a list of all the different niche groups who play paintball at commercial fields. Then target specific campaigns and promotions to only these groups.
Ages of players who participate in paintball is 8-40+, however it is recommended players be at least 18 years old. This is because the sting of being hit is often too intense for younger players. While it will take a little forethought, targeting youth for marketing your paintball field to could be a venture that pays off in the long run. Considering most fields cater to high school and above, youth players are a large demographic that tend to be left out in the commercial world. When making your initial equipment purchase, consider buying .50 caliber paintballs, guns and gear. These are a smaller size ball and do not hurt when they hit you compared to the larger, standard .68 caliber paintballs. This is a big decision because .50 caliber gear is limited on the types of guns available. It will be too costly to buy both .50 cal and .68 cal markers and balls for your field so you will have to decide on one and stick with it. While .50 caliber size gear is fairly limited on the types of markers available they are actually more cost effective than .68 caliber. Offering .50 caliber paintball will also allow you to market ‘pain-free’ paintball to the younger audience and cater to a market that’s virtually untouched.
Paintball is not gender specific however mostly played by males. It is not a sedentary game and it is much more fun for people who are more athletic and can move around quickly. Target specific marketing campaigns to facilities and programs geared toward youth, males and athletics. To do this, make contacts with groups like the local YMCA, athletic centers and even gyms. Meet with owners and/or planning managers to promote your field with informational fliers, special events and/or certain days or games you’ve scheduled just for their group. Most cities and towns have numerous health clubs. Consider setting up a one day paintball war for rival gyms to battle each other for a local title. This can also be done for high school sports teams during the end of their season or in between seasons. Many high school coaches like to keep their team together during down times with activities that are fun, challenging and different from the sport they normally play. It’s a good idea to market your field to these leaders and help them schedule an event that will help their team bond.
It’s quite common for certain groups to use outside activities for bonding exercises to bring a team closer together. Many corporate companies take their employees on white water rafting adventures, ropes courses and even paintball for this valuable experiences. Marketing your paintball field to every corporate company with more than 10 employees is a great idea for this purpose. Target every corporate company of this size within a 120 mile radius, set up a certain day on your field you will hold the event and/or offer them a special corporate rate. Take time to try and meet with HR executives or managers who may be interested and set up an event. Another good niche group to market your paintball field to is police and military personnel. Active duty soldiers/officers may want to rent your field for certain simulation tactical exercises. Inactive personnel often still love the adrenaline and strategy of a good battle and have the potential for being very good repeat customers. Offer these groups military and law enforcement discounts as well as group rates and/or special field times.
Don’t waste your time, energy and money trying to get every tax payer in your zip code to play at your field. The list goes on for specific niche groups to market to and the more creative you get with your promotions the better. Take your time thinking of more groups to communicate with and try to constantly come up with new ideas to get and keep them interested in playing at your field. Keep simple stats on which events/marketing campaigns and niche groups were the most successful so you know which ones to keep doing and which ones to go back to the drawing board on. Once you have a steady flow of new players coming, focus on internal marketing strategies to keep them coming back. For example, frequent player discounts, free tank refills or ammo after a certain number of games they’ve paid for, etc. Set up your paintball field from the beginning so it can be manipulated to host different events and competitions for different niche groups to play there and many players will call your field their home.
I’m Dan Levesque, owner and operator of Choicepaintballguns.com, a successful online paintball store. We sell paintball equipment of all kinds to individuals, teams and paintball fields looking for the best supplies. We offer quotes to many start-up businesses for their initial purchase of paintball field supplies as well as on-going equipment needs. In doing so we often offer advice and information about how to get started with their business. I’ve started numerous small businesses and have much experience in this area. If you’re starting a commercial paintball field and have questions about how to get started or what supplies you might need, please visit our website for more information or feel free to contact us for advice or a quote for a discounted volume purchase.