Casino marketing requires simplicity, creativity and hard work

Feb 18, 2014 3:00 AM

Over the years I have turned around numerous casinos. Many were at rock bottom when I was brought in, and some even brought me back more than once.

There are two facts these experiences taught me: One, keep promotions simple, and two, be creative.

This month for my birthday a casino sent me an email, which I opened on my smart phone. It said just print this offer and bring it to the casino to receive your birthday gift. I thought that’s nice, but how do I print it?

Since most things are going paperless nowadays, why ask me to find a printer in this era of bar codes and scanning? Or make it even easier by saying, “Use reward number XXX at guest services.” Sometimes our promotions get too sophisticated; keeping them simple is the key.

Over the holidays I noticed several businesses gave away gift cards with purchase. One restaurant I went to had given gift cards with an unknown amount that were good after the holidays. The gift cards’ value ranged from $5 up to $1,000. A simple, well-thought-out promotion that worked because it had that surprise element of what you would win, plus everyone was still a winner.

That promotion got me back in the restaurant in January. Casino marketing managers should take note of what other businesses are doing successfully and adapt it to their business. They do not have to re-invent the wheel with every promotion.

Recently I went to one of the largest casino chains in the world for a few days as their guest. One thing that stood out on this visit was the casino had a kiosk where you swiped your card to see if you won anything, but it was only on Tuesday.

As far as I could tell, everyone got the same message on the screen: “Sorry, you didn’t win.” The fact that we drove 100 miles to a casino property should be rewarded with something, even a hat. It’s simple: Make everyone feel like a winner.

Some marketing genius thought this would drive business on a slow day and, since it is all automated, they could eliminate a host. I am sure he told his boss how he created something that saved money. What he did not realize was his bright idea created a dead feeling in the casino.

Besides making everyone feel like a winner, I discovered another marketing secret that will do wonders for any casino. It is as simple as going on the casino floor and inviting your customers (this has to be random) to a focus group and lunch with your management and senior executives.

The customers are encouraged to give an honest assessment about what they really like about the casino and how they feel the casino can improve.

This creates the most amazing feedback. You hear, “You are right, and you know what else?…” The customers feed off each other’s reactions. You can’t do this with surveys; it has to be done in group sessions.

Another problem many casino managers have is doing the hard work it takes to take a promotion to the next level. Once a marketing manager said to me, “We printed the flyers and placed them around the casino. Now I am going to do an email blast to market this event.”

I thought, “Ok that’s just the beginning, but what’s next? That gets you from A to C, but what about A to Z?”

To get to Z requires hard work and connecting with the customers both before and after the event. This is where most marketing managers fail.

To promote my billiard events, I would mail flyers to every pool room and pool bar in Southern California, then I would personally visit the pool rooms to talk to people every night. The result was these events always sold out.

People could not understand why they were the most successful billiard events in the country. I did not want to fail and took nothing for granted. That’s the Z factor.

Yes, successful casino marketing requires simplicity, creativity and hard work. Marketing is the same whatever business you’re in. Everyone wants to feel like a winner.

The kiosk that said, “Sorry, you’re not a winner” was funny to me because I always considered myself a winner.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and billiard marketing expert, best known for inventing the game of Omaha poker and introducing it to Nevada in 1982 and to California in 1986. In the year 2000, he created World Team Poker, the first professional league for poker. He has over 30 years experience in the gaming industry and is co-founder of Crown Digital Games. Twitter @thechipburnerRobert can be reached at [email protected].

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