Money-making lessons from Hollywood Bowl

Posted Dec 7, 2020 12:52:19 PM

You can learn so much from other businesses… not just in our country but in all countries. I’m forever looking at what other businesses do (even when on holiday)… what they do well and what they do badly. Either way, there are lessons to be learned. Take Hollywood Bowl, the UK’s largest 10-pin bowling operator, with 60 centres across the UK. On the whole they’re smart, real smart, but even they can do things better, things that could potentially quadruple their sales (but more on this shortly).

During a recent visit I thought they would make a really good case study for you. So, as usual, I spent some time looking at what they were doing and how we could add a few noughts to their monthly sales!

Here’s what we learnt…

LESSON 1 — They Committed The Cardinal Sin

Whether you’ve been to Hollywood Bowl or not, when I say they’ve committed the cardinal sin, you should immediately know what I mean! That’s right, no customer data capture!

If a business doesn’t automatically capture the contact details of their clients, customers or patients, it’s imperative some kind of data capture must be put in place. Otherwise you can’t communicate with your most important people (clients, customers or patients) to keep them buying more products or services from you.

So what’s the answer? Well how about we create a simple ‘Hollywood Bowl Membership Club’. This could include special discounts,  referential booking times, tips on improving scores, ‘The Best Score Of The Month Competition’, Monthly Newsletter and so on. In just two minutes that’s not sounding too bad, but we could do better with more time!

The key with the Membership Club is to ‘sell’ it either when people make their booking or when they arrive at Hollywood Bowl to play. Either way it has to be systematic and staff need to be trained on how to implement it. We could also include a staff Incentive Scheme to reward the person who signs up the most members each month.

Better still, they could just make the data capture a part of doing business with Hollywood Bowl. When anyone wants to book a lane, they have to give their name and contact details. They’d then tag on the end that, as part of this, they are automatically signed up for the Membership Club.

Then, of course, they can communicate regularly with their members, and within a few short weeks they’d be increasing their sales and profits for very little extra expense!

But then I made a surprising discovery. And this is a perfect case in point about the necessity of data capture and the importance of systemising it…

Hollywood Bowl DO have a Membership Club. They call it the ‘V.I.B.’ (Very Important Bowler, that’s a really good name).

The problem is they ‘hide’ it amongst their other leaflets in dispensers around the alley (see Lesson 5).

W.A.Y.M.I.S.H. (Why Are You Making It So Hard) comes to mind here…

- They have to make sure customers sign up, but it’s virtually impossible for them to do that if they don’t know about it, so they have to be instructed.

- If they’re going to put the membership club details on a leaflet (a good idea, of course), customers have to see it. Hidden in a dispenser with half a dozen other leaflets is not too clever!

- When customers are playing a game, they’re sitting around for a few minutes before their next bowl. They have time to complete a form and give it back to someone (who should be collecting, etc.). Why make customers go online to complete their details? Let them do it now. You’ve got their attention. They might never sign up if they have to do it at home and they may forget the leaflet!

- Why do customers have to be over 18 years old to join? Why can’t you have a children’s V.I.B. and an adults’ V.I.B.? This is a big mistake!

LESSON 2 — Keep It Full As Often As Possible

When I visited Hollywood Bowl it was in the evening. They call it ‘Night Time Bowling’.

They light up the lanes and play the music loud, it really is impressive.

However, about 6 lanes were empty, that’s about 20% of missed opportunity and sales.

Don’t get me wrong, it was busy, very busy, but it’s still money down the drain!

The problem they have is that they don’t have any easy way of getting empty lanes full if they don’t know who their customers are, or how to contact them.

But, just think if they knew who their customers are and how to contact them?

A day before, they could email or text their customers and create a special offer on the 6 free lanes.

That has to make a difference.

LESSON 3 — Keep Me Buying While I’m There

Disney are masters at ‘wallet share’ - getting their customers to spend, spend and spend as much money as possible while they’re in their theme parks. Hollywood Bowl are good at this too.

For example, waiters and waitresses come to the lanes to take food and drinks orders and then deliver them to you at your lane.

This is a good example of W.A.Y.M.I.S.H: they’ve made it easy for customers to spend more.

But what else could they do?

LESSON 4 — Make Me An Offer I Can’t Refuse

I have to say Hollywood Bowl are good at offers (that’s why it’s so crazy for them not to have a system for getting the contact details of customers).

The V.I.B. card on the previous page has a number of good offers, plus they have several other leaflets (see above). How many offers do they have running concurrently?

There’s no limit to the number of offers you communicate, if they work, keep doing them!

Very good.

LESSON 5 — Using Leaflet Dispensers

ALL the leaflets at Hollywood Bowl were placed in leaflet dispensers all around the lanes.

As a general rule, leaflet dispensers are a good way of making information available to customers but once again the way Hollywood Bowl use them is far too passive.

Just because you have leaflet dispensers scattered around the place doesn’t mean people will pick up the leaflets and read them. 

So what could be done to improve this?

- The important leaflets need to be handed out when people come to pay for their games. For example, the V.I.B. membership card
should be handed out and explained at the counter.

- The staff on the counter should have a leaflet dispenser on their desk and refer to it, telling the customer there are some fantastic offers on the leaflets, make sure you read the leaflets while you’re playing your game, etc.

- Waiters and waitresses should collect all completed forms as they deliver drinks and also be trained to see opportunities. For  example, if a family is playing, they should refer people to the ‘Birthday Party’ leaflet and ‘Teen Birthday’ leaflet, etc.

Remember, everything you do should be systemised and well-thought-out.

It’s lazy just to place leaflet dispensers all over the place.

This is far too passive.

You must not miss any opportunities to increase ’wallet share’ from your clients, customers, or patients... But, of course, your plan of action needs to be considered and not pressuring.

From a marketing point of view Hollywood Bowl seem to have their act together but, as you’ve discovered, they’re missing out so much... things that would probably be worth millions in extra profits to them as a group.

Without question, the opportunity will be the same for you and your business. As you can see, there really is a multitude of things you can apply for little or no cost! 

As I keep saying, building your business isn’t rocket science… but it IS a science!