As my life has morphed into that of an independent contractor, I’ve had a few former and not-so former vendors contact me for assistance in finding more success with casino operators. Interestingly, most of this success is less dependent on marketing tactics and much more dependent on understanding the nature of an operator’s day. In other words, Jules Rules #1: Know Your Audience.
After countless conversations with vendors discussing why (oh why?) their product isn’t cause to drop everything, I find I have discovered some common threads worth sharing.
Think about everything a casino marketing director has on their plate. Typically, they are responsible for database marketing, the players club, host productivity, special events, promotions, entertainment and advertising. I once worked with a marketing director who was also in charge of valet! At the end of a long day (into night), one of the last things they probably want to do is return a cold call (or worse yet, get stuck on a 30-minute call because they absentmindedly answered the phone). Thirty minutes in your day may seem like nothing, but you could very possibly be the 12th person that day to ask for those 30 minutes.
Building customer personas are a good way of understanding your target audience (and a good way to discard those who are not viable targets). A well-developed persona can give you insight into they type of content your potential customer finds valuable and how they consume that information. In addition, personas will help you to identify the best channels for your messages to reach them. I love the folks at Hubspot because they may me smarter without asking me to buy anything from them. They have a great source for building buyer personas at http://offers.hubspot.com/free-template-creating-buyer-personas.
Expertise and insights
If you are truly selling something that can help, don’t be afraid to share your expertise and insight. If you really have a great product, chances are you’re not going to lose a customer because you shared a case study or whitepaper with the world. I’m a big…huge…fan of content marketing. I advocate it with almost everyone I work with. Competition is getting tougher and tougher every day, and any valuable information you can provide without the pressure of a sales call has more value to your target audience. Refer to your personas and you’ll start to identify the content that will prove valuable. Think about the goals that marketing director is trying to meet each day and the priority in which they need to be met. Use your knowledge to show them a path…to success and your product.
It should come as no surprise that a large majority of B2B buyers are acting like B2C buyers, research online, asking for recommendations and narrowing their list of possibilities on their own before they ever take or return calls from sales. Some have reported this number as high as 90%! In full disclosure, I not only advocate thought leadership, I develop this positioning for clients. Become a thought leader and share your information and knowledge generously. I said “generously” because some really smart people will only share their knowledge if you give them something in return, typically contact information they can use later. It’s acceptable to ask for the information especially if a quick search online would get them the same. I would advise that you not gate all of your knowledge and that you only ask for the basic information you need to follow-through. Also, remember you are the expert on your product or service not on their business. Respect them for what they bring to the table day in and day out. Take the time to get to understand them and their business so that you can be a better partner.
costs are costs
Yes, your product could very well possibly increase revenue, but for right now, we look at it as a cost rather than an investment. It’s just hard to overcome that mindset. History has told us that there are times when we have to trim costs…tighten our belts. History is what puts us in the cost vs. investment mindset. So, the best route is to be involved before and during the budget planning process. That way we can incorporate the costs and potential revenue growth. How do you become involved? Be the go-to expert.
Follow-through means asking about the knowledge you shared. Did it help? Can you provide more insights? It also means following up when you do get the elusive return call. A return call is reason for a small celebration, but not the big one. When a potential client asks for more. Follow up…as quickly as you were to make that initial call. Send them specifically what they requested. Don’t substitute it for what you think will sell your product faster and at a higher cost. That’s not what they are looking for. They told you what it was. When the time is right, you can add your own messages. This will be the stage where a potential customer subconsciously determines whether you will be a good partner, an ordinary vendor, or just a pain.
Most important of all: don’t assume you know more than the casino. You might, but it’s best to listen and understand first.
Who hasn’t been there, right? You’ve found yourself sitting in a meeting or in front of your computer trying to come up with an idea for a thing to do to move the needle. The solution, if you work in casino player development, often involves putting together a plan for bringing people through the doors of your casino. Increasing player visits and/or the amount those guests play is, after all, the primary function of a host team. Here are a few tried and true events or games that you can freely borrow (or modify or giggle over) for use in bringing your best players to see you. Enjoy!
