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As casino marketers everywhere are building their casino marketing plans for next year, we thought we would look at the fundamentals you need to grow your business. Earlier this year, we hosted a webinar. The result was a great discussion and illumination of a collection of suggestions for restarting after stay-at-home orders began to relax. I noted the goal was to “stay open.”

There is no denying this “thing” we thought would go away in a couple of weeks became a couple of months. Now we are hanging our hopes on a vaccine eradicating the virus. Deep down, I think we all know viruses will always be hanging out there somewhere.

The calendar is another thing that is always there, but somehow we have turned the page to the last month, and we are still trying to figure out how to take 2021 by the horns and meet our business goals (mostly because we are still guessing at what life will be like.)

“In a casino… The cardinal rule is to keep them playing and keep them coming back! The longer they play, the more they lose. In the end, we get it all.”

The pieces and parts of our usual marketing plans are given: database marketing, marketing communications, promotions and events, and player development. Some things fall on the chopping block due to constraints. The goal remains the same for most of us: to attract the most valuable guests and keep them coming back. We have identified some things you should consider or have in your next marketing plan through a little research and much conversation.

Database Marketing

Database marketing, our system of offers and reinvestment, is always in our plans, but with the changes happening to our traffic patterns, we have to consider adjustments. It is more important than ever that accurate data be not only available but actionable. Analysis plays an important role in sifting valuable information from the clutter and finding emerging patterns.

It is also time to evaluate your opportunities. Is there a segment (or segments) that could create real revenue that is perhaps not on your competitor’s radar? How can you take advantage of this open playing field?

Set your goals for meaningful results. For instance, for lower frequency players, you may try to increase trips. You could attempt to extend their length of play of your high-frequency guests (since you probably will not get more trips out of them). Build your marketing offers around these goals to entice the behavior you are looking for from your guests.

Finally, have our definitions of the segments we know so well changed in this unusual year. Do you need to reframe your inactive and overdue classification? Has RFM changed so that you need to adjust the value you place on each element?

Marketing Communications

Let’s tackle some low-hanging fruit first. Take ownership of all your Google business listings. As we reopened our casinos, many operators found they had appealed to an entirely new guest segment. Perhaps it was cabin fever.

One thing for certain is that we all look for places to go (though lately we have been limited). Now is the perfect time to double-check that all of your outlets have Google business listings and that you are adding content to make guests want to visit.

Rethink your media strategy and placements. We have all shifted our media consumption, and after all these months, these shifts are becoming our habits. Please get to know where your guests are getting their information and ensure you are in the mix. Lean on your media partners for data and try to make all of your communications have proper (and measurable) calls to action.

If you have not set conversion goals on your website, consider adding this to your arsenal of data. Consider the time spent with your content and online signups. Regularly understand over-performing and under-performing pages for improvement.

Communication is crucial as guests are reaching out to us in new ways, more specifically, through our social media channels. As mentioned in an earlier blog post, we must manage the visit expectation. Guests NEED accurate and timely information. Ongoing updates regarding health and safety is a must. Up-to-the-minute FAQs should be easily accessible to guests and team members.

And always remember to interact with social media followers. Be creative with posts, be authentic, be flexible, and always ensure efforts support the overall business goals.

Moreover, never forget we are in the entertainment business. Continue to communicate the fun things that are happening on the property. Show guests they can still have the fun they were accustomed to and that it is worth coming in for a visit. A little FOMO might be good. So consider spotlighting any new perks or modifications that are made to enhance the guest experience.

Promotions and Events

There is not a casino marketer who can deny that promotions and events add excitement and energy to the floor. Today, we are challenged with creating excitement and energy that can flow through plexiglass and masks, but we have learned that cars and other large-crowd gathering type promotions are not the only things we can employ.

Promotions we have relied on to drive traffic to the casino will require a new approach that includes assurances to guests of changes that have been made to provide a safe-to-play environment. We should also monitor guest safety as we start developing programs.

At our disposal are a variety of tools that still offer engaging ways to win beyond the gaming devices, such as

  • gamification by directing players to the website to play a digital game with the chance to win both online and at the property
  • social casinos
  • mobile promotions can still drive traffic via prize redemption.
  • touchless digital promotions – activating with auto-start technology and modified for card swipe or other preferred methods
  • direct mail with barcodes that can be scanned at a kiosk for a mystery prize

Also, consider the level of qualifying promotional play guests were able to achieve before the virus may not be the same as they make their return to the casino environment.

Entertainment can still be a part of your programming, but you will need to diversify your entertainment. Consider environmental entertainment or speakers your guests would like to see in a socially-distanced setting. Local artists can be contracted for lower-than-usual concert bookings and can add a spark to your floor without the need of a crowd.

The first step in any of this is to evaluate all your programs. It is time for the old standbys to sit out a year (or maybe longer term). Perhaps the time has come to retire the phrase, “we’ve always done it this way.”

Take out your old list of ideas that you never tried and see how you can adjust it for this new reality.

Player Development

We all agree that high-worth guests should be assigned a host to develop a relationship that can keep them coming back time and time again, but consider the emotional investment guests are making as they return to our floors. Perhaps there is an opportunity to grow the revenue that lies just below our typical PD thresholds – a way of beating the competition by making these unseen guests seen and valued.

Consider testing the usual PD program on a group of those guests and see what additional revenue you might generate. Perhaps it is just one more visit a month. Perhaps they play longer during their typical stay. Perhaps, just perhaps, they will feel more “at home” with you than with the operator down the road that has not done more than send the typical offers in the mail. Sometimes, our guests are looking for something a little more emotional than an offer.

Research

Stay in touch with guests. Understand what is going through their minds because their thoughts and feelings are constantly changing with each news update.

Consider a schedule of research to gauge any changes in attitude. This could be the most valuable thing you do for your marketing programs and the operation because our opinions shift with every news story and alert.

Focus groups may be on hold for now, but there are still ways to get guest feedback. The good news is that while our core guest has been home, they have been growing adept to online tools. There are some free online survey tools you can put to use. There is a “but.” I urge you to continue looking to experienced researchers to assist you as they are skilled in assuring your surveys are neutral in tone and can provide you with the best insight for you.

casino marketing trainingBuying into the Brand

If ever we realized all of our team members play an essential role, it is now. However, they are facing the same life and safety issues as our guests. So, your efforts need to begin with them.

Most casino marketing plans include a section on “the brand.” This section might consist of a plan to tweak the logo or the tagline. Seldom does it involve making the brand consistent from the back of the house to the sign out front. Even more rarely does it include the process of team member acculturation with the brand.

Quite often, the organization’s culture never makes it into marketing communications, and when guests visit, they may experience a pleasant surprise or a complete disconnect. Your external and internal messaging and experiences should be mutually reinforcing. The development of your brand should be an inclusive process rather than one reserved for the executive suite. When you transform the culture, you create your brand.

Additionally, this is an excellent opportunity to review policies and procedures and understand how they impact the brand experience.

The notion of property-wide knowledge will be more valuable than ever as our goalposts keep moving. Everyone…EVERYONE…must know what is going on.

Finally, do not forget the lessons of yesterday. Look to beat each day on the calendar compared to yesterday, last week, last month, or last year. It is only through continuous steady improvement that you can achieve your goals – one step at a time.

As marketers, we can focus on doing what we do best, while scientists do the same.

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