From some of the most successful gaming companies
Prepare to be amazed! After 24 years in the gaming industry, 15 of which were spent as a casino marketing consultant, I finally have some useful information to share. (C’mon, I’m joking). Honestly, one of the great benefits of working with scores of gaming companies across North America, was the chance to learn while I taught. For every idea I shared, every strategy and tactic I helped develop, every plan I encouraged building … I learned something incredibly useful. Because I worked with management, marketing, and operations teams, I acquired a variety of applicable concepts from all areas of the industry. And then, I was able to add those to my arsenal, combine them with my own ideas and those from other casinos and other industries, and share them with clients. They were able to expand their businesses, they were able to maximize their teams’ knowledge, they were able to better serve their guests, and I … I was able to grow and add to my personal, intellectual and industry resource bucket.
So, here, in a nutshell of an article, are some of the most valuable things I have learned from the gaming industry and from my most successful casino clients.
1. Borrow and tweak. I have often been asked where my most creative promotions ideas come from. And I have always been forthcoming with my clients … I believe there are about five or six types of casino promotions … everything else I’ve ever seen, experienced, or created has been a tweak or version of those. Carded hot seats, earn entries for a cash or prize drawing, acquire points and get a gift, attend an event with benefits, compete in a game with select winners, swipe at a kiosk; virtually every casino promotion is a derivative of one of those concepts.
The goal is to understand who your customers are and what motivates them, what your revenue and visitation needs are, and match them up with promotions, offers, themes that appeal to your guests and drive business when you need it. Borrow what works … make it your own. (By the way, this isn’t just true for marketing promotions. It’s true for employee development and recognition programs, communication processes, direct marketing programs … if you see something good in the industry or any industry, steal it, massage it, apply it).
2. Use your brain trust. One of my most effective consulting tools is to hold a meeting with the management team. I usually go around the room, asking for names, titles or job responsibilities past and present, and how long each person has been in the gaming industry and at that casino. Invariably, the total years are astounding! So, why, in department meetings, executive management meetings, marketing meetings, do people rarely use their own brain trust to solve the myriad of problems that casinos face? The most successful casinos throw their greatest challenges on the table and ask their extremely experienced employees (including frontline staff) to dig in and create solutions. Consultants and outside professionals are terrific resources, but seriously, why not ask your own people, with hundreds of cumulative years of experience, to solve the problems they are faced with every day?
3. Share information, missions, goals. Does everyone in your organization know what you’re trying to accomplish? Is every one of your managers, directors and team members aware of your business mission and your goals? Do you have a percentage of revenue increase in mind overall and by department? Are you looking for a bump in visitation on slow days? Are you trying to create a fun environment on your floor? Do your employees need a motivational boost? Leverage meetings, employee events, staff newsletters, back-of-house signage to let your team know what they can be doing to increase and improve business. The whole really is greater than the sum of its parts … when you share what’s going on, your expectations, and how every employee’s role fits into the puzzle, you will drive more effective cross-marketing between departments and enjoy the results of improved communication and teamwork throughout your organization.
And please, share stories! Encourage your employees to exchange success stories about their interactions with guests or reaching goals or helping other team members. One of the best ways to get mediocre employees to be outstanding employees is for them to see how it’s done.
4. Make it fun! For goodness sake, please remember … people in the casino industry don’t work in hospitals. Or banks. Or mortuaries. We represent the best of the entertainment field, and I promise you, if your team members aren’t having fun at their jobs, your guests aren’t having fun either! Casinos that incorporate employee promotions with guest promotions, that engage employees in planning events, creating memorable moments for guests, and celebrating financial and service achievements are highly successful. An employee dining room filled with laughter often yields great outcomes.
And speaking of fun, user-friendly matters to your guests! Every line a guest stands in is a boring, frustrating and costly waste of time. KISS truly applies here. (Keep It Simple Stupid). If guests don’t understand what you want from them, if they don’t know how to engage with your product (slots, tables), your marketing (how do I enter this drawing or use this kiosk or earn and redeem club points?), or your staff (who is my host and what do they expect from me?), the gaming experience isn’t fun or rewarding. Want your guests to return? Give them an entertainment experience they’ll remember.
5. Recognition is the #1 motivator. I hear it all the time …“We love our guests!” “We love our employees!” But the companies that do it best are the ones that actually walk the talk, not just saying it but SHOWING IT. Yes, it really is true … the most successful casino management teams believe that happy employees mean happy customers. And happy customers mean a better bottom line.
What can you reward? Guest longevity (ten or twenty years in your club). Guest frequency (parties for guests with low ADT but high frequency). Guest birthdays and anniversaries. Hosts’ sales achievements. Employee longevity (I’ve seen some very impressive team recognition dinners, parties, holiday events). Employee volunteerism and meeting advanced education goals. Outstanding employee service. Hey, what makes you feel appreciated? Start there.
6. Don’t bury yourself in data. Back in the early days of gaming, marketing tactics were tied to impressions, to feelings, to favorite customers, to what the GM liked, to guesswork. Nowadays, data has become the tool by which we make almost all decisions. What was the return on investment of that program? Let’s look at the daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annual revenue numbers and compare them to yesterday, all corresponding days of the week, last month, last season, last year. Let’s evaluate the trends with pie charts and graphs and flip charts and PowerPoint slides.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that management should ignore the incredible access to data and comparative reports and psychographic player information and on and on. But I am suggesting that if you don’t get down on your casino floor and talk with your players and your team members, get a feel for what it’s like to walk through your property (do you feel lost and confused and overwhelmed?), eat in your restaurants, sleep in your hotel beds, stand in your customer lines … you will never get the complete picture.
7. Listen. Our world is so full of communication. We are bombarded daily by the Internet, TV, radio (hey, some people still listen to the radio), snail mail, email, phone calls, frontline employees, guests, managers, family members, friends … it gets easier and easier to want to tune out, shut down, escape, enjoy a moment of silence. Treat yourself to those breaks, but do take the time to learn to be an active listener. That means asking the right questions and listening, truly listening to the answers. Your solutions are often in front of you, with information fueled by knowledgeable people who manage your business, engage with your products and services, see your strengths and limitations, and want you to succeed.
The most successful gaming companies have tools in place to listen to their guests and employees (no, not a suggestion box, but open office hours, frequent quantitative and qualitative surveys, and one-on-one interactions with influential people). They have managers who understand that everyone’s opinions have value and that two-way communication is significantly more meaningful than unidirectional commands.
Take the time to listen … you always have room to learn.