The Number One Rule of Marketing

Julia Carcamo:

Keeping it simple seems to be the hardest rule to stick to, but it is the most important. Take a moment to think like the customer and you’ll realize how much they are processing at once. Focus.

Originally posted on PRGUYONLINE-www.prguyonline.com:

Clinic Division We're #1

It’s no wonder we’re all suffering from information overload.

Emails, instant messages, likes, tweets and texts clog our mailboxes, mind and memory.

So what’s a marketer with a message to do? How do we break through the clutter, capture consumer attention and build business for our clients and customers?

Stick to the rule of one.

Engage one audience, deliver one message and craft one call to action.

One Audience

Marketers often cast too wide a net when choosing their target market. If you want your message to resonate–narrowcast (spreading an advertising message to a select demographic). Choose one audience, (the more focused the better), know their pain points and speak their language. Don’t just speak to teachers; speak to 5th grade history teachers from the Midwest.

One Message

In his seminal book, The New Positioning, Jack Trout notes that minds hate complexity. So what’s the best way to enter minds…

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Are you ready for a natural disaster?

hurricane_flagLast week’s headlines warned that the first named storm of hurricane season was strengthening. Lucky for me, it wasn’t headed in my direction, but it got me thinking about how we handle communications during these times. 

News stations keep us in the loop of the development of the storm, its path and what the impact to our lives and properties could be. It’s a serious situation when the news broadcasts continuously, and yet…guests keep coming to our doors. Whether you’re a business that is in high demand in preparation for or after a disaster or whether you’re a business that people can escape to in these times, communicating with guests keeps them safe and could limit the potential danger at your properties and employees.

At my last job, we always had a so-called “crisis communication plan”. There were a select few who were trained and permitted to speak to the media but that was traditionally a response to inquiries. It wasn’t until social media became such a huge part of our lives and work that we realized we needed to be pro-active in our communications. We took a good long look at all of our communications channels and built them into a pro-active plan. This list was developed for casino operations, but they can definitely be put to use even if you’re the mom & pop grocery store (or one that’s even bigger). I don’t know about you, but when I’m running around getting my “hurricane kit” ready, it would be nice to know who has run out of water, bread, and gas, etc. It could save time and a ton of aggravation.

MEDIA OUTLETS

Typically, ads are delivered to media outlets some time in advance and a storm can shorten that timeline dramatically. Your media buyers can contact each outlet to understand the new timelines and requirements. Canceling a buy isn’t always an option. Have substitute ads ready in case you have to cancel your promotions or events. Remember to keep the safety of your employees and guests in mind when drafting these ads. Have ads ready to announce your reopening for regular business.

EMAIL

Do you have an email list? Whether it’s made up of 10 or 10,000 addresses, this can be a great real-time resource for you. Guests will want to know that you’ve closed, if you have a date/time set for reopening and that you’ve reopened. If you have any offers that would have been valid during the closure, it could mean a nice pick-up for a sister casino if you pre-arrange for those offers to be valid during the closure. This may involve regulatory approval. Now is the time to research what needs to be in place…before you need to.

TEXT MESSAGING

This is a great way to send short announcements to your guests, but this channel could prove invaluable to your operation when you need to notify employees of a projected reopening. When normal cell phone communications are hindered, texts have shown to be able to get through in a pinch. Have you started building a permission-based database of phone numbers?

SOCIAL MEDIA

You better believe your employees and guests are keeping tabs on everything during a disaster. It has proven to be one of the most reliable ways to know the status of friends, family members and property. Keep in mind some of the best practices for businesses communicating via these outlets. Pictures grab the attention. Work with your agency to have graphic elements ready to communicate closures, rescheduling of events, opening times, etc.

Most importantly is coordination of the message you are distributing. For casinos, there are regulatory bodies involved, and you must be aware of their direction prior to releasing information. If you have a separate person in charge of media relations that is not a part of the marketing department, make them an honorary member during the crisis. Human Resources should also be involved. The messages you direct at guests will also be seen/heard/read by employees. It is important the messages match and that all departments are aware of what the other is doing. This is no time to get protective over your “area”.

Ethical Scenarios for Casino Player Development

Julia Carcamo:

My new friend Amy Hudson knows a thing or two about casino hosts. She poses some great questions here. What would you do?

Don’t forget to follow her blog.