Who can earn the most points? A competition. This is a perfect (non) event for those big players who aren’t interested in gatherings or elaborate meals; you know, the ones who just want to play. Select a group of good players…
Developing and breathing life into a brand requires passion. Keeping that brand alive requires love. Much like two people promise to love each other for a lifetime, you hope customers and guests will do the same with your brand.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to exchange some thoughts with some fellow casino industry folks about the trends in casino gaming and how marketing must adapt to compete. Today, I’m sharing the rest of the exchange with is about keeping your brand presence as engaging as possible. Much of what we see in the future of casino marketing revolves around capturing the seemingly elusive millennial and incorporating the technology to engage with customers on a real-time basis. Technology is changing. Our target demo and the composition of our database is evolving, but the principles of good brand marketing seem to stay true.
Understand Who And What You Are
Maryland Live! Casino’s Senior Vice President of Marketing Mario Measano advises,
“Know your brand and know your brand promise. (The) Key is knowing what it is not. Focus on incorporating your brand promise in every aspect of your business and guest experience. More importantly, have the courage to say no to anything that does not meet that brand promise regardless of financial impact.”
Jim Gentleman is senior vice president of account management and strategy at SK+G and has been advisor to a number of casino brands.
“Stand for something, stake a position and relish not being for everybody. Too many casinos today take the safe ‘we have something for everybody approach.’ That’s not what people want. They want experiences that are distinct and unexpected. With the proliferation of casinos throughout the U.S. over the past 15 years, gaming is a commodity. Build, develop and promote something unlike anything you can find next door. Casino resort brands that have done this – Borgata, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, and Bellagio for example – develop consumer preference and true brand loyalty that leads to long-term business success.”
Talk To Your Customers
I know the rush of creating something new that you think is the best thing ever to come to marketing, but through the years, my biggest lessons have been taught by customers. You need to touch customers to understand what they see in your brand and what might keep them playing longer or visiting more often. Talk to your customers and find out how they think about your brand. Then decide how to message your brand to appeal to those thoughts. Make it simple, memorable and sustainable.
Stay In Your Lane
Stacy Spahle is vice president of marketing and PR for Chateau 20. She has built a career on creating brands and experiences. Her advice?
“Resist the pressure to constantly reinvent the brand. Revisit the basics — review your brand positioning and make sure it is realistic, unique and defendable and test that it resonates with your target customers. Then make sure every aspect of your communication, advertising, and especially customer experience reinforce it. With turnover in management, competition and constant pressure to be fresh and creative, we as marketers are often diverted from the discipline it takes to continually reinforce the brand. The strongest brands have managed to stay the course and ensure their messaging and actions always reinforce their core principles.”
From Back of House to the Front Door, Be Consistent
Suzanne Trout, CMO of Rush Street Gaming says integration with all departments and all team members is the secret sauce to real brand engagement. “It’s not a marketing program but a property lifestyle that makes it real.”
Kim Ginn is Vice President of Marketing for L’Auberge Casino & Hotel Baton Rouge. She agrees and advises that in order to make your brand presence as engaging as possible you must do 2 items well and consistently:
Your brand must be consistent in every aspect and every channel. Some think of their brand as only advertising, but I believe the brand permeates everything we do from how our property looks, feel, smells (affects all the senses) to the team members attitudes and uniforms, to the giveaways we have and the special events we throw as well as our advertising.
As far as advertising, I feel it is important to have a cohesive look and message, look and feel in all channels as well as touch and use ALL channels. One cannot ignore traditional media and just use web and social or vice versa. They must all work together and they must all have messages that are appropriate for that medium.
Go All In
Jan Talamo is head creative strategist for the Media & Marketing Group. He has worked on behalf of over 100 gaming properties around the world including some of the most iconic brands in gaming. He has always said that marketing needs to be channel agnostic because you need to be where your customers are having their conversations. In order to do that, you have to think multi-channel. So before you start developing your message make sure you
“Adhere to the principles of a fully integrated multi-channel marketing approach. The pathway to purchase has changed dramatically. And 5 years from now…will have changed even more. Plan for tomorrow TODAY!”
