The Cadaver Cafe

Using Craigslist to Promote Your Haunt: Part 1

One of the best tools out there for free promotion is craigslist. I have used to buy and sell furniture, get rid of junk (CURB ALERT!!!) and find things to do in the local area. Craigslist is truly the internet’s flea market and I love it. Apparently, so do a lot of other people.

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Craigslist says on its factsheet that more than 50 million people use Craigslist in the USA alone and that there are 50 million new classifieds each month. It also says it gets more than 20 billion page views a month. That amount of web traffic is mind bogglingly exciting, but…how do you stand out as one of the 50 million?

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Craigslisters are like window shoppers at a strip mall. Sometimes they are shopping for something specific, and other times they are just browsing, waiting for something to catch their eye. In the advertising world, this is called ‘ A Call to Action.’ If done effectively, it will convert browsers into buyers.

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1.    Thin the herd: One of the easiest ways to do this is with an image. Craigslist has an option to display posts with image ONLY. This filter substantially cuts down the amount of post displayed. Make sure you don’t get filtered out.

2.    Get them in the digital door: When the reader glances at the subject line, it should be compel people to look further. No one will look further if you don’t create a need to see the details. which would subject line would get you to click on the link?

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      • Come to Poplar Grove’s Haunted Hayride this October!
      • Win Tickets to Poplar Grove’s Haunted House and Hayride!

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Each subject line has a call to action, but the chance of winning free tickets is the more convincing of the two. Yes, there will some free tickets to give away, but that can be decided at a later time and linked with another promotion to generate attendance, which i will discuss in August.

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3.    Be consistent with your message: Once the Craigslister has opened the post, they should see information directly related to the subject line or they will immediately move on.  No one likes to be fooled and they will remember it if a ‘bait and switch’ is pulled.

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4.    Speak plainly and have clearly distinct goals: Don’t use 25 cent words in your call to action. It be as clear and specific as possible. Be sure the call to action highlights the obvious next step. Not doing so could cause ‘choice paralysis.’ If the Craigslister doesn’t know what to do, they simply will do nothing and that choice is made in about 3 seconds. use that time wisely.

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5.    Simple HTML makes things better: Whenever possible, make your posts in simple HTML. there are tons of programs out there that will do this for you if you do not have one already. It will keep the content formatted, and the images can have links in them if you need.

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6.    Iconify your Links: If there is a link to click on, make sure it looks like a button. button icons for facebook, twitter, foursquare, YouTube are all over the web. Grab one and stick it in your post. People already know what to do. Let them do it.

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At this point, the Craigslist post is ready to be unleashed on the public. Look for part 2 next week for tips on when, where and how to place your Craigslist advertisement.

 

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Brilliantly Simple and Inexpensive Actor Incentives: The Whizzer Award

I would like to believe that I treat my staff well. I let them know when they do things right. I encourage independent thinking and improvisation as long as it doesn’t put the haunt at risk, and I make corrections constructively and delicately. Most people are newbie’s when it comes to acting in a haunted attraction and they are going to need your help. They are also going to need your encouragement to keep up their A-game.
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One way to do this is by offering performance based incentives. This can be anything from cash bonuses, to prize swag like t-shirts and toys. BE WARNED! This can get expensive over the course of the season, especially if you are handing out multiple incentives each night…and some days you will.
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I have found one of the best working incentives is in the form of “The Whizzer Award.” For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, a Whizzer is a person who is so scared that they pee themselves inside the haunt. Anyone who is responsible for this happening automatically gets a Whizzer Award and all the bragging rights that go with it. This can be a strict rule, or you can dole it out to anyone you feel has honorarily earned it.
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Here is a basic template for what I plan to do this year:

  • The Honoree will be presented with a certificate award, suitable for framing, which will be awarded in front of the rest of the staff.
  • They will get their picture taken and it will be posted on the haunt’s facebook and twitter pages.
  • This amazing event will be posted permanently on the regular haunted attraction website on a special page where a small humorous blurb about them and possibly how it happened.
  • They will receive two complimentary tickets to the haunt so they can give them out to friends and family.

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The cost outlay is nominal compared to the benefits to be gained if you execute it properly:

  • Every certificate awarded reinforces good performance and incentivizes their peers to do just as well or exceed those performance in order to receive the same recognition.
  • Posting these awards to social media such as facebook and twitter allows your haunt to virally self-promote without being overt and may drive more traffic to your primary website.
  • The two complimentary tickets generally encourage more tickets to be purchased because the average attendee group size is AT LEAST four, not two.

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This model can be applied to any performance based incentive and achieve similar results. Above all, remember that this type of thing should be FUN. If it seems rigged or forced, drop it because the resentment it will foster will do more harm than good.

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Charles Addams and Me

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I have always wondered about the origins of my dark humor and was reminded by my older sister during my recent visit to Sleepy Hollow about my obsession with Charles Addams cartoons as a child. This actually pre-dates my ability to read so I can not remember a time without this fixation.

