by John-Martin Meyer
True understanding of the impact your competition’s offerings has on your business comes from knowing what to look for
During his 20 years in gaming, John-Martin Meyer has held director positions in major casino properties such as the Grand Victoria in Illinois and the Excalibur on the Las Vegas Strip. His work within the Mandalay Resort Group provided valuable experience in several majorjurisdictions. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com, or by phone at (702) 373-7758.
An integral portion of a slot director’s duties is researching the competition’s amenities and product offerings. This is a form of an introspective to determine the soul or essence of your property and your market.
Too often we limit our consideration of what we may define as our competition to those properties with in a certain geographic boundary. In actuality those properties may not be responsible for as significant of an affect on your business as you may feel. This definition is based on the basic assumption that proximity is the key factor in determining what properties to analyze and to what extent. The main cause of this assumption is the general attitude that proximity has a greater affect on market definition than you’re your marketing efforts and even what you have defined as your target market.
Further complicating this process is the manner in which the comparison is initiated. If you do not currently have a regularly-scheduled market survey, it is usually prompted by a statement from the general manager along the lines of, “do you know what I saw in the other guy’s casino across the street?” and “Why don’t we have it?” With that line of questioning, you’re off to the races.
Too close for comfort
The distances your players are required to travel to arrive at your property versus that of your competition are very important, but not the whole picture. If your target demographic is clustered closer to one of your competitors, it is important to compare all levels of their product. The main caveat being; they may not be providing the proper amenities to lure that segment, therefore they are not as great a threat as a competitor that is located further away but targeting the same market segment as you.
Players will drive further to receive the service levels they wish and to access offerings they feel suit their playing style. Distance becomes a factor where travel times exceed 45 minutes or in areas where travel conditions are considered more difficult.
Property market definition
Taking a step back, we need to ensure that all senior managers have a unified understanding of what your target market is as well as the demographics of those who are actually attending your casino.
It is surprising how many casinos do not realize there is a difference. The difference can be measured through the success of your marketing efforts. Just because you have proclaimed your target and designed a casino around that target does not guarantee that you will have attracted that segment. Your marketing efforts may be pointed in one direction but you slot offerings may be geared for another, with the price points of your food outlets sending them in another direction, while your hotel offers may be in a completely different direction.
Identifying like casinos
After the challenge of ensuring that all minds are one—and match that of our players—we then need to turn our attention to those casinos that we feel are vying for the same market segment. Again, this competition may not be located closest to your facility, but they are attempting to access your player base.
As with the method by which you initially evaluated your product, you need to complete the competition evaluations in the same manner. First by analyzing their marketing collateral, the form of their advertisements and property distributed handouts. The second approach is to visit their property at several different times and days to create a profile of those players in attendance and their game preferences.
With the support collected, you now have the ability to define into which classification their product belongs.
Learning from your competition
Whether it is a small property or a major competitor, considered a direct competitor for your market segment or not, close or far away, your competition is providing some product or service that is attractive to a portion of your players. With the number of approaches to marketing a property being as diverse as the number of management teams creating them, there are equally as many opportunities to learn.
Learning is a process of analyzing portions of your competitions’ programs and offerings to determine if they may have any application for your property. With the overwhelming majority of “original” ideas being bounced around, the only true portion of originality left is the method by which they are adapted to individual properties.
The sum of our pieces
Although a property in its entirety may be similar, many of its components may be completely different. As when you take averages and not review the individual numbers, many important items can be overlooked. In the case of completing market comparisons, it may be a certain portion of their offerings that is compelling enough to draw your customers over to their property.
The most common of these draws is the reward systems of their clubs. If a player has calculated that their return is greater through their club, they may be willing to overlook the competition’s shortcomings. Reward, whether it is through machine payouts, extended playing time or a liberal comp program, is the greatest attraction to the player.
The powers that be
At this point you have sliced and diced all portions of your market comparisons to complete you new “plan of attack.” The greatest part of this plan is the manner by which you can use it to provide the answer to the questions; “do you know what I saw in the other guy’s casino across the street?” and “Why don’t we have it?”
In many cases it will be, “that machine is appealing to a market different market segment than ours and will not perform as well in our property.”