I was once taught to keep my points to five, but in this case I do have a sixth.
As most marketers have done today, I’ve read many posts and articles about the big game last night: the winners and losers of the “ad bowl”; why Nationwide made such a goof; how Loctite took a gamble and how everyone spent most of the game crying.
This year’s Super Bowl was certainly worth remembering. As NFL fans, we work ourselves up to a frenzy in anticipation of this one game, but all too often, we are disappointed by a lopsided score and a game that doesn’t really feel as competitive as it should be. If you know me, you know I’m a Saints fan. So, the 2010 matchup will always hold the top place in my heart. However, I do have to say that this year’s game was excellent…true entertainment experience from beginning to end. I know I wasn’t alone in that moment when I gasped thinking my cable signal had gone out just at the top of the game nor was I alone in that last gasp when the most unexpected interception of the season happened. Wow!
For the last four years, a fellow marketer, Debbie Laskey has graciously asked me to participate in a post review of the game ads. It’s been great to hear her point of view. Although she asked again this year, she was unfortunately put on the sidelines by a sudden illness. With her on injured reserve, I felt the need to carry the torch for the two of us. In the past we’ve done our take on winners and losers. This year, I think I’m going to go with the “winners of the quarter”.
For me the hands-down winner for first quarter was that epic spot by Chevy. If you want to stand out in a field of excellent marketers, shock and awe are a way to go and boy did they do it. Unfortunately for Esurance, their spot with Lindsay Lohan followed it immediately and was lost in the “What just happened?” discussions that abounded in homes and online. I realize that this spot may not have technically been a “Super Bowl ad”, but it was just too good to keep it out of play. Offsides for jumping off the line early. I’ll take the penalty.
Second quarter obviously went to “Lost Puppy” from Budweiser. Successful sequels are few and far between. It’s like lightning striking twice on the same spot. No offense, but do we really think Furious 7 is going to match the essence and unexpected success of the original. We all remember the VW Star Wars kid like it we just saw that ad yesterday. The sequel was…an approach. The animal love factor just didn’t work until Budweiser thought to take a turn at it. We fell in love with that little puppy last year as if we could smell that sweet puppy smell right through the television. When Budweiser announced they would follow up with a sequel, I thought, “Oh please, be good.” It was.
Liam Neeson is a gamer? Who knew? Third quarter goes to Supercell’s Clash of Clans spot “Revenge”. In the years that I’ve worked on this annual review, I’ve stayed away from game ads. The very business they’re in is dependent on an attention grabbing platform. I think they have a bit of an advantage. What I loved about this spot was that I was absolutely surprised. From a consumer point of view you start to realize that maybe gaming isn’t just for darkened basements (no offense to you gamers). This is a 62-year-old action hero. If it’s cool enough for him, maybe it’s cool enough for all of us Boomers.
My fourth quarter winner isn’t as clear. Like video games, I typically don’t include movie promotions. The makers of movie trailers are genius. You take one shot and without knowing if this movie is even good, you drive people by the thousands to buy tickets. Am I going to see Ted2? Ummm….probably not, but what I loved about the spot was the use of Tom Brady. I love a commercial that leverages the program it’s running in. So right…and yet, so wrong.
My other leader is Mophie – a brand with a niche audience, and yet it signed God as the spokesperson. Hey, if that’s your spokesperson, the Super Bowl seems like the proper stage. I also liked the storytelling aspect of the spot.
My original goal was to pick four and only four advertisers to spotlight, but as a marketer, I feel I need to give some voice to some additional brands. Halftime: mad props to The Voice. I’ve only ever seen one episode of The Voice, but might just try becoming a regular viewer now. A Thunderdome-style battle of the voices? I can watch that. Honorable mention goes to BMW. How many of you emailed that info email address to unlock an entry to win a new i3? McDonald’s just slammed Twitter with retweets. Who expected them to do so many giveaways?