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My Father had four anthology books from Addams; Drawn and Quartered,  Addams and Evil, Monster Rally, & Homebodies. I still remember exactly where they sat on the bookshelf and how they had a slightly decayed smell that seemed to enrich the morbid sensibilities of the one-panel stories held within.

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Addams had the ability to take everyday life and turn it on its end with only a gentle twist. It took no effort to put myself into the shoes of the characters he created and I identified with, especially since many of them were children. Many of his best cartoons did not even need a caption. All that was needed was a keen eye to spot the thing that didn’t look right and then you would experience that “AH-HA!” moment.

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As my sister talked about the books I boasted that I knew them so well, you could describe only a portion of a comic and i would be able to basically describe the rest of it without looking. My sis took this as a challenge and began to Google Charles Addams cartoons to test me, which i missed only one. I kick ass, if I must say so myself.

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If anyone wants to test me, I’ll leave the challenge open, but you need to be able to produce the comic if you say I’m wrong.

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A visit to Sleepy Hollow and Washington Irving

This past week I went to visit my sister and her family in New York State. Much to my embarrassment, it has been more than a few years since I have been up there when it hasn’t revolved around business. In fact I have not been there since they moved out of Manhattan and settled in Sleepy Hollow.

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This excited me. Not only would I get to visit family, but I would have a chance to wander around the town where Washington Irving lived and set the location for his story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

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Irving tells the story of Ichabod Crane, a stern schoolteacher who sets his sights on marrying Katrina Van Tassel, it is not because of any feeling he has for her, but because her father is wealthy.  His rival for Katrina’s hand is Abraham “Brom Bones” Van Brunt. He is large, strong, rough, humorous, and good-natured, as well-known for his skill as a horseman. Needless to say, they don’t like each other and the headless horseman shows up on the scene, but if you want to find out what happens in detail, I would suggest you read the story on the Sleepy Hollow cemetery website.

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We are standing in front of the grave of Washington Irving. It is one of many historical finds in the old part of cemetery. We spent a few hours wandering about, but you can also get historical tours as well.

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One thing i didn’t know that I learned while there is that the cemetery is still active, meaning you can purchase plots and be interned, after you die, of course.

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WARNING! Dates on Calendar are Closer Than They Appear!

FUN FACT: Independence Day (July 4th) ALWAYS falls on the same day of the week as Halloween. This year it happens to be a Monday. For any serious haunter, professional or hobbyist, this is the wake-up call to get your rear in gear, start planning, writing, and building the things you need for the big day.

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One of the simplest mistakes people make is thinking they have more time than they really do. Props take longer to build than expected. Business and personal obligations get in the way. Your financial budget can slow you down too. Then there are the awkward conversations with people who don’t understand why you can’t come out and play because you have to build a toe-pincher coffin.

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MOST IMPORTANTLY: October 31st is not your opening night, September 30th is, so take 30 days off your schedule right now and try not to panic. I have fallen victim to this because my brain is set for Halloween, even though i know better. Make sure this doesn’t happen to you

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Social Media is Scary Good for Advertising!

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It’s almost July and I’m hard at work putting together some advertisement ideas for the 2011 Halloween haunting season. this year we are focusing more heavily on viral marketing on the internet as well as social media platforms like facebook and twitter.

 

The haunted industry, although ahead of the curve on many things, including the dissemination of information via the internet, still lags behind in the use of social media tools to do their work for them.
I hope to change that.
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Social media is exciting on several levels for me
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It allows people to pass along what they have seen to friends. Word of mouth is the best advertisement you can have, and what better way to get people to come to your haunt than through the recommendation of a friend?
you can make on the spot updates to the web as easy as posting information from your phone letting people know what is going on as it is happening, set up impromptu contests, or other promotional gimmicks.
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It allows your fan base to be interactive in ways they have never been able to do before. You fans can post pictures of them having fun at your event. they get their 15 minutes of fame and you get more content for people to look through.

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I’ll be writing a few more articles on the subject, focusing specifically on each social media platform we will be using, specifically, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, & Foursquare as well as a few others.  I’ll be updating the website this month to reflect some of the changes i will be talking about

The Cadaver Cafe’s Facebook Page

The Cadaver Cafe’s Twitter page

The Cadaver Cafe’s YouTube Page

Poplar Groves Facebook Page

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Bar-Coding: The Bleeding Edge of Halloween

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As we prepare for the 2011 season, I have decided to try and introduce mobile technology into the advertising mix. I’m a programmer by day so it shouldn’t be a huge leap for me to do this in any spare time that I might have, which isn’t much at all.

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The new thing is bar-coding your advertisements to get people to come to your website so they can learn more about it. As long as you have a smart phone with internet access, you can see what I mean.

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But its not enough to just have a barcode, you need to ‘brand’ it. I decided to use a QR code since it holds so much data. It’s 300 characters, which is more than enough space for a web link, and since I’m using so little of the barcode itself, I can cover most of it with an image. I am still playing with the colors, but I like the way it looks.

