Living Large with a Giant Competitor – Five Ways Smaller Properties Can Own Markets

David and Goliath

Goliath blocks the sun.

You stand staring into the sun shining from behind golden mirrored hotel windows.

The buildings stretch out forever. Casino building, multiple hotels, golf courses, spas, tennis courts, restaurant complex, entertainment center, pools … even a wedding chapel.

You’re the VP of Marketing for a smaller competitor.

You think … how are you going to compete against Goliath? Throw a rock?

Almost every market has its Goliath property. And yours is the competition.

Small to mid-sized properties compete in every possible setting. Your competition could be newer, closer to the market, or a gigantic, amenity-rich, resort destination. While the size of a Goliath property varies by market, the problem is the same.

How can small to mid-sized casinos compete against Goliath casinos that have bigger budgets, bigger staffs and bigger amenities?

In casino competitive strategy, there’s always a market you can make your own.

1. Know What You Are … Know What to Become

The defining step in competitive strategy is to know your property. You should know the key market differentiators that set your casino apart and create a competitive advantage.

First step, understand your brand using surveys, guest/team member interactions, focus groups, competitive analysis, social media research, and your own observations. Once you understand your brand, you can select the deliverables and key elements that offer an advantage over the Goliath property.

There are millions of strategic variations that can make your property competitive against Goliath. Here are some of the most pertinent strategic niches:

1) Value Property – If your competition has everything, consider becoming the value alternative. The value brand keeps guest volume growing through consistent, lower pricing that the Goliath property often can’t or won’t do. Value means lower pricing in food and beverage, more frequent, less expensive promotions, discount hotel rooms, low-end giveaways and more.

2) Friendly Property – Smaller properties have the advantage of familiarity. Your team members know the guests. The guests feel at home in your property. The holy grail of property execution is to create a welcoming, approachable culture and experiences. If your property is lucky enough to deliver friendly, that becomes your brand differentiation. Large properties may enjoy sheer mass, but have a hard time duplicating a small, friendly atmosphere.

3) Fun Property – Become the casino where something engaging happens to your guests every day. An action-packed strategy requires a constant stream of compelling, low-end promotions, contests, food and beverage specials, and events. It also takes company leadership to buy into the strategy. Promotions don’t have to be expensive to be fun. Events can be price conscience and still bring guests in for a good time.

4) Entertaining Property – Casinos that keep fresh through a consistent entertainment strategy.

5) Gaming Property – Properties that offer the best gaming experience to keep guests engaged.

2. Fast and Furious Judo

The ability to quickly act and react to the Goliath property’s programs is an advantage for mid-sized properties. Using the Goliath property’s programs to create counter programming is like marketing Judo. When you see an opportunity, jump in quickly and adapt. Speed and agility work to your advantage. Actively shop your competitors and use the knowledge gained to develop counter programs fast.

3. Own the Mid-Market

Amenity rich Goliath properties can offer top tier guests accommodations that mid-sized properties cannot. It’s that simple. While you keep a sharp eye on the 80/20 segments of your database, keep an eagle eye on your mid-market tiers. Using soft benefits, heightened database offers, and promotions targeted at mid-market players, you can focus your efforts on the middle tiers that make up your market niche. Develop soft benefits that make your mid-market fans feel like superstars at your property.

4. Get Social

One of the best ways to compete against Goliath properties is to keep a constant stream of content marketing and guest interaction through social media, e-marketing, and email marketing. The best budget strategy for a mid-sized property is to devote resources to an in-house team or agency that specializes in content marketing.

5. Tactical Magic

The ability to get creative is a distinct advantage of a mid-sized casino’s competitive marketing. Keep promotions frequent, lower reward, and amusing; use tribute acts for entertainment, create festivals; use food and beverage as a weapon; target PD events to holiday themes; erect tents for events … and most of all, do not forget the fun factor.

Once you’ve established a brand and identified your property’s competitive advantage, strategies to compete with a Goliath property won’t necessarily break the budget or overwhelm your team. It’s about owning the market niches you identify. Focus your efforts on engaging guests using the unique differentiators of your property. Whether your property is Value, Friendly or Fun-Packed, tell your story and employ marketing at your casino that sets you apart.

And, save the rocks for the landscaping.

Tom Osiecki