Special mention must go to Loctite. What a gamble! I don’t love the spot. Heck, I don’t even like the spot, but I have to admire the guts it took to spend that kind of budget on a one-time roll of the dice. As a marketer, I feel the need to go out and buy some glue. I think you should too.
“What should I do if my team is behind pace for achieving their goals?” If you’ve ever asked that question, this post is for you.
There are a number of great ways to get the team back on track, and not a single one of them involves anything painful. (Well, maybe just a little emotional pain is involved if anyone who is part of the process decides to make excuses or tries to pass the buck.) Being proactive is the key here, as it’s nearly impossible to make up lost revenue at the end of a quarter. For your team’s success, look at the numbers as often as possible and discuss the situation with your team at least weekly to ensure the feedback loop is fully functional.
The first thing to do is determine which goals are presenting the biggest challenge. Presumably, your host team has more than one goal:…
From increased competition coming from new jurisdictions and doing more with less resources, casino marketers will continue to face challenges to continue beating year over year revenues and experience growth. There’s a definite shift in the industry as we’ve moved from buzzwords to reality. It used to be that you could count on a car and cash giveaway to give you the pop you needed at the end of the month. The marketing recipe was pretty straight forward: direct mail, advertising, promotions and events. Mix together and wait for it to bake. Additional channels of communication that are now controlled by the customer have become more important. In addition, the competition for the entertainment dollar has become even tougher. Direct mail continues to be a prominent driver, but as more marketers are starting to understand the profitability of those programs, it seems we need to look to the horizon to see what’s coming towards us: real guest satisfaction, real-time rewards and real conversations. How will these concepts manifest themselves, and what new forces will shape marketing this year? I spoke to some of the brightest minds in casino marketing and they shared their thoughts on the biggest changes they see.
THE NEW GENERATION(S)
Mario Maesano is senior vice president of marketing at the hugely successful Maryland Live! Casino and is looking to the future to adapt his marketing programs.
One of the biggest transitions we are seeing at Maryland Live! Casino is the movement of the Generation X player into the prime earning demographic sweet spot for regional casino markets. The gaming experience they demand differs greatly from the Boomer Generation that preceded it. These customers are seeking a more sophisticated gaming product that has more decision points and bonus options. We are seeing a need to enhance our promotional and event experience to truly exceed their expectations each and every visit. In addition, it’s become increasingly important to truly differentiate our brand from our competition in order to provide a unique entertainment experience.
BIG DATA – NOT JUST THE LATEST BUZZ Words
Stacy Spahle is vice president of marketing and PR for Chateau 20. She has built a career on creating brands and experiences. You might be surprised to know she’s really focused on data these days and believes that integration of this knowledge into an integrated marketing strategy is the key to success.
He who has the most data wins! — But only if he can use it. While the subject of “Big Data” has been thrown around the casino resorts for years, nobody has been able to fully realize the potential by making it seamless across all customer touchpoints and accessible to the marketing team. A few of the large casino players are on the verge. The company that implements Big Data with a fully integrated marketing strategy will truly revolutionize how casinos are marketed.
One of the more experienced casino marketers I know is now at the helm of a native operation and is in complete agreement that data is a big part of future success.
The biggest challenge I see if the amount of data we will have to cull through to make educated decisions about current and future marketing programs. As we all know, data is power, but having too much information can stifle creativity and progress. On the flip side, those operators that struggle with getting valid data on a timely basis will struggle as well, because as we all know a bad decision can cost millions of dollars and have a negative ripple effect for many years to come.
With increasingly crowded markets for both gaming and entertainment dollars, a serious challenge is to be distinctive from your competitive set and in the customer experience. This is a tough challenge in the best of markets. Elements that may bring your brand to life are often the most at risk during competitive times with cost containment. Properties who keep the customer experience top of mind in all decisions – capital, operating and marketing – will fare best.
