Marketing for the out-of-towner

Jan 1, 2007 3:37 AM

What does a property that is primarily local/regional do to market to an "out-of-bounds" customer? In destination markets like Las Vegas, a property will recognize that its visitors may only come two or three times a year (often in predictable patterns such as for trade shows or personal milestones like a birthday or anniversary).

Subsequently, offer redemptions will be accepted within, for example, a four month period for a person living X-miles away versus an individual (e.g., a local) who will have one month to redeem who lives within X-miles.

While completing my familial duties in St. Louis at Christmas time, I brought in a first time visitor’s offer received from the Casino Queen in East St. Louis (for which I qualified in August). The offer was for $10 in coin and $10 off a food and beverage purchase.

As a side, to receive the $10, a player had to go through the old Elko Casino Express routine of showing front money. In this case, one was required to produce $20 from his or her pocket and the cage cashier would hand over a $10 bill.

Why one had to brandish the $20 is beyond me. Maybe even the Casino Queen doesn’t believe a fortune may be won from an original stake of merely ten bones. Why should the probable reality of "gambler’s ruin" get in the way of a fantasy?

Although a new boat-in-a-moat casino structure is being constructed and will open in the summer of 2007, the Casino Queen is currently a traditional casino boat (the kind that could and once did actually travel on the Mississippi).

Many of the support facilities and amenities (e.g., restaurants, players club, and night club) are located in a permanent (land-based) "pavilion." I went to the players club and asked if my coupon, expired since September, might be re-issued. While the clerk’s initial answer was no, I pointed out that I was from out-of-town (i.e., Denver) and that the direct mail post card offer was sent to me at that address. The marketing group of Casino Queen could not expect me to make a special trip to the "East Side" simply to redeem an offer.

The clerk saw my point — see above for thoughts on providing longer valid periods for out-of-bounds guests — and called her supervisor. After about a 10-minute wait, the supervisor looked up my play, recognized that I had played both slots and tables, provided a decent level of action for a first visit, and called back to the clerk authorizing a pseudo-extension.

The clerk wrote out a hand/discretionary comp for a meal at the small on-board, home-style café and a courtesy cash redemption slip. The "fall off the bone" St. Louis style ribs, potato and salad added up to $9.99. Including tax and tip, I still walked off the boat with $6 profit in pocket.

I would be remiss if I did not issue the standard safety disclaimer. East St. Louis has no real association with St. Louis, Missouri beyond geographic proximity, and is in fact in the state of Illinois.

Besides the area resonating with a certain "God is going to be Angry" modern Sodom and Gomorrah ambiance, the Illinois location allows for full, Class III (no loss limit like in Missouri) casino action.

Unless one is visiting the East Side to experience the multitude of massage parlors, adult book stores, "gentlemen’s" clubs, or underage night clubs, it is best to proceed directly across the river and into the well-guarded Casino Queen parking lot.

Denver and Colorado Springs are both tourist cities as well as feeder markets for Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek respectively. Also, Sky Ute and Ute Mountain Casinos draw from the tourist-focused town of Durango in Southern Colorado.

Thus, a ski enthusiast from Kansas or some other place lacking in big snowy mountains may make a side-trip to try out the local casinos.

It would be prudent for the Colorado casinos to reach out to the non local/regional guests, but provide the "out-of-bounds" guests of the traditional X (in this case 50 mile) "inner" feeder markets with different offers (i.e., these are the guests truly worthy of lodging incentives to keep them "under roof") coupled with longer expiration dates.

Out-of-bound guest run a much lower risk than local/regional players of visitation and contact fatigue and/or burn out. The fresh as powder snow guests consequently are a valid group to maintain as active players and be solicited as such by Colorado casinos.

(Founded in 1996, Yarborough Planning, LLC partners with select clientele to better understand and address business process issues. Core competencies include training, providing reliable and valid research, strategic / analytic marketing, and accountable Customer Relationship Management (CRM) development and implementation. David Paster is accepting new clients and may be reached at (702) 813-5062 or [email protected])