MARKETING: Communication breakdown
by Dennis Conrad
October 1, 2009
My work as a consultant (and pastime as a casino player) has brought me into contact with countless communications from casinos. Some do a very good job of sending me the right communications at the right times for the right reasons. Others, frankly, leave me scratching my head. … Oh, well, more work for consultants.
I thought I’d share with you some of the common craziness that I’ve seen consistently over the years in casino communications. Don’t get depressed. Although these faux pas are pretty pervasive they are fixable. Plus, remember that this stuff is pretty gnarly, and even the best communications specialists grapple with this challenge.
So here it is, my list of “Common Casino Customer Communication Craziness”. (I will leave “Employee Communication Craziness” for another time.)
Poor Timing — New players club members should receive a “Welcome to the Club” mailing (with an offer to return!) within a week of sign-up. VIP event communications should give the targeted player enough time to make a decision, and travel plans as well. Calendars of events should arrive before the months they are promoting. Account expiration mailings (“Hey, where ya been?”) should be sent before a player has died. You get the picture. Unfortunately, this timing thing is often screwed up.
Inappropriate Lingo — The casino industry certainly has its own unique and colorful language, and our customers speak and understand some of these insider terms. But I have seen the following “hip” words, phrases and acronyms used with casino communications with customers: “theo, comp, TITO, downloadable, virtual drawing, tier level, drop box, match play, non-negotiables” and numerous other phrasings. I doubt if any single customer would know what most of these words and phrases mean.
Who Gets Communicated To? — Sure, casinos have gotten pretty savvy about reaching their best customers based on the time-honored mantra of “Recency, Frequency and Spend”. But top players still tend to get too little mail. Bottom-level players tend to get too much. Not enough players get encouragement to reach the next highest reward level, and players whose patronage is declining are usually ignored rather than incentivized to resume past spending levels.
Who Does the Communicating? — Messages from casinos to guests usually come from: a) “The Building” (the _____ Hotel Casino); b) “Some Executive the Customers Don’t Know”; or c) “From No One in Particular” (ad copy with no personal salutation or signature). It’s too bad these communications can’t come from a warm and witty GM (whom everyone has gotten to know) or a front-line employee the customers actually see.
Clutter — This usually happens in monthly newsletter mailings or in advertising with so much to say and so little space to work with. It’s where the casino just has to mention the buffet special, the hot new slot games, the whiz-bang promotion, the new blackjack games, the exciting entertainment line-up, the remodeled rooms and the “Olympic sized” pool, all in the same communication! Arrrgghh!
Not Using Multiple Channels — Most casinos roughly know the response rate they will get from a direct-mail marketing communication. But typically they will not utilize additional (and often inexpensive!) communication vehicles to bump up that response rate. Postcards, e-mail, text messaging, phone messaging (and now Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and other 21st century communication vehicles). They’re all out there just waiting for strategic use, to improve communication and bolster casino profitability.
Too Much Negativity — Too many casinos still engage in too much negative communication with their customers. Casino entrances are still more likely to greet a guest with signs that say “Rules of Prohibited Conduct” rather than “Welcome”. Casino table games may often scream “No Mid-Shoe Entry” but never “Good Luck”. Casino hotel rooms threaten charges for drinking bottled water that at first blush seems like a warm, complimentary gesture. Slot players are warned about playing two machines (huh???) when it gets busy. Sometimes you’d never know (at least by the casino communications) that gaming entertainment is supposed to be fun.
The Wrong Language — With cultural diversity increasing rapidly, it is increasingly important to know what language second-generation Hispanics (for instance) are using, how first-generation Chinese customers like to receive their casino communications (if at all), or if Filipinos want to hear from you in Tagalog, English or both. I see too many casinos, literally, using the wrong language.
If you can stop some of the communication craziness I have described perhaps you can get your important players congratulating you for your timeliness, your clarity, your relevance and your generosity of spirit in your customer communications.
And that’s a strong message to send.
Dennis Conrad is the president and chief Relationship Officer of Raving Consulting Company, a full service marketing company specializing in assisting gaming organizations. He can be reached at (775) 329-7864. Visit Raving’s Web site at www.ravingconsulting.com.
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