Jan Talamo is lead creative strategist for the Media & Marketing Group. He has worked on behalf of over 100 gaming properties around the world including some of the most iconic brands in gaming. He has always said that marketing needs to be channel agnostic because you need to be where your customers are having their conversations. In order to do that, you have to think multi-channel.
Howwe measure and monetize brand engagement via a multi-channel strategy. We are now, and will more aggressively in the future, have meaningful and measurable conversation with customers. Conversation will be REAL CURRENCY five years from now. While mail certainly is the Holy Grail today…you will see more and more migration from the printed core and supplementals to something that will mirror what other major brands are doing. While we can’t not send the monthly mail…we can certainly encourage migration. We are 10 years away from forgetting the mailbox by the curb. Regardless what some companies are telling you.
MARKETING on the go
James Poole has built a career in the European markets and has seen a transition across the pond of the need for customers to take their rewards and status with them on the go and agrees with Jan Talamo that direct mail, as we know it today, is on the way out. As director of gaming products at Joingo his view of the future is, in one word, mobile.
Convergence and a move away from direct mail. With the major operators having a significant investments and success with mobile and online, in both the real money and casual I can see more and more integration between these areas. Players will take progress, customization and reward status with them. This will allow for a cohesive marketing strategy using apps and mobile messaging rather than direct mail.
One CMO in the Northeast believes “the biggest change over the next five years will be an increase in personalization and immediacy of marketing. This will be enabled by real time communication methods as well as improvements in gaming technology that allows for better in-session knowledge of a gamer’s play. I think you’ll see less direct marketing as trip incentive and more to prolong the visit during the visit.”
Jim Gentleman is senior vice president of account management and strategy at SK+G and has been advisor to a number of casino brands. He sees the challenge for all marketers, not just casino marketers.
The biggest challenge for casino marketers – and quite honestly all marketers in general – is figuring out how to market in a mobile-first, digitally-dominant world in a personalized, yet non-intrusive way. Considering most consumers, and millennials especially, try to avoid advertising, marketers need to create content that is equal parts entertaining, informative and authentic.
Joingo CEO Steve Boyle is admittedly biased but, he too, believes the horizon is as close as the palm of your hand.
Mobile Engagement. Yes, we are in the Mobile biz which makes us a bit biased. This said, there is nothing else on the horizon that will have the impact of the smartphone and associated BYOD (bring your own device) tectonic shift. Marketeers want more and more data. Mobile creates a continuous, rich, and possibly unmanageable stream of new and real-time information that marketeers only dream about today. It also provides the mechanism to act on “data” in real time. This is both an exciting and scarey proposition for most casino marketeers. Specifically those who feel they have perfected the art of direct mail.
There are many that have always espoused that what we do has to be with the guest in mind. These trends strengthen that position and make it even truer today than ever. More importantly these trends give us direction for the future.
John Acres, founder of many of the most influential advances in casino gaming and CEO of Acres 4.0 believes the future is the customer.
Reinvention of the player experience. Loyalty points based solely upon spend and snail-mailed offers of free play and discounts are insufficient. Costs must be controlled and marketing must create new players.
This requires a deeply personal offer to each and every player based upon potential worth, psychographic and demographic profiles and comparative alternatives. Customer communication must channel through text, email and school media, as well as traditional mailing channels.
Above all, the emotional experience of gambling must be emphasized. It’s not enough to describe jackpots that can be won. Most players know they won’t win them most of the time. The opportunity is to help players feel important, respected and valued. New achievements must be defined—be the first to win 5 $100 jackpots in a month—and celebrations must be more numerous.
Service must improve and the player tracking interface now limited to gaming machines, kiosks and club booths must extend to the player’s phone and social environments
I consider myself very lucky to have gotten a look into the future from some of the brightest minds I know, but I know more and more marketers are thinking along these lines and already making changes. I’d love to hear from you.
These very generous marketing folks have also given me some insights to how to keep your brand as engaging as possible. I’ll share those thoughts with you in the coming weeks.