Originally posted on Casino Host Player Development:

In these blogs, we have covered a lot of ground: things hosts should do, things they shouldn’t do, how to evaluate them, how to set and measure goals, and we have gone into some depth on a few of these topics.  One important aspect of a host’s job, however, is one we’ve only briefly touched.  It is especially important that hosts keep in mind the effects of their decisions and the ethical implications thereof.  This post is designed to be interactive, so please comment with your responses.

Let’s pretend for the purposes of this post that I am a successful casino host.  I work at a property that has thus far been blissfully free of growing competitive stresses, though some of my players occasionally travel to Las Vegas for an extended gambling vacay.  I’ve been at my property for just over 5 years, and I’ve developed…

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Taking Steps to Leadership

Global Gaming WomenIn my career, I have been very lucky to learn from many smart women. Amanda Totaro taught me how to “feel” my marketing efforts. Elizabeth Blau introduced me to the world of food & beverage development, how to turn a concept into a strong brand and how everything goes into delivering that promise. From Virginia McDowell, I learned to go beyond my brand marketing “box” and how to make time to share my knowledge and passions with others. These are only some of the women that influenced both my life and career.

A couple of years ago the American Gaming Association formed Global Gaming Women (GGW) in an effort to create a broad network that allows women in gaming to connect with their colleagues at events, through online coffee breaks and a mentorship program.

From the casino floor to the board room, more and more women are stepping into great roles and GGW gives them a resource to grow.

Still in startup mode, GGW can’t be at all events, but they were a part of the Southern Gaming Summit which took place earlier this month. I was lucky to be there. It was really impressive to see so many women in one room leading the way for so many casino operators, and learning from four women in particular who are paving the path.

Shari Leicht is president of The Edge by Shari and Associates. She runs a huge bingo hall and started a supplier side business because she was unhappy with the service she was getting from her vendors. She shared a great lesson of listening and caring about “the dash” – the one that comes between the day of your birth and the day of your death. She also reminded us that as women we should remember that respect given is respect received.

Holly Gagnon is president/CEO of Pearl River Resorts. I came across Holly in my Harrah’s years. She was always the type of person to take on a task even if it was outside of her wheelhouse. She always believed (and still believes) that no role was ever a small one. She recommended we become the “go to” resources in our respective organizations. Be grateful, but don’t let anyone disrespect something you bring to the table.

Debbie Biggs is the director of finance and human resources for Grand Casino Biloxi. She, like Holly, believes in taking on roles you never expected. Step out of your comfort zone; consider stepping sideways or even backwards. Doing so creates confidence and resilience. She also reminded us not to sacrifice ourselves to the work.

Principal and Co-founder of the Rainmaker Group, Tammy Farley asked us to gain the confidence to ask for what we are worth. She recognizes that we will have to sacrifice personal events in this business we’ve chosen, but that we need to choose which things CAN be sacrificed. When we look back will we know we made the right choices?

As you can see there was a great deal to learn and even more to think about. Thanks GGW for bringing us together.

Casino Branding 101

This originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Global Gaming Business. I’m reposting it here with a couple of new elements.

For years, I’ve been polishing old brands and creating some new brands. I have found that, no matter what the project, market or budget, the steps are the same. They are what one of my former agencies likes to call “The Jules Rules.” I like to refer to them as the five pillars of brand marketing.

Know Your Target/Market

Formal research unearths a great deal of insight. I always recommend it, but I also highly recommend spending time on the floor. When was the last time you worked your player’s club—answering questions about the latest promotion, redeeming offers, issuing comps based on the actual play in your CMS?

If you can’t recall, it’s time to hit the floor. Not only do you get to meet and learn more about your guests, you get to understand what your front-line employees have to face when trying to deliver on your brand promise. I’d also invite my advertising agency folks to meet some guests face to face. It’s amazing what everyone will learn and how that will affect the next steps.

Brands are Built from the Bottom Up

brand iceberg

Great brands are built from the bottom up. Source: StarGroup

I have used the old iceberg image as a longstanding example of what makes a good brand because it’s the best way to show your operations team how what they do is the most important part of the brand. All the things that happen below the surface are what makes your brand true (or not) to your guests and to your employees. The next time you embark on a brand project, look at all of those elements first before giving your agency or graphic artist directions on a name or logo. Download the PDF and put it up in your marketing department.

