Read This Before You Submit Your Marketing Budget

Marketing Budget

Does your fiscal year start October 1?

Consider these questions before you put the finishing touches on your marketing budget!

If your fiscal year starts on October 1, then chances are that you are in budget season, tackling the task of allocating resources to all of the marketing programs for 2017, from direct mail to promotions to staff. Pounce on this opportunity by taking a step back and really considering the investments that you could or should make to move the needle next year.

Hopefully these thoughts will inspire you to really dig in to this process and examine what all of your options are.

Is your direct mail program expense weighing you down and in need of a boost in ROI? Start by looking at your reinvestment rate and your cost of acquiring new players. Do you know which makes you the most money, and if not, what’s the best way to uncover this important info? Should you hire or keep on an analyst “that you can afford,” or would those dollars be better spent outsourcing this vital expertise? Chances are that your direct mail free play program is among the highest expense in your budget, so step out of the box and figure out how to whip this program into shape in 2017.

How can you get a greater share of wallet from your players? Do you know exactly why your players visit your competitors, or why your inactives stopped coming 6 months ago? Make a list of questions that you’d love to ask your players if you had the time to sit down one-on-one with 200 of them. You’d be surprised how much you can learn when you get to ask those questions. So, when was the last time you invested in player research – not just email surveys, but comprehensive focus groups that will provide real, actionable insight? Now’s the time to budget for it.

Does your brand need a refresh? If your brand look is more than a couple years old or your photography has an outdated style, a brand refresh may be on your list for 2017. Your ad agency can lay out the whole plan – brand perception research, positioning, tag lines, brand concepts, assets, and finally, execution. If a new look or even just new photos or video are needed in the next 12-24 months, start planning for it now. A brand update for 2018 means a photo and film shoot in 2017 – it’s a long process, but a necessary investment every 3-4 years.

What can you do to create a more personalized relationship with your players? We know in today’s digitally mobile world that people want a personal one-on-one experience with the brands they are loyal to, and that means engaging them with information, offers and content that they are interested in. To do this, you need to know what they are interested in, of course. Start by acquiring some market research like Scarborough to give you a baseline. Look at what technology you have in-house to capture player preferences. What ways can you use your media, player tracking system, promotions and direct marketing to learn more about your players’ preferences? Start an incentive program or contest among player hosts or players club shifts, and see how quickly you can get those player profiles filled out and email addresses cleaned up. Use your new kiosks to garner information in an effort disguised as a promotion. And I’ll throw back again to research, which is a super valuable tool if you are engaged in the process, generating the questions, and don’t just set the reports on a shelf.

Is it time to get serious about social media marketing and figure out how to make it impact the bottom line? This is another area that may make more budget sense to outsource to the experts than have as a full-time employee at an Admin’s salary. Especially if you want to leverage that personal relationship with your players into more trips and greater share of wallet. Social is serious business now; people are making decisions based on what they learn and love on social. A social program where you are primarily posting promotional advertisements and winner photos is a one-way conversation, and that’s assuming people are listening. People want to watch videos, read interesting lifestyle articles, recipes, and funny stories. You’d be surprised how many players would “like” or “share” a video of two high-profile employees competing in a Peep-eating contest. Yesterday’s social plan just doesn’t cut it anymore.

What promotional systems do you have in-house that may be under or overutilized? Just like doing a brand refresh, sometimes you need to renew, rest or relaunch that signature promotional feature, and now’s the time to plan for it. If your mystery progressive is having yet another birthday, then put some fresh eyes (and goals) on it. If your carded play percentage or new card sign-ups have leveled off, it may be time to put those dollars back to work for you. Conversely, are there any system modules that are being underutilized and can inject your promotional plan with some fresh engagement? Sit down with your system super-users in slots and IT to find out about all of the options at your disposal.

Certainly, trying to tackle all or even some of these initiatives may be more than your budget and schedule can bargain for, but we wanted to point out some of the ways that you can make a difference in your 2017 plan. You may barely have time to take this year’s budget and “update” it for next year, but if you want to be a rock star, take just one of these efforts and go all the way with it.

Mark Astone