This episode of Drivetime Marketing originated as a column in Biz New Orleans and later published here.
I’ve said it on many occasions, one of my favorite things to talk about is strategy, specifically marketing strategy. A solid strategy unveils a path to success because it identifies where you want to end up.
It differs from your marketing plan, which is the collection of steps you’ll take ON the path and the tools you’ll need to get further.
You may (or may not) know that most of my work history has been in the casino industry. It has been a career that has allowed me to grow in my skills as a marketer.
And though I work with other industries now, I often rely on the lessons learned “taking a gamble” in what was for me, a very new industry.
There are five casino marketing strategies any business, large or small, can adopt.
- Database Marketing
- A Chance to Win
- Value and
First, let’s talk about Database Marketing
Like any other businesses, casinos compete for the disposable dollars of adults, specifically disposable dollars that adult may choose to use for entertainment. Believe it or not, they don’t compete for gambling dollars per se.
Casino marketers are asking for a not-so-insignificant part of that entertainment budget. While a trip to the movies with popcorn and soda could easily top $50 for two people, casinos are looking for that spend from one adult.
So, how they identify and target is worth a look.
In my opinion (and maybe a few others), few companies leverage a database quite like a casino. They have been collecting information about customers for years and are now able to leverage that information to determine who the most valuable customers are today and will be tomorrow. They have learned to understand the triggers that drive visits during targeted times. And, given the explosion of technology, they continue to use snail mail in successful ways. You can do this too! CRM and sales tools abound from free starters great for small businesses to rock star business intelligence tools. All it takes to get started is a system and one customer’s contact information. I’m a small business, and even I use a CRM system to keep track of current and potential customers. It helps me plan my day, and it helps me know when and what I should be communicating to them.
You’ve seen the movies. You’ve seen HIM. He’s the slick smooth-talking casino host. Wrong!
That may have been the picture years ago, but let’s bring that time machine back to the present.
Today’s casino host is part salesperson, part customer service representative, and all business. The primary functions of the casino host are to create experiences for high worth customers by providing the complimentary perks that make their visit truly personal while keeping a focus on the business, reinvestment, and potential revenue.
At the core of this function is the understanding that casino customers – indeed all of us – want the businesses we patronize to know who we are and what we like.
Let me give you an example. Years ago, I dropped a dress off to my usual dry cleaner. I walked in and placed my dress on the counter as usual. The young lady behind the counter greeted me and proceeded to complete my ticket and let me know when my dress would be ready.
She didn’t ask for my name. She knew it even though I barely stopped there – maybe once or twice in a quarter. To this day, that little moment is still memorable to me, and I still tell people about it.
My friend Jim White was a casino host whisperer, and when he left the industry, he was asked to apply the same ideas in the medical industry. He is working with one of the most innovative providers of post-acute care. If you don’t know what that is, it’s basically when someone still needs medical attention after a hospital stay.
They looked to him to create an environment that would differentiate them. He says that a personalized experience is truly the only way to differentiate yourself from all the other businesses that do what you do. It’s all the little extra touches – in addition to the excellent clinical care, that causes more people to recommend us and make us their provider of choice.”
Now, I realize that for some of you, personalizing each and every customer’s visit may be too much to start with. Pick a handful of your most valuable clients and find ways to personalize their experience. Then identify what you can replicate and apply it to the next group and then do it again.
My third casino marketing strategy is A Chance to Win
Ever wonder what makes people buy lottery tickets when the odds are stacked against them?
Psychologists will tell you that our brains can’t really compute probabilities that are that high. They might also argue we mere humans fall into a trap of “near miss,” in other words, “If I was that close this time, I could be the winner next time.”
But what about freebies?
When 7-Eleven gives away free Slurpees, people line up by the hundreds and thousands.
Whether it be free or a gamble, people want a chance to win something. Casinos understand this and build calendars of events that use drawings, free spins, and tournaments to create multiple chances to win.
How about you? BOGOs and other retail programs do the same thing. Try a few. Test them smartly before creating huge promotions.
When my beloved City of New Orleans announced a gun buy-back program recently, it seemed like a great idea. Bring a gun, get $500. A worthy endeavor if you’re a city trying to curb gun violence. If you are a gun owner, you would’ve immediately seen the flaw in the plan. Apparently, guns can be had for less than $500. So, if you turn in a gun, you’re making a profit…winning! You can guess what happened if you didn’t already read it in the news. People lined up HOURS before the program opened and it quickly ran through the 10,000 dollars available. People walked away with the opposite of a chance to win.
I’m looking at you too Build a Bear.
Now let’s talk Value
Anyone with a dollar to spend wants to feel they are getting something of value for that dollar.
Casinos understand pricing and value like few other businesses. How a slot machine pays out or the odds on a table game are the price. How we give you an experience for that price is the value.
Thousands of focus groups have repeated the same feeling. Gamblers know the odds of winning are not in their favor, but they want to be able to play a sufficient amount of time with the budget they have.
That’s how they interpret value on the casino floor.
Additionally, casinos price certain food venues to appeal to that need for value.
The point here is that value is not a dollar amount. It is the relationship to your customer’s wallet.
So, as you look at your offerings and the customer experience, think about those moments you add value and, where you take it away.
Sometimes, something as easy as using a POS system that easily emails a receipt can add value to a checkout. Sometimes it might be getting to use the drive-thru window at the bank marked “CLOSED” because you know it’s always opened for you to handle business account transactions.
Finally, there is the strategy of Community
I started my gaming career in New Orleans, very early into the rise of regional casinos.
Let’s be honest, when casinos came to the area, many looked forward to the fun and excitement. Few really believed the operations would enhance the community, even if that were the message used to sell voters.
At the last company I worked for, employees performed over 14,000 – FOURTEEN thousand – hours of community service in only ONE year. If you perform a simple search on the American Gaming Association site, you’ll see example on top of example of how the communities have benefited by the hard work of caring casino employees.
And, yes, I am aware that some people are unable (through their own control or forces beyond their control) to game responsibly, but this story is amount being a part of the community and encouraging your employees to use their time (and perhaps a day or two of yours) to be a part of their communities in a positive way.
My point is: DO something. There are too many needs, and I bet given the opportunity, your employees would love to get involved. Show up in matching t-shirts and bond with your employees and help your community.
As a marketer, I constantly look to all industries for examples of best practices. These are the five casino marketing strategies that can easily be adopted by you.
Great article. I think you nailed it.
You’re the best Steve!