Operationalize Your Brand

When you can’t see a difference between what you say you do (marketing) and what you actually do (operations), that’s when you know you have a truly great brand.

First, you have to build the internal culture. Then, you have to make sure the tools you provide your employees to deliver on the brand are consistent with your vision. If you’re going to be the value leader in slots, you have to be the value leader throughout your property.

That doesn’t mean cheap. Value isn’t a price point (but that’s a discussion for another column). You can still offer a fine-dining experience. Just make sure that experience is better than anything your guests could have imagined. If you’re going to be the leader in service, guests can’t be waiting for what seems a lifetime for their cars to return from valet or to get to a guest services rep or cage cashier.

True Brand Programs Share DNA

Employees and customers reward brands that are true and consistent. It’s easy to be tempted by the trend, but if it doesn’t fit your brand, the guest experience will feel disjointed and your employees will not have the ability to deliver on the brand promise. The offerings you feature have to feel like they are coming from the same source. You’re not a shopping center offering every option. You have to be selective and only offer the things that make sense to your brand. To paraphrase Steve Jobs, sometimes what you say “no” to is as important as what you say “yes” to.

Make Your Brand Iconic

You would think that after working at one of the premier destinations in Las Vegas, my work for a smaller regional gaming company would have been less than thrilling. I’m here to tell you that is not true. The day the Isle of Capri Casinos management took the Lady Luck trademark out of the legal file cabinet and into the light was one of the most exciting days in my career. The Isle management team realized we couldn’t just ignore one of the most iconic brands in casino history. “The Lady” excited us and, more importantly, our customers.

Those are my five pillars, but to be truly successful, you also need to get help. Brand development is not a DIY project. It takes resources—brainstorming, creative, execution, and sometimes legal. This can be as cost-effective or expensive as you let it become. Don’t skimp because of costs, but do find the collaborators that absolutely love your business to help you. Nothing else should do.

Nonprofits in the Real World

It seems like this story of the Los Angeles Clippers and their unfortunate brand black eye has been dominating the news. Somewhere in the melee there was an announcement from the local chapter of the NAACP that they would be canceling the presentation of its 2014 Humanitarian Award – an award intended to honor a lifetime body of work. For an organization whose mission is to fight discrimination this was an obvious conflict. Given everything that is coming to light (again in some cases), you have to wonder why in the world there was even a plan to give him the award.

The answers lie in the mission of the organization and what it takes to accomplish that mission: donors. Corporate charitable donations have long been considered PR for a company. In more recent years, “corporate citizenship” has become the spin on these donations. I’ve worked for and volunteered for several nonprofits and the reality is that like sales, it’s much easier it to be able to get one large donation as opposed to having to build to that same amount over several smaller ones.

Unfortunately, this latest incident of a nonprofit not seeing the forest for the trees is going to force many organizations to review their acceptance policies and probably research the character of those donating a little deeper. But the nonprofits you and I help each and every day can’t stop doing the good work they’re doing. The money has to come from somewhere. It has to come from you and me in a variety of ways.

Give NOLA DayOn Wednesday, May 6, many communities are participating in a day of giving to benefit large and small organizations. Give NOLA Day is just one of those efforts. It’s being organized by Give Local America.

Give Local America is a movement to reignite the spirit of giving across the country and support causes in the communities in which we live, work and play. On Tuesday, May 6th 2014, join us in celebrating 100 years of local philanthropy thorough the work of community foundations.

You can search for your local or favorite community on their website and help keep good missions going strong. I encourage you to find your community, mark the date on your calendar, share the information and inspire your friends, families and co-workers and give.

Use this time to share the inspiration behind your charitable giving. My former co-worker Elissa Plastino and I shared some of our inspirations a couple of years ago on this blog. I invite you to revisit these posts and get inspired.

Blogging For a Cause: American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life

For Sarah: Connecting Women to Success

The Inspiration of a Lifetime

HavenHouse – Providing The Comfort of Home When It’s Needed Most

Local Teen Makes a Difference with St. Louis Food Rescue

Allow Me To (Re)Introduce Myself And My Blog

I’ve been blogging here for a couple of years now and thought it might be a good time to review what I’ve written and what I’d like to write about moving forward…a little Spring cleaning of my blog so to speak.0402_cleaning-800x480

Originally, I thought I’d write about branding, with a bit of a focus on casinos as this has been the work I’ve done for a number of years. I also thought could share some thoughts on social media plus share some of the things that inspire me.

