No more copy cats, part 2

by Frank Price, Birthday University

Editor's note: This is the second of our articles by guest authors. Frank Price is the founder of Birthday University and is recognized as the world's leading expert on the design and operation of birthday parties in all types of leisure venues.

"The road less traveled is often bumpy and more risky to take. But the destination is always far more bountiful, because few have what it takes to get there."

Frank Price, Founder, Birthday University

The foundation for developing your own "unique" business or birthday party concept starts by uncovering a single, clear cut compelling reason for people to choose your facility over everyone else's. "I'll give you a clue... It's not about the price." With parties, it's discovering a way of providing a personalized experience, where the birthday child is the center of attention and human emotions are facilitated within your play environment, throughout the entire celebration. Only then will you hear... "Oh yeah, that's the place where they..." The tangible, physical environment, play attractions or even the quality of offering, are not the difference between the best of the best. It's the interaction and relationships developed between your employee team and your guests. A friendly team of party "Heroes" can make any environment come alive with energy, memorable value and emotional attachment. It's the human interaction and personality between these individuals that make each experience uniquely different and special, each and every time. Continual change, improvement and updating play attractions are a definite plus when it comes to family entertainment value. But it's the relationships developed between your guests and employees that'll keep them talking about "It" longer and returning for "It" more often.

There are many ways to begin creating your own unique concept. Eliminating as many guest and employee frustrations is where to start. Most party businesses actually create frustration, so if it's founded on eliminating them, you'll establish a natural uniqueness.

Start by identifying the top three frustrations involving the two primary influencers of the success of your program, employees and guests. View it from within their shoes. What drives your guest or employee nuts about your parties?

The frustrations you identify consistently between both groups are the ones to eliminate first. Through this process, you'll discover that your business will establish itself as different very naturally in a short time.

Remember, it's the front line and guest opinion that matter most. When I meet with top executives or owners of family entertainment businesses, I'll ask them what frustrates them most about their party program. Even though they are the owners, too many times their concept is formed around their single thought. The last time I checked, not many of them are their typical customers. Their opinions are not nearly as important as looking at it from the people that have the largest impact on the success of your business.

Last month during a Birthday University Europe class in England, attendees informed me that British children never eat the birthday cake at a birthday party. "How peculiar," I replied. They sing "Happy Birthday," blow out candles and cut the cake, but then it's wrapped and placed in the goodie bag, to be taken home. When I asked, "Why do you do it that way?" Their reply was something I hear all too often... that's the way it's always been done. My suggestion, "What if you were different?" "What if you were to do something totally unexpected and out of the norm, like serve and eat the cake, right at the party. Who knows, you might now become... Oh yeah, that's the place where they eat the cake after it's cut." All of the sudden, you're unique. The class pondered long and hard on the idea. How could something so simple, be so unique? We'll have to follow up and see if any of the attendees take me up on the challenge.

Unique is risky. It's never boring, it's not compromise and definitely not... that's what we've always done or that's what everyone does." Have you read Purple Cow by Seth Godin? If not, pick it up and learn why transforming your business into being remarkable is creating a new generation of successful companies. These businesses are picking apart the top heavy, playing it safe, stale, bureaucratic companies that have been around for as long as we can remember, and still hoping to hold on with outdated concepts. Remind you of any?

Go outside your immediate industry and search for really unique ideas. Take their best, then recreate it in a way that might work for you. Go back in history and research what has worked well way back when. The simplistic ideas of the past, with new twists, continue to evolve into today's newest and most innovative ideas. Mike Vance, creative genius and past Dean of Disney University, states, "Creativity is the making of the new or the rearranging of the old, in a brand new way." Birthday parties have evolved from pin the tail on the donkey, musical chairs and clothes pin in the milk bottle. Now they are Glow Golf, Dance Revolution games, indoor water rides, pull string piñatas and "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" improv games. But it'll always be the "human" involvement within the party itself that will bring out the memorable and powerful emotional value of a commercial birthday party.

Recently I heard a story from a friend who attended an advanced marketing seminar. The instructor said the worst thing you can do is attend a conference in your own industry, because there are no new ideas. They've all been done before. His recommendation, go to trade shows that have nothing to do with your business. He told about a Ti Kwon Do business that was stalling because the owner could not figure out how to keep students interested and involved after the initial 30-day trial. Rather than attending his industry's conference, he decided to attend a show where businesses had the same issue, but seemed to have solved the problem. He attended the Diet Industry conference, where he was not considered a competitive threat, so the best operators told him exactly how they solved the same problem. He now has multiple locations and is considered a creative genius in his circles. Now everyone is trying to copy him.
Design or enhance your birthday party concept to include a unique offering that eliminates guest and party team frustration. Personalize it with the human touch, add memorable value and eliminate frustrations. These are the main ingredients to a unique party concept, allowing you to increase your price, and as a result, increase your profit.