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This is a working QR code so you can scan it on either your screen or printed paper. The result will give you the website ‘www.cadavercafe.com’ The cost to create a QR code is nothing and adding some logo art only cost me the time it would take to layer it into the image itself.

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I don’t know how useful it will be in the future, but being on the bleeding edge is what Halloween is really about, right?

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Grimm tales spark festival’s frights at Poplar Grove Plantation

Link to the article HERE

By K.J. Williams
StarNews Correspondent
Published: Tuesday, October 19, 2010 at 10:56 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 19, 2010 at 10:56 a.m.
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SCOTTS HILL | Poplar Grove Plantation has reinvented its annual scare fest and will unveil a frightening tribute to the Brothers Grimm fairy tales starting the evening of Friday, Oct. 22, at its Halloween festival.

Hansel and Grethel and Snow White come to terrifying life as characters in the haunted barn, along with other equally bone-chilling portrayals of storybook favorites.

“It’s all about the Brothers Grimm – it’s a different take on it,” said Jeanne Walker, spokeswoman for the nonprofit foundation.

For nearly 30 years, Poplar Grove has celebrated Halloween, turning it into a fundraiser for the plantation and other groups.

This year, the haunted barn’s backdrop is brand-new, and the Queen of Hearts is also a new player. Drama students from Hoggard High School will fine-tune their fright-making skills in their scary roles.

“Our volunteers are hard at work making the props and painting,” Walker said recently.

A new puppet show also will make its debut, and the canine costume contest will return for the second year, along with the traditional costume contest.

The carnival also has plenty of less-frightening fare, including a kiddie funhouse, and there’s two versions of the hayride: the afternoon one that’s fright-free and the haunted hayride.

The Halloween festivities will take place from 6-11 p.m. Fridays, Oct. 22 and Oct. 29, from 2 to 11 p.m. Saturdays, Oct. 23 and Oct. 30 and from 2 to 9 p.m. Sundays, Oct. 24 and Oct. 31.

Admission is free and activities are individually priced.

Poplar Grove Plantation is located at 10200 U.S. 17, in the Scotts Hill area of Pender County near the New Hanover County line.

Volunteers who take part in the fundraiser include the Hampstead Volunteer Fire Department, whose firefighters will handle parking while passing the boot for donations, the Hoggard High School drama department, New Hanover County Pop Warner cheerleaders, Topsail High School Latin Club and Poplar Grove Foundation.

For information about specific events, visit the website at www.PoplarGrove.com. Groups of 15 or more can make reservations to “fast-track” the haunted house and haunted hayride by calling 686-9518, ext. 26.

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The Best Halloween present EVER, minus the Therapy for the child

I have to admit that I always worry about a haunted hayride on opening night. It has all the potential problems of a first night theater show opening, plus the actors. Tech week is about 7 days, 23 hours and 30 minutes short. You don’t know what the last minute lighting you set up during the day will look like until it gets dark, and by then, it’s too late. It’s all too late.

It can be a bit scary at times.

As we go into our third night, I want to say that the first two nights have been great. All the scene scripts work, the actors are loud, the timing is right and the all the props and lighting have been working properly 95% of the time. Even Mother Nature is cooperating. We have a full moon in a cloudless sky and it’s chilly, but not too much.

Now let me preface this next part with saying that our haunt is part of a family Halloween festival. It’s a bit scary, but when we have a lot of kids age seven to twelve coming to have a good time, we don’t want to mess them up permanently by making them pee themselves. They get on the wagon a bit scared and maybe scream a bit during the ride, but they all survive and generally remember only the morbid parts that made them laugh. I think a good motto for us would be that you can’t have “Slaughter” without” Laughter.” Get it? It’s a play on words. Get it? Do you get it?

 

After one of the hayrides, some people asked if I would take a picture with them. This is not unusual because of the way I’m dressed so it’s part of the package deal when doing a haunt. The next thing I know they hand me a baby about a year old and then start fumbling with a more than one camera phone trying to get it working in the dark. This was the child’s first hayride and they wanted to capture. So for about 3 minutes, this child stared wide eyed at me with occasional glances to dad trying to decided if this was a good or bad thing. He did not cry once though. I expect that this was as surreal of an event for him as it was for me.

My only dark little secret about this even was that I was happy to hold him for so long because he was so warm and I had been outside for hours in the cold

 

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We have tonight until Halloween. If I have any more interesting stories from the hayride,  I’ll post them here.

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Poplar Grove Plantation’s Halloween Festival is Just Around the Corner

Ahhhh…. Another year has gone by and we are back at Poplar Grove Plantation for another Halloween festival. We have only the time for a 15 second commercial this year. The final will run next week on TV.

October 22nd , 23rd  & 24th  AND October 29th , 30th  & 31st

  10200 US Highway 17 N., Wilmington, NC 28411

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