As I look back and look around I realize I am no expert on social media unless it’s about the use of social media as a casino marketing tool. I also realized that I know a lot more about marketing in addition to branding. So, I’ve decided that my next year should focus on the art and science of marketing with a focus on how these tools are applied in a casino environment.

If I stick to my plan, by next April I will have shared insights and interviews related to advertising, community relations, database marketing, digital, promotions, events and player development — all of the tools we use to market our businesses.

Along the way, you may start seeing changes to the look of the site and the information to be found.

Let me know if you have any specific questions or topics you’d like to explore. I’d love to connect with other casino marketers to hear their thoughts and ideas.

Let’s Stop Calling Them Loyalty Programs

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

As a marketer, I read a lot about branding and advertising trends. As a brand marketer, I also read a great deal about customer service and customer experience because I truly believe that is at the heart of any brand I am charged with. As a casino marketer, I read even more about loyalty programs that are used across different industries because they often give me a great insight into what I could be doing.

Last week, I read Lois Geller’s latest contribution to Forbes: Why Doesn’t Apple Have a Real Loyalty Program?  Before I read the first word, I already had my answer. Apple DOES indeed have a loyalty program. It’s a clear and solid brand that is operationalized and translated throughout the organization (Jules Rules #3: Operationalize Your Brand). It’s called a good product that is consistent with a brand promise that is delivered time and time again. I am not an Apple worshiper. I know Apple worshipers and I know I’m not one of them, but I appreciate my Apple products and I find them consistent with what I’ve been promised. Therefore, I can assume that I’ll upgrade or buy a new product sometime soon, and isn’t that the whole goal behind a loyalty program…to drive repeated visits and purchases?

Then I read an article about loyal Krispy Kreme customers in Advertising Age where the CMO says

“The chain has a loyal fan base often willing to drive more than 30 minutes to one of its 240 U.S. shops for what CMO Dwayne Chambers calls a “kind of reward, a simple indulgence.”

Try as I might, I can’t find a Krispy Kreme loyalty program unless it’s warm melt in your mouth goodness.

loyaltyMs. Geller uses a great definition of a loyalty program in her Forbes article.

Loyalty programs are structured marketing efforts that reward, and therefore encourage, loyal buying behavior that is potentially beneficial to the firm.

So, now I’ve read these great articles and I think about casino players card programs. Some call them “loyalty programs”. I tend to call them “players card programs” because while they are indeed structured marketing efforts that are rewarding and encouraging buying behavior, I believe (based on thousands of hours of research) that they are not actually driving loyalty to the business but to the offers and rewards. It’s a bit like competing on price, which we all know is a short-term strategy.

How can we get break the bond to the offer and build one for the business? Think Apple. Think Krispy Kreme. Solidify and operationalize your brand so that you don’t have to keep buying or discounting business. Use the card to get to know your customers better and better with each visit or purchase. Think brand. Think long-term.

Elizabeth Kraus gives us some great guidance in her LinkedIn post.

The keys to discovering customer loyalty strategies that will build true brand loyalty may lie in the answers to these questions:

How do we exceed customer expectations?

How can we give customers a bigger voice – and a bigger stake – in our business?

How do we make the lives of our customers better?

How can we make it so that customers feel better about themselves as a result of doing business with us?

What can we do so that customers would feel proud to recommend us to others or feel proud of being publicly affiliated with our organization?

Once you can stop thinking offers and start thinking loyalty, you’ll find the answers to your brand questions.

 


The Cobbler’s Children Have No Shoes

I’ve been lucky enough to work in the casino industry for a good number of years now, and I’m proud to say that I’ve worked my way through the marketing ranks to a recent corporate Vice President position. It’s been a great experience and I hope that it will continue for a few more years. But as many of us know, sometimes there are periods of time when the ride stops and we have to wait for it to start again. I have found myself in such a period. I guess it’s time to polish up those marketing materials.  Only this time, they’re mine. Yikes!

For years I have revitalize and created brands, but (truly) understanding my personal brand has been quite a new experience. Darn you Dan Shawbel! I’ve found myself at a loss for a positioning statement, a brand promise…all of the things that I’ve created for others for so long. Until I realized, I needed to look to the pillars of brand marketing (or as Mr. Talamo calls them: The Jules Rules). I needed to go through the same steps that I’ve taken when developing relevant casino brands that create great customer connections.

