How U.S. Axe Hit the Mark with TripWorks
The decision turned out pretty darn well, as two years later, Dustin and Niki Knight not only now share a last name, but they also share management of a very successful business, US Axe Throwing.
The first location opened in January 2020 and promptly closed a few months later, along with the rest of the world. But during its brief inaugural operations, business was good — so good that US Axe acquired their second location even amid the pandemic shutdown.
Since then, their third and fourth locations have opened, as have a mobile operation and a thriving corporate and private events business.
How have the Knights accomplished so much in so short a time? According to owner Dustin Knight, US Axe is thriving for three key reasons:
- A true passion for the sport and the industry
- A sincere and earnest focus on their customers
- The TripWorks booking platform
“To run a successful axe/hatchet throwing operation, you have to be passionate about the sport,” Knight said. “Both Niki and I are professional throwers and spend our days working on building awareness for and expanding US Axe Throwing and the axe throwing industry in general,” Knight said.
“To run a successful axe/hatchet throwing operation, you have to be passionate about the sport."
“We are also completely committed to ensuring that all guests at each US Axe location truly enjoy themselves while with us. One way we do this is by having a throwing coach provide a quick lesson to customers before each session. If your guests can’t ‘stick’ the axe,” Knight said, “they won’t be back. But if you teach them even a few simple tricks and techniques, well … you just may have a lifelong customer,” Knight continued.
“And finally, while it took us a while and a few misfires with other platform providers, we’ve settled on TripWorks as our reservation and booking platform across all of our locations. TripWorks has truly helped us streamline processes so that we can get guests into the throwing boxes and having fun as quickly as possible, ” Knight said.
“Nobody wants to waste time with check-in when the clock is ticking. TripWorks allows us to automate the entire process — from reservation to waivers to complete payment and communication — before guests arrive. So now, not only is our team free to cater to our guests and ensure a top-notch experience, our guests get the full run of their time slot, which is a big part of our success,” Knight explained.
The next big push for US Axe is a move to a franchising model, one they think can be a boon for the industry.
“We’ve been in the business for a while now and have worked out most of the kinks in terms of how successful axe throwing venues can and should operate. Now we want to help others do the same.”
Immediate Benefits from the “Right” Booking Platform
TripWorks, Knight says, has been a big part of his company’s success, which is why he is so adamant about telling other operators about the platform’s benefits, especially those that delivered their results, immediately.
Digital Waivers: Native, Seamless, Offered at No Extra Charge
“As you can imagine, an axe throwing venue requires a liability waiver from each of its guests,” Knight said. “Before TripWorks, in addition to paying for booking software, we also purchased software to manage our digital waivers. Although both solutions came from the same provider and were supposedly integrated, the process was far from seamless. Nor was it inexpensive,” Knight said.
With the move to TripWorks, US Axe’s digital waivers are now natively integrated into the platform. “Guests simply sign waivers as part of the regular reservation process now,” Knight said, “a process that lifts a huge burden from our shoulders.”
And if guests need a reminder to sign their waivers, Knight explained that the current process is transparent and painless, with TripWorks’ email automation sending out reminders at preset intervals to collect signatures from those wayward waiver signers.
“This feature alone saves us hours upon hours of manual labor and hundreds and hundreds of dollars each month,” Knight said. “It’s had a significant positive impact on our operational efficiency and bottom line.”
Performance Reports: Integrated, Comprehensive, Insightful
“One of the best things that comes with the TripWorks platform is the set of automated reports built into the platform. These reports tell us specifically where our traffic is coming from, and it is with this information that we’ve been able to pinpoint and determine where to open our new locations. So far, we haven’t been wrong,” Knight provided.
In addition to assisting with location decisions, TripWorks’ Advanced Reporting Capabilities give tour and activity operators rich views into:
- Daily Sales – by Activity, Guest Type and Channel
- Activity Popularity and Profitability – so you know which experiences to expand and duplicate
- Channel Performance – to identify channels providing the best results
- Demand Forecasts – to gauge peak days/times for upcoming reservations
“For example, with TripWorks, we know the number of reservations flowing to us from our Facebook profile, as well as from organic search,” Knight said. “TripWorks Reports are an enormous advantage in deciding where and when to advertise and promote ourselves.”
Abandoned Carts: Automated, Thorough, Revenue-Enhancing
“Everyone knows that when you run an e-commerce business (and US Axe Throwing is absolutely an e-commerce business), abandoned carts are part of the package,” Knight said. “So we were thrilled to learn that TripWorks had a solution for capturing this indecisive traffic.”
“Because we use TripWorks’ Automated Abandoned Cart emails, we can now sit back and watch an additional $2K hit our bank statements each month (on average),” Knight said.
The process is simple, streamlined and very successful.
When an abandoned cart is recognized, the TripWorks system automatically deploys emails to capture those “needed-a-nudge” reservations. Each email contains all the information a guest needs to complete their transaction, including waivers and booking links. “TripWorks even provided the email template, so we truly didn’t need to do a thing,” Knight added.
“For the larger bookings — especially those from corporate clients — we rely on TripWorks’ Reservations Drafts to identify and capture these unconfirmed customers on our website. Here too, TripWorks identifies an abandoned cart, creates a draft of the reservation and sends a notification that a new draft is available for us to review. When the ticket is large, we simply pick up the phone, connect with the guest … and confirm that we have yet another new event on the calendar,” Knight said.
“Our previous booking system also had an “abandoned cart feature,” but it was nothing close to TripWorks’ solution.”
Booking Flow: Seamless and Convenient, Expansive with the Widget
Per Knight, Facebook is one of US Axe Throwing’s best advertising and marketing sources. A solid stream of guest reservations come from the social media platform,” Knight says.
“TripWorks makes creating new channels incredibly easy with their booking widget. In addition to offering TripWorks’ booking system on our website, we also added their Booking Widget to our Facebook profile. Now customers can secure space at any of our locations with just a single tap right from the social media platform. Sales have increased substantially,” Knight continued.
“When we were initially researching the axe throwing business, we visited a host of throwing venues – to see how they operated and the processes and procedures they employed. Instantly you could tell which were going to make it — and perhaps those that might not. Honestly, you get a good indication based on the booking process employed.”
“Was it easy for guests to reserve a throwing box for themselves and their group of friends online? Was the waiver process seamless and convenient or did it kill the sale? And, could add-on merchandise, tips and gift cards all be sold and managed online as well?” Knight asked.
“If the process isn’t convenient for the customer from the get-go, there probably isn’t going to be a get,” he explained.
“We are operating at max capacity across our locations, thanks in no small part to the technology and expertise provided by TripWorks.”
Romance, Reservations and Recommendations
Today, with their own company steadily growing, Dustin and Niki Knight are as committed as ever – to their romance and their industry. In addition to running their four axe locations, the couple regularly travels for and sponsors throwing tournaments and competitions.
“Inevitably,” Knight says, “the conversation turns to business and Niki and I step into an advisor role, offering any advice or recommendations that we can.”
At the top of their list, Knight says, is their recommendation for TripWorks.
“TripWorks is a critical component in our ability to meet and exceed growth and revenue objectives – and so, when we can,” Knight says, “we always recommend the TripWorks platform … and whole TripWorks team.”
It’s not uncommon for new business owners to struggle a bit as they start up. TripWorks has been a huge asset to us, so we like to share the wealth by letting other operators know about the success of the platform.”