What can a theme park teach us about bookkeeping?

Sometimes the best inspiration comes from somewhere totally different from our profession.  By looking at what other sectors do well, we can take their ideas and adapt them to suit our business.

I’ve recently been on a tour of UK theme parks with my family for our summer holidays.  One of the businesses I’ve been noticing recently that can teach us a lot about pricing is Merlin.  Their pricing strategies are amazing and employ every trick in the book.

If you’ve not heard of Merlin, they are the people who own the attractions like Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, the Dungeons and the London Eye.

Want to visit one of the 32 Merlin attractions across the UK? You can, but they won’t stop at just selling you an entry ticket.  The first thing they’ll ask is if you want to get a fastpass to jump the queue at the gate. They charge a bit extra for that. Next, do you want to visit other local attractions, come back again for a whole year, or get a membership to visit every attraction? That’s extra.

Even when you decide that you want to buy one of their annual passes, Merlin doesn’t stop there.  They offer you a choice of 3 options. That magic number we see again and again in pricing. If you’ve listened to my pricing webinar you’ll know exactly why they offer 3 options.

Once you get into the park they’ll offer to let you jump the queue on your favourite rides. Guess what? It’s extra.  You’ll want to remember your favourite day by grabbing photos from each ride. You can do it individually, or they’ll sell you a digipass to get access to them all, for a bit more.

When you start to get hungry, rarely will Merlin want to sell you one item of food. You’ll want two for just a few pounds extra, or a meal deal.  Want a soft drink? Merlin don’t want to sell you one, they want to sell you a refillable capsule.

Everywhere you look, before and after you reach the attraction Merlin want to upsell and cross sell.  Merlin know what many of us don’t really take too much notice of. It’s easier to sell to an existing customer than a new customer.  That’s especially true when the existing customer is in buying mode.

Waiting in a queue for a ride with nothing else to do? Merlin strategically place a food and drink kiosk right there.  Had an amazing ride? Merlin don’t just want to let you walk away. They take the path right through one of their many, many gift shops.

Just when you thought it was over and time to go home, Merlin will have another go at selling you an annual pass.  Just because it wasn’t right before you went, they rarely take no for an answer.

Finally, they even charge a release fee.  We’ll, it feels like that but it’s your car park fee.

So how can we bookkeepers learn from a money making machine like Merlin?

When you sell your bookkeeping service, do you offer a fast pass or queue jumper? We can.  Many of our clients would value a quicker turnaround. Instead of giving away this amazing value for free, upsell it.

Do you upsell the rest of your attractions? When you meet a new client do you sell them what they ask for, or do you tell them about your payroll, self assessment or credit control services?

When your client needs help, do you sell them the capsule? In our business a capsule might be a support service where the client can call or email you with their questions.

By selling this service you’re also placing yourself to be their first point of contact for any new services they need.  They call you about VAT registration, you can give them advice, but also sell your VAT registration service, or your VAT assessment service to decide on the best scheme for them.

The amazing thing is that these are probably things you’re doing already for free.  For no extra work you can begin to really grow your business and turnover in the same way as the machine that is Merlin.

Finally, just because someone says no to an added value service once, make sure you keep asking regularly.  This is especially useful to do when they’ve just had a positive experience.

Think about the things you give clients free of charge.  Can you Merlin it and start to earn what you’re really worth?

Thank you to Kris McCulloch from The Bookkeepers Alliance for providing this article. 

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