Know Your Target/Market

Just like you can’t be everything to all customers, you can’t say “I’ll take whatever I can get”. You have to understand your strengths and weaknesses and the best target for those strengths. A good recruiter not only builds relationships with their clients, they should know where your skills will play the best.

Brands are Built from the Bottom Up

Your experience and the relationships you build will be what supports that great resume. Even if you’re not on a job hunt, you should understand that the wealth of your experiences will come to play in one way or another.

Operationalize Your Brand

Social Media has become so important in the employment arena. What you put out into the world can deeply impact your options. I’ve always been careful about what I say and post in social media. If I’m not comfortable with something I want to say living on forever, I just don’t say it. But more than anything else, I realized that a focus on the content I am curating is really important. What do I want people to think I can add to their enterprise when they read my tweets or articles I share?

True Brand Programs Share DNA

This is going to take some of you back. For some, this may be new. Remember when Tony Bennett did his VH1 Unplugged gig? It was the perfect program for him because it brought him back to his roots as the consummate crooner. Tony Bennett had always been “unplugged”. So, this wasn’t new for him, but it allowed him to stand before a new audience and propel is latest album to platinum status and to win two Grammy Awards. Standing out through a distinct, discernible difference is crucial. You can’t be everything to everyone. So find your focus.  If you’re not honest to your DNA, your brand may get tested in the short-term, but not bought in the long. Tony Bennett showed us how long that run could be if you’re honest to your DNA.

Make Your Brand Iconic

Find something that is “your thing”: A visual hook, a saying, an interesting piece of technology or anything that makes somebody remember an encounter with you. Think about your background…your story, and always attempt to attach your POV to life experiences. What is your Absolut bottle?

Get help

Brand development is not a DIY project and neither should your job hunt. I finally did get expert, trained help. I was stunned at what they saw in me that I couldn’t put on paper. I guess it’s true that the cobbler’s children have no shoes.

Where Is The Love?

As marketers, we employ all manner of tools to drive people to our locations – whether they be stores, restaurants, casinos or hotels. We tell them we love them and want them to stop by, but when they do, we show no love.

…Virtually nothing else is as important as how one is made to feel in any business transaction. Hospitality exists when you believe the other person is on your side. The converse is just as true. Hospitality is present when something happens for you. It is absent when something happens to you. Those two simple prepositions – for and to – express it all.

Danny Meyer, “Setting the Table”

I had a great teacher in my career who once told me I had to walk in a guest’s shoes to understand what I needed to put in place to make their experience the best. Let’s go through some of those marketing tools to see how we can start showing some love.

ADVERTISING – Through most of my career, I have been tasked with the marketing communications of a variety of individuals and organizations. That could be ads in print or in broadcast, the website, and now social. In many ways, it is the first love note our guest receives. A good design captures someone’s attention. Accurate and useful information will help make their visit a pleasant one.

OFFERS AND REWARDS – The science of giving the right offers and rewards to the right people is key to our success, and while we are using those offers to fill capacity or drive sales, keep in mind that restrictions should balance our needs with the guest’s enjoyment. Getting complimentaries and using earned points shouldn’t require contortionist training.

EVENTS AND GIVEAWAYS – More winners, smaller prizes? Less winners, bigger prizes? The fact is guests tell us they want both. In the end, they want a chance to win. Give them one.

Love_heart_uidaodjsdsewWhile you’re thinking of ways to show how much you love your guests, don’t forget to love your employees first. Giving them great information and proper tools allows them to enhance the guest experience. Having had the opportunity to work the floor I’ve learned that what I do in the office impacts everyone and that a bad experience for an employee is a bad experience for a guest.

Finally, you may have noticed my use of the word “guest” instead of “customer”. This was a gift from a gentleman named Andy Olson who explained to me that customers are transactional but that we build relationships with guests. One of the best lessons I ever received. He also taught me and my co-workers to walk backwards while giving a charming tour, but that’s another story for another day. The point is it’s easy to show love to someone you’re building a relationship with. Don’t forget to show them some love while you’re tackling tasks on your to-do list.

Check out this blog post for some additional thoughts on showing love from one of my customer service inspirations, Shep Hyken.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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